11 Surprising Foods You Might Think Are Vegetarian, But Aren't

You would think that as a vegetarian, all you would have to do is avoid meat products and you would okay to eat everything, but sadly, with the way our food industry works, that's not exactly the case. A number of foods seem vegetarian, but actually aren't, which means if you're cutting meat out of your diet, you have to pay particular attention to what ingredients you are eating. Sometimes animal products are added just for flavor, but other times they're used to preserve food or add to their texture. 

Editor's note: The foods listed below may sometimes contain meat products, but that is not always the case. Make sure to always check ingredients if you're worried something might not be vegetarian

"When you’re following a vegetarian diet, you know to pass on the obvious animal sources of food — that hamburger, hot dog, or fish taco," says Lara Felton, RDN and head of nutrition at ShopWell, an app that can help consumers find hidden ingredients, over email to Bustle. "But these are the obvious ones, and it gets tricky when you have to look at ingredients of seemingly safe foods and try to figure out which ones might have animal-derived ingredients."

If you're a vegetarian, or you just don't like to eat meat, pay close attention to these surprising 11 foods that oftentimes are not vegetarian, so you don't consume something you don't want to eat unknowingly. 

1. White Sugar

All you bakers out there, beware. Refined sugar made from sugarcane is filtered with bone char, which results in the sweetener's white color, according to Huffington Post. The sugar itself doesn't contain these bone particles, but it does come in contact with the animal bones before its packaged. 

2. French Fries

The comfort food may seem like a good meat-free option, but oftentimes these spuds are cooked in a animal fat-based oil. "Question all fried restaurant foods, unless otherwise noted," says Tiffany Newenhouse, RD over email. "Sometimes they will fry their foods in animal fat like pork or beef."

3. Bananas

How can a fruit not be vegetarian? Blame it on the pesticides. Some bananas contain a spray-on coating called chitosan that are supposed to extend the shelf life of bananas, according to Science Daily. However, this coating is a derivative of shrimp and crab shells, posing a problem for vegetarians. 

4. Red Candy

It's hard to imagine how a hard candy could not be vegetarian, but they get their color from a not-so-innocent source. "Pay attention to where the red coloring is coming from in a food products," says Beth Warren, MS, RD, CDN over email. "Carmine, also identified as Crimson Lake, Cochineal, Carminic Acid, and Natural Red #4, is a red dye derived from tiny red parasitic scale insects."

5. Parmesan Cheese

Most cheeses are fine for vegetarians, but Parmesan cheese in particular causes an issue. To be certified as real Parmesan cheese, the dairy-product must be prepared using animal rennet, which comes from a baby calf, according to the Vegetarian Society. 

6. Pie

Pie definitely doesn't seem like it would contain meat, but many pie crusts contain lard as one of their main ingredients. This goes for many pre-made pie crusts you can find in supermarkets as well, including boxed mixes. 

7. Beer

"Some beers are clarified using a variety of animal-based fining agents," says Warren. "Gelatin (from animal bones), isinglass (from fish bladders), bone marrow, and casein are possible ingredients."

8. Vitamins

You probably don't think twice about what's in your supplements, but you might want to start now. "Always check the labels, as they usually will note vegetarian or vegan on the package," says Newenhouse. "A lot of times the fillers like gelatin come from animal products."

8. Miso Soup

Miso soup contains an ingredient called dried bonito, also known as fish flakes. "Other Asian cuisine will use fish sauce," says Newenhouse. "Since this can be high allergenic food, most places will disclose the information on the menu or website. However, a simple vegetable kimchi can have fish sauce hidden in there."

9. Yogurt

Although we all know that yogurt isn't vegan, some brands may not actually be vegetarian. Certain yogurts contain gelatin, which is used to thicken the texture, but gelatin is made from boiling the skin, cartilage, and bones from animals.

10. Bean And Cheese Burrito

"A bean and cheese burrito is a classic vegetarian choice and something you can find in ever grocery frozen food aisle, so what could go wrong?" says Felton. "Well, refried beans are typically made with lard, making them the least vegetarian friendly bean choice."

11. Caesar Salad

Many vegetarians opt for salad, but be wary of many Caesars. "Caesar salad dressing is often made with anchovy paste, so although the rest of the salad may be meat-free, the dressing sure isn’t," says Felton. 

In general, these foods have the risk of not being vegetarian, but always ask or check the ingredient label to see if you're good to go. 

Images: Fotolia (1, 2); Pixabay (11)

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