Food labels for vegetarians: How to avoid hidden animal-based ingredients you don't want in your diet

You know I am big on reading food labels. I've talked about how to understand the printed nutritional labels on packaged goods. And I've talked about how to get nutritional information online.

But what I've never talked about is how to read food labels from a vegetarian point-of-view.

I have found someone who has. And, beyond looking for the obvious (ground meat, chicken broth, and so on), here are some great tips for more subtle indications of what a food product contains.

Is there chicken in my food? Or is it an egg?
  • The product should have 0 cholesterol. Why? Cholesterol is only found in animal-based ingredients; plants have no cholesterol. So if your food choice has cholesterol, it has an animal-based ingredient.
  • Check allergy listings (typically at the end of the label). If there is milk in the product, for example, it will be noted here. So if you are vegan (beyond meat, you also do not eat milk, milk products, and eggs), you would not eat this product.
  • Also read any notices that say the food is “ ... processed on equipment containing ... “ or “may contain traces of ... “ to see what else may be in the food you are thinking of buying. If you have any objections to the shared equipment or traces, then put the product back on the shelf and back away slowly.
  • Question ingredients that don’t list their source. Vitamin D3, for example, is rarely vegan and “natural flavors” may also be a concern.
  • Checked the ingredients list last month? That’s nice, but you need to check it this month, too. In fact, you should check it every time you go shopping. Why? Manufacturers do change recipes. And they generally do it without any warning.
Good tips, eh? You can get more great information here. Happy shopping!