Vegetarians Beware! 37 Foods That Are Surprisingly Not Vegetarian

Deciding to become a vegetarian is not as easy as substituting ISOPasta or other plant-based protein sources for your previous poultry, beef, and fish selections. Sure that’s part of it, but there are so many other foods that seem to be acceptable for vegetarians but are actually far from it. Here are some of the most surprisingly common unknown offenders.


Foods Containing Gelatin

Gelatin is commonly used as a gelling agent, stabilizer, thickener, or texturizer in many food sources. It is a protein that is most often obtained from the skin, tendons, bones, and/or ligaments of cows or pigs. Gelatin also comes in a few different forms based on cooking requirements, including sheets, granules, and powder.


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To give Altoids their distinct texture most varieties contain gelatin. But if you just can’t give up this curiously strong mint, then look no further than the Altoids mints labeled “sugar-free smalls” because they do not contain any gelatin.

Candy Corn

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Most Candy Corns are made with Sugar, Corn Syrup, Confectioner’s Glaze, Salt, Dextrose, GELATIN, Sesame Oil, Artificial Flavoring, Honey, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, and Red 3. There are a few brands that do not contain gelatin, so like most foods, it’s best to check the labels before you buy.


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Most cheesecakes contain gelatin as a firming agent to set the cheese. Even if you find a cheesecake that does not contain gelatin be cautious though, because pre-made varieties of this delicious dessert are often made with non-free-range eggs. Your best bet on this one is to make it yourself.

Frosted Mini-Wheats

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The gelatin found in all varieties of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal comes from the skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons of beef. Other Kellogg’s Products that contain gelatin include: all cereals with marshmallows, Rice Krispies treats (and squares), frosted pop-tarts, fruit-flavored snacks, and Krave treat bars.


Gel Cap Medications

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Both hard and soft-shelled capsules are made using gelatin or plant polysaccharides so it is important to look at labels when purchasing your medications. If you are unable to find your medication in a vegetarian-friendly capsule there are empty varieties that you can purchase to transfer the medication into, for use.

Gummy Bears

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Most gummy products including gummy bears, rings, worms, frogs, sharks, apples, peaches, and television characters, are gelatin-based, so although checking the label is important you will almost always find that your gummy treats have beef or pork by-products in them. If you can’t give up your gummies, it’s okay, you’ll just have to switch to sour patch kids or Swedish fish which are not made from gelatin.


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Jell-O is by nature a gelatin dessert so there are not many non-gelatin products under the Jell-O brand, however, they can be found for those who are vegetarian, kosher, or halal. For best results, carefully read each label before purchasing it.


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The main ingredient in marshmallows is sugar, but it is whipped into a spongy consistency that is most often held into place by gelatin. Some brands also contain eggs. There are vegetarian brands of marshmallows, so you don’t necessarily have to say goodbye to s’mores, homemade Rice Krispies treats, or marshmallow chocolate cookies, you’ll just have to change your brand choice.


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Peanuts that have been roasted, whether in oil or dry, are often roasted in gelatin that is comprised of pig hooves. This additive is used to help the salt and other spices that are added during roasting to bond with the peanuts for a more flavorful result.

Soft Drinks

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Some soft drinks, like Coca-Cola’s Lilt, Lilt Zero, Kia-Ora Orange Squash, and Schweppes Orange Squash, contain beta-carotene coloring which is stabilized by fish gelatin. The good news is that most US products do not use fish gelatin to stabilize beta-carotene, so unless you are overseas you should be safe. It is important to note that white sugar does often contain small traces of animal bone however so you may still want to steer clear of soft drinks and other products containing white sugar.  


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Beef-derived gelatin can be found in each and every package of Starburst, but if you’re looking for a fairly similar taste without the gelatin included, pick up a pack of Skittles instead. In 2010, Wrigley’s removed the gelatin from the Skittles recipe but continue to use it in Starburst.


