Reading the ingredients list on prepackaged foods can be a nightmare, particularly if you have no idea which of those ingredients might be a hidden source of an animal product, much less how that product was taken from the animal itself. As a vegetarian, you will have to decide what level of animal product consumption you are comfortable with.
Your best course of action, of course, would be to avoid buying prepackaged foods. However, since virtually nobody has the time to cook every single meal or snack from scratch anymore, this short list of some of the obvious and not-so-obvious animal-based ingredients should help you make more informed choices when you do purchase prepackaged foods.
• Anchovies – very small, strongly-flavored fish, found in Caesar salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce.
• Bacon – found in many Caesar and Ranch salad dressing varieties, as well as some canned beans and bean soups.
• Canned Soup Broth – often canned “vegetable” soup varieties will contain chicken or beef broth, despite there being no meat in the soup. French Onion soup is traditionally made with beef broth.
• Carmine/Cochineal/Crimson Lake – a red dye made from dead, dried beetles, used in candy and candy coating, ice cream, juice, and yogurt. You’ll never look at that red candy apple the same way again, will you?
• Casein – a protein found in milk, often added to margarine and soy cheese to enhance the creamy texture.
• Gelatin – made from the connective tissues of animals (mainly cows and pigs), found in many gummy candies, Jell-O, jelly beans, lowfat sour creams and yogurts, margarines, marshmallows, puddings, and medication “gelcaps.”
• Lard – pork fat sometimes listed as “animal shortening,” found in many baked goods and pastries, French fries, pie and tart crusts, refried beans, tamales, and tortillas.
• Natural Color/Flavor – this can be almost anything. Animal products, chemicals, plant-based ingredients…food labeling laws allow this to be a catch-all term wherein they don’t actually have to tell you what it is. If you dislike not knowing exactly what you’re eating, avoid anything with this on the label.
• Whey – the watery portion of milk removed during cheese production, often used in baked goods and boxed brownie or cake mixes.