1. Beer and wine: may contain fish bladders.
Some alcoholic drinks, particularly beer, wine and cider, are clarified using animal-derived substances, such as isinglass (from the swim bladders of fish), chitosan (made from crustaceans) and gelatin. Vegetarian clarifiers can be made from bentonite (a type of clay) or derived from algae.
To see which beers, wines and other drinks are vegetarian-friendly, check out Barnivore.com.
2. Red candies: may contain crushed beetles.
Everyone knows red Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Fish are the tastiest, but they might not be the most vegetarian-friendly. Red candies are frequently dyed with carmine, a coloring made from crushed-up beetles. (Remember when Starbucks came under fire for using cochineal extract in strawberry Frappuccinos?)
Look for “natural red #4” on the ingredients list — that’s a sign your sweet treat contains insect-based dyes.
3. White sugar: may contain bone char.
Most white sugar is refined with bone char, which is made from the bones of cattle from Afghanistan, Argentina, India, and Pakistan. Brown sugar and powdered sugar can also be culprits.
Here’s a list of sugars that are vegetarian-friendly. Organic cane sugar and turbinado sugar are usually safe.
4. Cake mix: may contain beef fat.
Many cake mixes use lard to make themselves tastier. See some cake mixes that are vegetarian here.
5. Bananas: might be protected with an insect-based preservative spray.
Yep, sorry. A new spray-on coating designed to lengthen the shelf life of bananas may contain chitosan, an insect-based preservative that can make your banana not-so-veg-friendly if it infiltrates the fruit.
6. Worcestershire sauce: most contain anchovies.
Beware that Caesar salad if you’re trying to avoid fish for vegetarian reasons (or if you have allergies); the dressing is usually made with anchovy-containing Worcestershire sauce. Annie’s is one company that makes the stuff anchovy-free.
7. Cheese: some include rennet, which comes from animal intestine linings.
Found in hard cheese like parmiagiano-reggiano and some cheddars, rennet consists of enzymes culled from the stomachs of sheep and other animals. Check the ingredient list on the package, as rennet-containing cheeses will mention it. Soft cheese, like mozzarella and cream cheese, typically are rennet-free.
8. Yogurt: some brands have animal-derived gelatin.
Many strict vegetarians and vegans avoid gelatin, which is typically made from animal products, but it sneaks up in several unsuspecting foods, like marshmallows, gummy candy and yogurt (like Yoplait).
9. Anything enriched to be “heart healthy.”
Omega-3s, which are added to many products as a supplement, are usually sourced from anchovy, tilapia and sardine ingredients. Read labels carefully. Flaxseed and flaxseed oil are an excellent vegetarian source of omega-3s!