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The actual production of Wine does not contain any animal products, but during the finishing process animal products such as GELATIN, casein, isinglass, and albumen are used to improve clarity and flavor by removing organic impurities. Due to common allergens, wineries and vintners are required to label casein and albumin since they contain milk and/or egg proteins. Gelatin or isinglass does not need to be announced on wine labels. Look for wines labeled as unfiltered, to ensure that your wine does not include any of these animal products.  

Foods Containing Lard

Lard, also known as animal fat, is found in many unsuspecting foods, making them off-limits for vegans and vegetarians. The good news is that in the case of lard, most of the time homemade options can be made by substituting non-animal fat products to make these foods vegetarian friendly. When reading labels lookout for the word “tallow” as it is just a fancy, and sneaky way to label their products with lard.

Cake Mix

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Beef and pork fat are common ingredients in dry, boxed cake mixes. These fats are often listed on the ingredient list as lard. To avoid these additions to your cakes, cupcakes, and brownies, opt for making homemade versions.

French Fries

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French fries alone are generally vegetarian friendly but beware of french fries that have been fried in animal fats. Most fries in restaurants these days will be fried in soybean oil to accommodate allergies, but it’s still good practice to ask and have a backup plan just in case.

Hostess Cupcakes & Twinkies

not vegetarian

Many hostess products including cupcakes and twinkies contain animal shortening made with beef fat. The labels on these products are not misleading, and list “beef fat” as an ingredient right on the packaging, so it is easy for the consumer to see exactly what they are consuming.

Jiffy Cornbread Mix

not vegetarian

While most cornbread mix does not contain lard, the Jiffy brand does. It is worth noting that some brands may contain milk, however, which may need to be considered when maintaining a vegetarian diet.

Pie Crust

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Many store-bought pie crusts and traditional pie crust recipes include lard as a way to hold the ingredients together. Although butter and vegetable-based products can be substituted for lard in these ingredients, many professional bakers still prefer to use lard due to the flakiness that it provides to the crust.

Potato Chips

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Some potato chip brands like Grandma Utz’s hand-cooked potato chips, are unashamed and include lard right on the ingredients label, but not all potato chip varieties are so easily avoided by vegetarians. Also, look for a listing of tallow which is a fancy and misleading way to label animal fat on their products.

Refried Beans

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You might think that refried beans are safe since they are just plant-based beans, after all, right? Unfortunately, most Mexican restaurants that offer refried beans are cooked in lard or bacon drippings. Many pre-made canned versions are also made with lard, so look for cans labeled vegetarian, or check the ingredient labels to make sure animal products are not included.

Tortilla Wraps

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Most restaurants and homemade versions of tortillas are often made with lard for a soft “melt in your mouth” texture. Store-bought varieties do not usually contain this lard, but it is still worth taking a look at the ingredient list, just to make sure.

Salad Dressings

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Ever wonder why salad dressings that are made in-house at a restaurant taste so much better than store-bought varieties or homemade dressings? It’s because many restaurants use bacon fat in their salad dressings. Also, look out for traditional and authentic caesar dressings which will contain anchovies.

Foods Containing Anchovies

Anchovies are a small saltwater fish that can be eaten raw or cooked. They can also be finely chopped and included in small or large quantities to add flavor to sauces, condiments, and other food dishes. Keep an eye out for anchovies in your favorite foods, they might pop up where you least expect them.

Olive Tapenade

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It may come as a surprise to you that some olive tapenade recipes include anchovies alongside the more commonly known ingredients of garlic, capers, and olives. It is easy to avoid adding the anchovies when making a homemade version, but when ordering at a restaurant, or dining with at a friend's house, be sure to ask if they have been added before you dig in.

Pasta Puttanesca

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Traditional pasta puttanesca recipes include anchovies, but since they are cooked down until they dissolve into oil many people do not know about this important ingredient. Although restaurants are not likely to list this dish as a vegetarian option because of the inclusion of anchovies, you may look at the description and simply assume that it’s a safe choice. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask.

