There are a lot of foods and ingredients vegans and vegetarians need to look out for. But what about substitutes for the foods you used to like (or thought were vegetarian/vegan)? I’ve already done a post on substituting eggs, milk and butter. But I wanted to expand that list to add more common foods and foods that you might get when out at a restaurant.
You can read more on substituting milk, eggs and butter here.
Or if you’re curious about ingredients to look out for, click here.
It is getting increasingly harder to keep on top of what not to eat, what companies are using animal by-products or is being produced in an insalubrious way. (Especially if you’re a new vegetarian/vegan.) Below is an alphabetical list of items that use unethical practices and what you can use to substitute (or alternatives you can do), although I’m sure there’s a lot more. If you have any ideas or tips, post them below!
Beer: Isinglass (fish stomachs) and gelatin (crushed animal bones, tissue) are common ingredients. But, it is best to check with the company as there are vegan-friendly beers out there.
Cheese: Although some cheeses are vegetarian, many are made by a process using rennet (enzymes from animal stomachs). If you still do eat cheese, it may be a good idea to start researching companies, or to make the switch to vegan cheese made with soy.
Chocolate: I added this for certain companies that use rennet in the process and can contain gelatin. More obviously, milk chocolate candies will contain milk. You can always buy dark chocolate and check that there are no milk additives.
Creamers: Many “non-dairy” creamers use calcium propionate, which is typically ground up bones. You could use soy, almond or coconut milk (depending on how you want the flavour to come out).
Gummy Foods: Most gummy foods (gummy bears, cherries, sour peaches, etc.) contain gelatin. There are some companies that use pectin, so you could always contact the company if you’re unsure. You can also purchase vegan gelatin from your bulk food store, if making your own gummies. Other foods to look out for include: Jell-o, jelly and some jams (all of which can contain gelatin).
Natural Flavours: This can be added to the ingredient list in products and can be a front for hidden animal by-products. By law, companies don’t need to list what is in their “natural flavours” as it can be company secret, or just a way to slip in unwanted ingredients.
Pasta: Many people may be aware of this product already. Most pastas contain egg and some add milk as well. You can buy “chinese” noodles which consist of wheat and water. As well, you can find rice vermicelli (made from rice). Or, for a little bit healthier option, use spaghetti squash!
Rice: Restaurants often cook rice in chicken stock, even if the meal is “vegetarian”. Ask the waiter or chef exactly what they cook the rice in.
Salad Dressing: Cesar dressing (if you didn’t already know) contains anchovies. As well, many restaurants use bacon fat or other fats to start their dressings. You should ask to speak to the chef, if you’re really concerned – or opt for another meal! Another idea is to bring your own dressing: choose a salad with no dressing and add your own.
Sauces: I was going to add specific sauces, but I though I would add a generalization. Depending on the sauce, many can contain anchovies, anchovy paste, milk and eggs. These should be looked out for, especially when at a restaurant. As well, you can always make your own sauces!
Soups: Most restaurants use beef, chicken or fish stock when preparing soups, even if they don’t contain meat. The best thing you can do is ask the waiter, or talk to the chef and see exactly what goes in the soup. As well, Campbell’s vegetable soup contains beef broth, so it’s best to buy vegetarian vegetable. You could also try making your own Homemade Vegetable Broth.
Tortillas: You can find many animal-friendly tortillas now, but many restaurants still use animal lard to cook them with. As well, some store-bought versions can contain eggs. You could also substitute using lettuce or cabbage wraps.
Vitamins: A lot of vitamins (and acetaminophen/ibuprofen capsules) contain gelatin. And many red, orange or pink vitamins contain carmine (female crushed beetles). You can buy vegetarian capsules, but try to up your intake of certain foods that you feel you need a supplement for.
Wine: A lot of wines are fined using eggs and isinglass. Again, there are vegan substitutes, but you may need to do your research on local wines. This can also be true for many sherries and vermouth.
Many companies tend to sneak in certain additives or preservatives that are unnecessary. It really is hard to keep on top of everything, read every label and know every synonym for every ingredient that isn’t animal-friendly. It can almost seem too exhausting and overwhelming. Try eating more whole, local foods. Not only will they contain less pesticides, use less gas to travel to your dinner table, but you can feel good knowing that you’re not putting anything unwanted into your system.
You may have noticed that a lot of the options were to “ask the chef” but honestly, in that situation – when the ingredients aren’t in the menu – that’s the best thing you can do. You can look on Google for vegan-friendly restaurants in your area, or look up what common meals are vegetarian at local restaurants.
If you’re a new vegetarian or vegan, the change may not be sudden but the more research you do, the easier it will be to take out certain foods in your diet. You can also try making your own substitutes, this way you know what’s going in your food, and again you’ll feel good knowing nothing bad is going in your body.
Hopefully you found this list somewhat useful. Now go forth and find some good food!
Good luck & have a great weekend!
Note: Sorry if there are any spelling or grammatical errors. I’ve been writing and editing this for the last 2 hours (probably much longer) and I need to get away from the screen!