The Veggie Table: Foods That Sound Vegan, But Really Aren't

Foods that sound like they be meat and dairy free, like vegetable soup or non-dairy creamer often contain ingredients you're not expecting. Be sure to check labels and ask your server at restaurants what foods contain, especially for the foods on this list.
By: Janel Ovrut Funk

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tomato soup


delicious and healthy homemade tomato soup and vegetables

Photo by: Antonio Muñoz palomares

Antonio Muñoz palomares

A couple of years ago I posted about eight sneaky foods vegetarians should avoid because they contain surprising animal-based ingredients. Since that list was not entirely exhaustive, I've come up with a part-two post to help you avoid those foods that may seem vegan or vegetarian, but in fact are not. Most of these foods are found in restaurants, so be sure to ask before ordering so you know what you’re getting.

Vegetable soup – I know what you’re thinking: "How could a vegetable soup have meat in it?!" While there may not be hunks of meat, I've come across vegetable soups in restaurants that are in fact made with chicken or beef broth. Unfortunately not all restaurants make this known unless you ask. If you spot a soup on the menu that seems to be entirely vegetable-based, it's worth a quick question to your server or the chef to be sure.

Rice – Just like the vegetable soup, many restaurants may be cooking their rice or grain side dishes in chicken broth without labeling it that way. Some pre-seasoned rice mixes you can find at the grocery store may also have dehydrated chicken in them. But, you can rest assured that plain, unadulterated whole grains are 100% vegan.

French fries or tempura veggies – While the actual potatoes or veggies being deep fried are vegan, the fryer may be used to fry other foods, such as fried chicken or chicken nuggets. The fry oil isn't changed after each batch of food, so if you're concerned about cross-contamination with any animal products, its best to stay away from restaurant fries and try oven-baked "fries" at home instead.

Grilled sandwich bread or rolls – Did you know many restaurants will grill buns and bread with a slather of butter on them? Ask your server if they use butter or oil, or request a dry grilled bun to avoid any added ingredients on your bread.

Non-dairy creamers – Their name should indicate that these creamers, found in office kitchenettes and restaurants everywhere, are completely void of any dairy products. In fact, many of them actually contain sodium caseinate, which is a milk derivative. Enjoy your coffee or tea with soy, rice, almond or hemp milk instead.

TELL US: Have you come across any other sneaky non-vegan or vegetarian foods in restaurants?

Janel Funk, MS RD LDN, loves experimenting with vegetarian and vegan cooking. Read her food blog, Eat Well with Janel, and follow her on Twitter @DietitianJanel. Catch up on her previous posts here.

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