It’s hard to know what to avoid if you don’t know what you’re looking for!
Below is an alphabetical list of ingredients to avoid on a vegan/vegetarian diet:
Albumen: Made from eggs, milk, and animal blood.
Bone char: Derived from animal bone ash. (Used to make cane sugar.)
Carmine (cochineal): Red pigment made from crushed beetles.
Casein: A cow’s milk protein.
Gelatin: Made from cow hooves. (In gummy foods, marshmallows, Pop Tarts.)
Glycerin/Glycerol: Made from animal fats. (Can also be made from vegetables – check with the brand first, if it doesn’t specify.)
Honey (and beeswax): Made from bees.
Lanolin: Made from wool. (Used more in cosmetics.)
Methionine: Essential amino acids made from eggs or cow’s milk.
Pepsin: Made from stomachs of hogs.
Rennet: Enzyme made from calves’ stomachs.
Whey: Made from milk. (Found in bread, margarine.)
There are probably others, but these are the ones that seem to be the most “mainstream”.
I’ve found that the more whole foods (fruits, veggies, beans, rice) you eat, the less you have to worry about meticulously reading every label – and it’s much healthier!
BTW: Make sure you do read the labels (especially if you’re just starting out), even on items you wouldn’t think anything of. Some sauces and dressings have ingredients that aren’t vegetarian.
Good luck & hopefully this was helpful for you!
Also check out:
More Vegan Substitutes & Foods to Avoid