Since I went vegan six months ago, I have done a lot of research — and I mean A LOT. I’ve Googled “is _____ vegan” so many times that my phone automatically fills it in for items that I’ve never looked up before. Most of the time the result is exactly what I’d expect. However, there have been a few times when I was extremely surprised to find out that something I’d been eating was made with animal products. Here are ten food items that are surprisingly NOT vegan.
Cane sugar | I was extremely surprised to discover that many companies use bone char to bleach their cane sugar. This includes every type of cane sugar, even brown! Brown sugar is white sugar with molasses, so don’t be fooled by its color. Luckily there are many vegan alternatives. Any sugar that is certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is vegan-friendly. Sugar is also suitable for vegans if it is labeled as unrefined. In The Raw‘s products are vegan except for their honey (which some would be surprised to hear is never vegan because it comes from bees). Wholesome Sweeteners also has many USDA-certified organic sugars, but their non-organic options are not vegan. Beet and coconut sugar are always vegan. Although they may not taste the same as cane sugar, they are a great alternative because they have more vitamins and minerals.
Soy cheese | Many manufacturers add casein, the main protein found in milk, to their soy products. Some are still labeled as “dairy free” because they are safe for people with lactose intolerance. The easiest way to fix this is to check the ingredients list. The most accessible brand of vegan cheese that I’ve found is Daiya — many restaurants even offer it as a topping! –, but there are many options on the market if you don’t like the taste or it’s not easily accessible where you live. Daiya is also safe for those with gluten, soy, and peanut allergies!
Jif Peanut Butter | I was extremely surprised when I discovered that this one wasn’t vegan. I never doubted that peanut butter was vegan because I never would have thought that animal products would be necessary. Jif Creamy Peanut Butter has “mono and diglycerides” listed in the ingredients, which most often comes from animals. I assumed that the natural peanut butter would be safe, but I was wrong! All of their products have refined sugar! However, there are many companies that carry vegan nut butters. Justin’s is a great option for vegan nut butters. Their vegan products are Maple Almond Butter, Classic Almond Butter, Vanilla Almond Butter, Chocolate Hazelnut Butter, Classic Peanut Butter, Maple Almond Butter + Pretzels Snack Pack, Chocolate Hazelnut Butter + Pretzels Snack Pack, and Classic Almond Butter + Pretzels Snack Pack. Their other nut butters have honey, their peanut butter cups have milk, and their banana chips have honey.
Packaged peanuts | Individual packs of peanuts sometimes contain gelatin. This one is more rare, but I thought I would mention it anyway. When I was at an airport over the summer, I got hungry and bought a pack of peanuts. Not until after I had already finished half of it did I realize that it wasn’t vegan! Most brands carry peanuts without gelatin, and it will always be listed in the ingredients.
Juice | Fruit juices are something to be cautious of because many of the most common brands contain animal products. Orange juice is often fortified with vitamin D3, which comes from sheep’s wool, and sometimes with omega-3, which comes from fish; apple juice is sometimes clarified with a product found in fish bladder; grape juice sometimes contains dyes derived from insects. My best advice is to look for juices with the vegan trademark. Making juices at home is also a great option because fresh juices always taste amazing.
Wine and Beer | Some alcoholic drinks are filtered using fining agents, which can include blood, bone marrow, casein (the main protein in milk), crustacean shells, egg whites, fish oil, gelatin, and fish bladder (gross!). This one is harder to avoid because these products are only used in the filtration process, so they are not listed as ingredients. Barnivore has a list of over 35,000 vegan alcohols.
Guacamole | Can you believe that some store-bought guacamole contains milk?? Tesco is one brand that adds dairy to their guac. Luckily this isn’t actually very common, and it’s an easy fix. I recommend just double checking the ingredients list before buying pre-made guacamole. Most restaurants will probably use homemade guacamole, but I always ask the server just to be certain.
Pesto | Some pesto has milk and eggs. Again, this is easy to avoid by just checking the nutrition label. Many restaurants use animal products in their pesto, so I would always ask the server.
Chewing Gum | Some of the most popular brands of gum are not vegan. Unfortunately they are not required to specify all of their ingredients, so many gums just list “gum base” without stating what it is or where it comes from. Gum base is typically made with stearic acid, which is typically derived from animal fat, and gelatin. Trident, Stride, Orbit, and Ice Breakers Ice Cubes are not vegan. Big League Chew, Eclipse, Mentos, Juicy Fruit, and 5 Gum are completely vegan, and Extra is vegan except for their Polar Ice flavor. Some less common vegan brands of gum include B Fresh, Epic, Pür, and Simply Gum.
Breath mints | Altoids and Life Savers mints are not vegan (although Life Savers hard candies are vegan). Mentos is one common brand that carries vegan breath mints. I would buy their NowMints rather than the Chewy Mints because I can’t find whether the Chewy Mints are vegan. Eat Whatever, VerMints, and St. Claires are some less common brands of vegan mints.
I hope you learned something new from this post!
Which item were you most surprised by?
Thanks for reading!