Worcestershire Sauce

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Since Worcestershire sauce is most often used on beef and fish dishes to add flavor, it may be unlikely that a vegetarian would take a second look at this condiment, because they likely wouldn’t use it themselves. It is important to know that this condiment contains anchovies though because it is often used to add a spicy kick to bloody mary cocktails in restaurants and bars. To be safe, simply ask your bartender to leave this ingredient out when they’re making your bloody marys.

Foods Containing Animal Stock

A stock is a flavored liquid that has been prepared with either animal bones, meat, seafood, or vegetables that have been simmered in water or wine. An animal stock may sneak up in foods that you would never imagine, so as with everything else on this list it’s key that you check the ingredient label before buying or eating anything.

Baked Beans

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Canned baked beans are almost always prepared and stored in bacon or ham stock to add flavor, so unless the packaging expressly says vegetarian, it’s unlikely that these beans are free of animal products. Luckily you can easily make your own baked beans that are vegetarian simply by using vegetable stock.


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Since many stuffings are made to literally stuff within animals to cook, they are often made with animal-based stocks. If you’re making your own stuffing though it’s easy enough to use vegetable stock instead. When you’re buying stuffing from a restaurant, or eating at someone else’s house though it is always better to ask and be sure than to find out after you’ve consumed it that the stuffing was made from animal stock.


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Beef and vegetable soup, chicken and corn soup, and ham and bean soup are of course among the soups that use animal stock in them, but did you know that many vegetable soups also use these stocks? This is especially true in restaurants. Most cream soups like cream of broccoli, or cream of potato are made with chicken stock and split pea soup is most often made with ham stock. It’s important to ask to make sure these soups are made with vegetable broth or stock while you’re out, and as usual, always check the labels on the canned varieties.

Foods Containing Other Strange Animal Parts

From shellfish to wasps, to smashed up bugs, beaver butt juice, and even human hair, nothing is more disturbing than the animal bits and pieces that you’ll find in the following foods. In fact, if you have a weak stomach and don’t mind eating foods that aren’t actually vegetarian, you might not want to scroll any farther, but if you’re brave enough to learn about more what you’re eating, take a brave look below.


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If you check the ingredients list on your favorite bagels or bread you will likely find L. Cysteine listed. What you may not know is what L. Cysteine is. It is an amino acid that is used to extend the shelf-life on these types of factor made products. The important part to note is that it is made from human hair, duck feathers, cow horns, and pig bristles, making these products 100% decidedly NOT vegetarian. L. Cysteine can also be found in Pizza Hut’s garlic bread, McDonald’s honey wheat rolls, cinnamon rolls, and apple pies.


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I bet that you would never guess that bananas can contain shellfish if they are not labeled as organic. This is because there is a preservative that contains shellfish that is sprayed onto these bananas to keep them fresh during their trip from the fields to the stores. The sprays contain a bacteria-fighting compound from shrimp and crab shells, that make these bananas not vegetarian friendly.


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Most beers are safe for vegetarians to consume but it is important to note that a few breweries use animal products such as GELATIN, and isinglass to clear the beer of yeast, at the end of the brewing process to produce a more crisp and clear beer. Guinness was once an offender of using this process but has recently developed plans to stop using isinglass to filter the yeast from their beer.


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Figs are pollinated by fig wasps. During the course of pollination, the wasps burrow within the fig to lay their eggs in a mutual relationship with reproduction as their goal. When the eggs hatch they burrow back out of the fig and fly off to pollinate more figs. Unfortunately, some wasps remain within the fig and are broken down into protein to be made into part of the ripened fruit.  

