Real Life. Real News. Real Voices.
Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.
Join HuffPost Plus

11 Sneaky Foods That Seem Vegetarian, But Definitely Aren't

Be sure to look at the labels next time you buy cereal.

When you’re a vegetarian, successfully navigating a meal is a lot harder than just skipping the meat dishes. Not only are vegetarians often left with nothing but salad, but some dishes that seem vegetarian actually contain animal ingredients that can’t be seen. These show up everywhere!

For example, chicken stock is often used to make many soups, risottos and even braised greens. Then there are meat byproducts like lard, gelatin and rennet that hide in the most unsuspecting places. It makes eating out, dining at someone’s house and even grocery shopping a whole lot trickier than you might think.

It’s not easy being vegetarian. But to help, we’ve listed 11 sneaky foods that seem vegetarian, but usually aren’t:

1. Pie

You had better check before you dig into a piece of pie. Fruit pies, custard pies, chocolate pies and even hand pies may not be vegetarian friendly because of the crust. Some recipes use lard, because it doesn’t break down under heat as quickly as butter, and therefore makes an incredible crust.

2. Parmigiano Reggiano

Some cheeses are processed with animal rennet, a coagulant that helps turns milk into cheese. Rennet is an enzyme harvested from the stomach of ruminant animals like cows and goats, and its use makes some cheeses unfriendly for vegetarians. Parmesan isn’t the only culprit either: Gruyere, manchego and gorgonzola are sometimes made with rennet, too.

3. Cornbread

Some cornbreads are made with lard, so be sure to ask. And if you’re buying a store-bought package, make sure it’s vegetarian-specific. Even Jiffy has a vegetarian version of their cornbread.

4. Jell-O

More like, J-E-L-L NOOOOOO. Jell-O is made from gelatin ― it’s the second ingredient in the store-bought brand ― and gelatin is made from the skin and bones of animals. Jell-O is not the only sweet to use gelatin, either. Look out for marshmallows and candies such as Starburst, which rely on gelatin for their texture. Folks, even some varieties of Altoids contain gelatin.

5. Cereal

Put down those Lucky Charms. As we just mentioned above, most marshmallows have gelatin in them, which means so do Lucky Charms. But they aren’t the only culprits in the cereal aisle. Surprisingly, Frosted Mini Wheats are also made with gelatin.

6. White Sugar

If you’re trying to abstain from all animal products, you might want to look for vegan sugar. Some white sugar is processed through animal bone char to refine it and get rid of the impurities. While the end product does not contain actually bone char, it did come into contact with it.

7. Worcestershire sauce

This sauce is basically just fermented anchovies. Worcestershire sauce can show up in sneaky places ― like Bloody Marys ― so be on the look out next time you go to brunch. FYI, anchovies also show up in Caesar salads, olive tapenade and pasta puttanesca.

8. Orange Juice fortified with Omega-3

If you look at the ingredients in Heart Healthy Tropicana fortified with Omega-3, you’ll see that it’s not only made with fish oil, but fish gelatin as well. Not a very vegetarian way to start the day.

9. Twinkies

Bad news: those beloved snack cakes are made with beef fat.

10. Refried beans

Traditional refried beans are made with lard. So next time you go out for Mexican, you might want to double check with the cook. If you’re picking up a can at the store, be sure to look for the vegetarian version ― many companies offer them.

11. Non-fat yogurts

Some commercial companies use gelatin to keep non-fat yogurts creamy without any of the fat. Check those labels, folks. You never know where gelatin ― or other non-vegetarian friendly ingredients ― might show up.

The HuffPost Lifestyle newsletter will make you happier and healthier, one email at a time. Sign up here.