When following a plant-based diet, you know the usual foods that aren’t plant-based: meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs, and honey.
What About Those Foods That You Thought Were Plant-Based, but Surprisingly Aren’t?
In this article we’ll break down all the surprising foods you thought were plant-based but actually are not.
If you follow a strictly 100% plant-based diet, check the labels for these ingredients. If you’re most plant-based, like a vegetarian diet, some you won’t have to avoid. It’s your choice what to do with this information- our job is just to make you as informed as possible!
30 Non-Vegan Foods You Thought Were Plant-Based
1. Beer & Wine
Many, but not all, varieties of beer and wine are filtered through isinglass in their brewing process; a gelatin-like substance that’s derived from fish bladders. If you’re curious whether your favorite beverage is truly plant-based, Barnivore is a helpful tool to use.
2. Vitamin D3, and Vitamin D3 Fortified Foods
Most vitamin D3 is derived from fish or sheep’s wool, making it not plant-based. However, you can get Vitamin D2 and some varieties of Vitamin D3 that are made from plant-based lichen instead!
3. White and Brown Sugar
Some processed white or brown sugars are lightened with bone char (often called “natural carbon”) made from the bones of cattle. Since this is a process, not an actual ingredient, it is not listed in the ingredients list. The processing technique uses animal byproducts, however you will not be consuming animal products if you choose to consume conventional sugar. For sugar that is not processed this way, try organic sugar, evaporated cane juice, maple syrup or coconut sugar.
4. Red-Dye Foods
Red dye is a common ingredient in candies and overlooked by many. These additives are actually made out of a dye called carmine, which is derived from cochineal insects.
Many kinds of margarine contain trace amounts of lactose or whey, making them not plant-based. Luckily, there are some margarine varieties that are marketed as plant-based! Look for the brands labelled “vegan” or check the ingredients list.
Are you a gum chewer? Unfortunately, gum is another non plant-based food product many people think is plant-based! Many chewing gums contain gelatin, which is made with animal-derived collagen.
7. Jelly Candies
Jelly candies are typically not plant-based for a few reasons. The first of which being that they are often made with gelatin. Secondly, red dye in jelly candies, as we learned above, is also not plant-based. Finally, some gummies are also made with shellac, a resin secreted by a female lac bug. (Source)
Bread is one of the most surprising non plant-based foods you thought were plant-based! Some commercial breads contain an ingredient derived from poultry feathers called L-cysteine, which adds softness to the product.
Surprisingly, some peanut brands use gelatin in the manufacturing process to bind salt and other spices to the nuts.
10. Fresh Pasta
Although most dried pastas are entirely plant-based, the majority of fresh pastas use egg as an ingredient.
11. Many Asian Foods and Sauces
Asian restaurants seem like an easy place for those following a plant-based diet to eat, as many of their dishes highlight tofu and vegetables. However, many Asian restaurants and store bought Asian sauces use fish sauce. To keep it 100% plant-based, you can simply ask most servers if you can have the dishes without fish sauce.
12. Dark Chocolate
While we know that milk chocolate typically contains dairy, did you know that some dark chocolate contains milk ingredients like whey as well? Make sure to always check the label before purchasing.
13. Non-Dairy Creamers
The name “non-dairy” may be misleading, as many of them still contain casein, a protein derived from milk.
14. Worcestershire Sauce
It’s not just the clam juice that isn’t plant-based in your Caesar- many Worcestershire sauces actually contain anchovies. Read the ingredients list to find a brand without anchovies if you choose not to eat them.
15. Veggie Burgers
Unfortunately, many veggie burgers are made with eggs, making them not 100% plant-based. Check ingredients or ask about the recipe at a restaurant.
16. Miso Soup
While miso itself is plant-based, many miso soups are made with dashi, a fish paste or sauce used for flavoring. Make sure to ask at your local sushi restaurant if they use this ingredient in their sauces.
17. Orange Juice
Orange juice may be one of the most common non plant-based foods you thought were plant-based! For one, many store-bought orange juices are fortified with omega-3 and/or Vitamin D3. Omega-3 is typically derived from fish (although there are some Omega-3 supplements on the market that are made out of algae). Second, and as we learned above, Vitamin D3 is typically derived from fish or lanolin, sheep wool.
Most marshmallows contain gelatin, however, there are plant-based options on the market!
Surprisingly, these common breath-fresheners contain gelatin.
Some cereals, especially frosted ones, contain gelatin.
21. Potato Chips
Some potato chips contain casein, whey or powdered cheese.
Many vitamins and supplements are encased in gelatin capsules, making them not plant-based. Fortunately, many common vitamins can be found with plant-based-friendly capsules.
23. Refried Beans
Beans are incredibly healthy, however, many pre-made refried beans use pork fat or lard. Make sure you check the label!
24. Cake Mix
A surprising non plant-based food you may have thought was plant-based is cake mix. Despite the ability to buy dairy-free cake mixes, many may still contain other non plant-based ingredients including animal lard.
Most Jell-o’s contain gelatin.
Many premade pestos and those served in restaurants contain parmesan cheese.
27. Soy Cheese
Some soy cheeses are misleading, as some contain casein, a protein derived from milk.
28. Store-Bought Salad Dressings
Many store-bought salad dressings contain eggs as an emulsifier or anchovy paste for flavor.
29. Olive Tapenade
Some store-bought olive tapenades contain anchovies.
30. Vegetable Soups
Many restaurant dishes or store-bought vegetable soups actually contain chicken or beef stock.
So, there you have it, 30 non-vegan foods that are often thought to be plant-based!
Although this list may seem overwhelming, it’s important to remember that the best way to know if a food is plant-based or not is to check the ingredient list.
If you’re not 100% plant-based, you may still choose to eat some of these foods, and that’s totally ok! At least you know what you’re eating, instead of eating something unknowingly.
For a quick reference, the most common hidden animal byproduct ingredients are:
- Fish sauce or anchovies
- Eggs or egg ingredients
Did we miss anything? Let us know if you know of any other non plant-based foods most people think are plant-based in the comments below!
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