Hard Coated Candies

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Shellac is added to many different types of candy to create a hard-coated exterior. This shellac is made from a resin that is secreted from the rear end of the female lac bug, and it takes about 100,000 of these bugs to produce just 500 grams of shellac flakes. This shellac is also occasionally referred to as confectioner’s glaze or resinous glaze on the candy’s list of ingredients. Candies that contain shellac include (but are not limited to) Hershey’s milk duds, Hershey’s Whopper’s Malted Milk Balls, Nestle’s Raisinettes, Nestle’s Goober’s, Tootsie Roll Industry’s Junior Mints, Tootsie Roll Industry’s Sugar Babies, Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, Godiva’s dark chocolate almond bar, dark chocolate cherries, milk chocolate cashews, white chocolate pearls, and milk chocolate pearls, Gertrude Hawk’s chocolate covered nuts and raisins, cupcake sprinkles, and decorative cake pieces, and Russell Stover’s Jelly Beans. Red hard candies that are naturally colored will list Red #4, cochineal, carminic acid, or carmine, in their ingredients. This natural red color is actually derived from the female Dactylopius coccus costa insect. The FDA is well aware of this additive and requires pasteurization of the bug-derivative to eliminate Salmonella microorganisms, but that doesn’t stop this from being any less gross. This red dye has also been known to cause allergic reactions in some people. In addition to red candies, it can also be found in wine, vinegar, and colored pasta.


Orange Juice

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Orange juice, and many other products that are labeled as heart-healthy, include fish oil as a way to include omega-3’s, which are fatty acids with major health benefits. Although omega-3’s can also be found in plant sources including nuts and seeds, these products are often fortified with fish oil, to boost their nutritional value.

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese

not vegetarian

Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese and a few other kinds of cheese are made with rennet, and often times (unless otherwise specified) this rennet is made from the stomach of slaughtered calves. Other cheeses that contain rennet include (but are not limited to) Gruyere, Manchego, Emmenthaler, Pecorino Romano, Gorgonzola, Mimolette, Grana Padano, Camembert, Boucheron, and Vacherin. Look for ingredient labels that list “vegetable rennet” or packages that are labeled as a vegetarian to be safe.

Vanilla Ice Cream & Raspberry Flavoring

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One rather disgusting ingredient will give you a nice smooth vanilla flavor in ice cream, while also providing a tangy raspberry flavoring for candies and other such foods. The ingredient is called castoreum, but that is just a nice word for the brown slime that is secreted from beaver’s anal glands to ‘mark their territory’. Even non-vegetarians should consider checking for this ingredient the next time they’re buying vanilla ice cream, or anything raspberry flavored.

White Sugar

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If you use white sugar, beware that it might have been bleached and filtered with bone char, meaning that your sugar could contain traces of animal bones. This is the most common way to filter cane sugar, although a few companies are switching over to alternative methods that would use granular carbon instead, which would be okay for vegetarians since it doesn’t contain animal products. Your best bet is still to go with raw, unbleached, and unfiltered sugars though.


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Some yogurts like Activia Light, contain carmine which is a crushed insect that gives food a ‘naturally’ red coloring and gelatin which is made from the skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons of animals. Other yogurts contain other slaughterhouse by-products and preservatives that contain animal products. Keep an eye on your labels to make sure that you aren’t buying yogurt that contains any of these ingredients.

Everyone should be aware of what it is that they’re actually eating, which is why we believe that if you’re going to eat processed or packaged foods it’s ALWAYS a good idea to read the label whether you are a vegetarian or not. However, it is especially important if you have a dietary restriction such as veganism or vegetarianism that you keep an eye on everything that you eat, and not just cut out your meat products for ISOPasta, and other high protein sources.

Which of the foods on this list surprised you the most that it wasn’t vegetarian friendly?

Did we miss any surprisingly non-vegetarian foods? If so, please let us and our readers know in the comment section below.

The post Vegetarians Beware! 37 Foods That Are Surprisingly Not Vegetarian appeared first on ISOLATOR FITNESS BLOG.


  • Kristen

    This is extremely overwhelming.

  • Cara Crumley

    I have found there are many alternatives for many of the items that taste no different.
    Vegan marshmallows. Plant based yogurts.

  • shrushti bagmar

    Thank you for the information.It will help a lot now in future.

  • janessa

    Thanks for the information. I’m so glad that my family checks the ingredients on food being that i’m the only vegetarian in my family. I don’t know what i would do if I ate something that wasn’t homemade by my grandma. I really appreciate the info.

  • Solby Fan 165

    Thanks for the incormation🤢I’m going to go vegan after this! I can’t believe I am supporting foods that have God’s animals in them! So mad at myself rn

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