8 Foods That Are Surprisingly Not Vegan
Red Food Coloring
Be wary of any food or drink that's unnaturally bright red, as red food dye can be made from beetles. Carmine, also called cochineal, is a deep red pigment produced by crushing the bodies of cochineal insects—and it's used in many food colorings. You'll find it in things such as candy, juice, and even beauty products. And while many companies such as Starbucks have found alternatives, it's still used in processed foods such as strawberry Nerds and rainbow Mentos.
(This isn't to say you shouldn't eat naturally red and beautiful whole fruits and veggies such as red bell peppers or watermelon. Here's more on why you should eat colorful foods.)
Vegan swap: Look at food labels to make sure carmine, cochineal, red 4, or E120 isn't listed. And know that a "natural" color could mean it's from an animal source.
Worcestershire sauce has this intense umami flavor, making it perfect for stews and marinades. In fact, it's commonly added to various alcoholic beverages, too, including those delicious Bloody Marys you love so much for brunch. But what gives the sauce that delicious savory taste? It's anchovies. Not exactly exciting news for vegans (or anyone who loves Caesar dressing). (Related: Spicy Bloody Mary Recipes to Heat Up Your Brunch Game)
Vegan swap: You're in luck. Annie's Organic Worcestershire Sauce makes a great vegan alternative that tastes just like the real deal.
Omega-3 Enriched Foods
You know that omega-3 fatty acids are one of those good-for-you healthy fats that you need more of. They've been shown to have tons of health benefits from improving your mood to lowering your heart disease risk. But since most good sources come from fatty fish like salmon and sardines, vegans often look for fortified foods to get enough. But those omega-3-boosted foods often use fish oil. But you may be happy to know that more companies are starting to use plant-based options. You just have to do your research and look for it.
Vegan swap: Opt for natural plant-based sources of omega-3s such as chia seeds, algae, hemp seeds, and flaxseed oil. And if you're going to reach enriched foods just read the label to make sure fish oil isn't listed.
Refined sugar from sugarcane can be produced using—wait for it—animal bones. Yes, bone char, or natural carbon, is a decolorizing filter used by the sugar industry to help achieve its sugar's white color. And it's exactly what it sounds like—charred bones. But what's important to note is that although sugarcane does come in contact with bones during its filtration, the sugar itself doesn't contain any animal products. So your feelings about eating it will depend on your dietary motivations. (TBH, though, you should cut back on added sugar anyway—just look at what it does to your body.)
Vegan swap: Not all companies use this filtering method, and alternative sugar sources don't either. Safe bets include beet sugar, organic sugar, date sugar, and Sucanat.
Okay, so this isn't exactly a food, but it's still considered an important nutrient for bone health in vegans. That's because most natural vitamin D–rich foods come from animals or animal products. Meaning that fortified foods or a vitamin D supplement might be needed to boost your levels. But, get this—have you ever heard of lanolin? This waxy substance derived from sheep's wool is in many vitamin D supplements and fortified foods. And while this isn't well labeled, you can check to see if it contains vitamin D3. This usually means it's animal-based, unless it says otherwise.
Vegan swap: Choose a vitamin D2–fortified food or supplement. This is the plant-based version made from mushrooms or yeast. You can find it in foods like So Good Soy Milk and Silk Original Almondmilk. And although D2 may not be as effective as vitamin D3 at raising serum levels, a recent study showed it can still increase your body's supply.
Vegans, you might not be pleased to find out that you could be pouring pork or beef into your morning bowl of cereal without even knowing it. Many cereal varieties and snack bars contain gelatin, which is a protein made from boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones of animals. Plus, it's often added to foods for extra texture. You'll especially find it in cereals that have marshmallows, such as the childhood favorite Lucky Charms. Or those "frosted" cereals such as Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats. (Related: 10 Healthy Cereal Options with Whole Grains and Low Sugar)
Vegan swap: There are still plenty of other vegan-friendly cereal options. An easy guideline is to read the label to see if gelatin is in the ingredients. Alternatively, healthy vegan options include whole-grain cereals such as Kashi GoLean, or Nature's Path Multigrain Flakes.
Some Beer and Wine
You'd probably never think about it, but not all beer and wine is animal-free. Different companies use different processing methods and ingredients, which may or may be vegan. This includes using gelatin, egg whites, isinglass (fish bladders!), or even casein (a dairy protein). Knowing what alcohol is or isn't safe for vegans can be tough. That's because processing information isn't usually listed on the bottle or can. (Related: 6 Satisfying Vegan Smoothies)
Vegan swap: While vegan alcohol is more common than not, you can make sure of it by checking this list from barnivore.com, or calling up the manufacturer.
Although it may seem like a safe bet, ordering vegetable soup at a restaurant isn't always a vegan guarantee. Many soups use beef or chicken broth (as opposed to vegetable broth or stock) as the base for extra flavor. Even many canned soups such as Campbell's Healthy Request Vegetable soup contain animal stock.
Vegan swap: Tomato-based soups are usually a reliable vegan pick, but always ask your server at a restaurant and read food labels for any hidden ingredients. The easiest way to make sure your soup is vegan? Make it at home. A yummy place to start? This vegan cumin sweet potato soup you can actually make in a blender.