Hidden animal ingredients in your yogurt and candy and vitamins

This post is called Almost Vegetarian because right now we are struggling to go vegetarian, or as vegetarian as we can, but we're not quite there yet.

We are, in fact, almost there. Hence the name!

And one of the reasons we are still almost is the hidden animal ingredients tucked into everything from cheese to chocolate. So we turned to the ever-talented, incredibly wonderful, and overwhelmingly great Lesley for some advice.

(Oh, and don't forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a box just bulging with natural skin and face and haircare products - all, of course, for free!)

Hide and Go Seek: Hidden animal ingredients in your food
by Lesley Eats

There seems to be a lot of confusion about what, exactly it means to be a vegetarian. I say that based on the infinite number of times I have been asked, after saying I'm a vegetarian, if I eat fish, chicken, dairy, and/or eggs. (I understand the dairy and eggs question, but fish and chicken? Last I checked, both were living, aspirating animals.) So I just generally tell people I don't eat anything with dead critters in it. Because I live in the south and that's how I talk sometimes.

The thing is, it's not always terribly obvious where dead critter bits and dead critter goo may be lurking. I've been a vegetarian for just under eight years and I continue to be surprised at what will pop up. I am not a vegan (a person who consumes no animal product or by-product), but I don't want to ingest any bits of dead animals. It's as much for health as for compassion and considering that it's mostly highly-processed foods where the surprises can be found, it's an easy guideline to help keep myself on a healthy diet. Not that I don't indulge in the occasional junk food. I just don't happen to indulge in Skittles. In fact, right now I'm full up of Newman's Own (vegan?) Ginger-Os.

So if you're a new vegetarian or considering becoming one, here's a cheat sheet of what you might want to toss out as you set about your new, healthy lifestyle. Dead critter bits will show up in the most unlikely of places.

Gelatin
You've heard it's made of horse hooves, perhaps. But it's actually made from the connective tissues of just about any animal. So it's not meat, per se, it's the stuff boiled down from every part of the animal you wouldn't eat if you did eat meat. So, no more Jell-O, right? Yes, but gelatin pops up all over the place. Here's a list to get you started.
  • Some dairy products such as ice cream, sour cream, cream cheese, cottage cheese and yogurt.
  • Some frostings and most "frosted" products such as Pop-Tarts.
  • Candies such as gummy products (but not my beloved Jujyfruits), jelly beans, Skittles and Starburts, candy corn, and even Altoids.
  • Marshmallows (but not marshmallow crème) and items that contain marshmallows such as a Southern favorite, Moon Pies and breakfast cereals with "marshmallow bits" or frosting.
  • Jell-O, gelatin and some pudding mixes as well as some jams, jellies, and "fruit snacks."
  • Many medicines and vitamins, particularly those in capsule or "gelcap" form contain gelatin.
  • Some energy and diet bars (though some may list gelatin as "hydrolyzed collagen") as well as some energy/performance drinks.
  • A few margarines including the fat-free version of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" (try Earth Balance, instead). Interestingly, the regular version of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter" doesn't have gelatin.
  • Some pre-made guacamole (really, you shouldn't be eating this stuff anyway--it's mostly filler and little avocado).
  • Planters Dry Roasted Peanuts and other roasted nuts (but not all Planters nut products).
  • Some soups and sauces.
* * * * *

Already you can see why we have the almost in Almost Vegetarian, eh?! But we're trying, we're trying!

And we will continue to try because tomorrow we will look at stocks and broth. Then, as the week continues, we'll look at everything from rennet to anchovies. Until we get to Friday when we will announce the winner of our contest.

What contest, do you ask? Well, just click here to enter for your chance to win.