5 Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian That Aren’t

Article posted in: Lifestyle
Caesar salad

Whether you’re a strict vegetarian, or you just want to minimize your meat intake a few nights a week, you may already know that you—and the environment—can reap some amazing benefits from this lifestyle choice.

But in order to eat completely vegetarian-friendly, you need to know the “fine print” on ingredient labels and look out for a few sneaky ingredients that make some common foods vegetarian UN-friendly—like gelatin, animal broth or stock, anchovies and animal rennet.

Check out our list of five foods that you thought were vegetarian but actually aren’t; and add these to your do-not-eat list:

The “jell” factor in this age-old treat is a big “jell-NO” for vegetarians. It comes from gelatin, which is made by extracting collagen hydrolysate from pig skins, cow hides and pig and cow bones. Gelatin is also a sneaky ingredient of Altoids mints, marshmallows and some dips, yogurts and dressings, so look out for it there, too!

Try this instead: Agar
Agar is a flavorless gelatin substitute that’s made from cooked and pressed algae. Use agar powder in place of gelatin in a 1:1 ratio.

Vegetarians: let’s not all hail Caesar—when it comes to salad dressing at least. Typically, this dressing contains anchovies, which you’ll also in find in Worcestershire sauce.

Try this instead: Annie’s Naturals
This brand serves up vegetarian versions of both Caesar salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce. Look for it in the condiment aisle or organic section of your local grocery chain store.

Traditionally prepared refried beans are made with lard, and this goes for store bought as well as some restaurant versions. So in addition to checking the ingredient label (look for “fat free” versions or those that call out “no lard” on the label), be sure to ask your server before you order at your local cantina.

Try this instead: Fat-free refried beans
Plenty of brands make refried beans without lard. Just be sure to look over the label before you buy; many versions will be labeled “fat free” on the front as an indicator.

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Many “veggie” soups are made with a base of chicken or beef broth or stock: French onion soup is traditionally prepared with beef stock; broccoli cheddar is known to start with chicken broth; and even some simple veggie soups have a base of beef broth. While you can easily scan the label at your grocery store, you’ll need to be more diligent when ordering at restaurants and cafes. Never assume a soup is vegetarian just based on the name!

Try this instead: DIY
It’s so easy and cost effective to make your own soup at home. You can prepare a big batch that’ll cover lunches and quick dinners throughout the week, too. Sub in your favorite brand of vegetable broth for just about any recipe that calls for chicken or beef broth.

Parmesan and some other cheeses like Grana Padano and Gorgonzola contain animal-sourced rennet when traditionally prepared. Rennet, required in the process of separating milk into curds and whey during cheese making, contains the enzyme chymosin, which, when sourced from animals comes from the abomasum (fourth stomach) of newborn or baby cows. But good news vegetarians: Rennet can come from several veggie sources, too, and some mainstream (non-traditional) brands are using these alternatives.

Try this instead: Microbial or vegetable rennet
When you check cheese labels, look for those made with “microbial rennet” or “vegetable rennet.” If you’re still unsure, look online for a list of vegetarian-friendly cheeses, usually sorted by brand.