Life Hacks

6 foods you thought were vegetarian friendly but aren’t

Cheese Board with figs

Did you know figs are technically not vegetarian? Neither did we…

There was a time where being a vegetarian or a vegan was unusual, but as we’ve all become more aware of the environmental and humanitarian impacts of eating meat, being veggie, vegan or flexitarian is increasingly common. But there are still a few tricky foods which can trip up even the most dedicated meat-avoider.

Check out our list of six foods we thought were vegetarian-friendly, but apparently aren’t!


1. Parmesan cheese

Parmesan definitely doesn’t have any kind of meat substitute in it, right? WRONG. Sorry to all you veggie parmesan lovers but in order for this cheese to be called ‘parmesan,’ it has to be produced in a traditional method, and that method uses calf rennet. ‘What is calf rennet?’ we hear you ask – well it’s enough to put us off my favourite cheese. It’s extracted from the inner mucosa of the fourth stomach chamber of a young, unweaned baby cow. But – before you swear off arguably one of the best cheeses ever, there are some cheese brands in New Zealand that are vegetarian friendly and many vegan alternatives. Just be sure to read the ingredients or check in with your local supermarket to see which brands they carry.

2. Worcestershire sauce

Yep, sorry. Ruining your cheese on toast for life. Worcestershire sauce is packed full of anchovies, so unless you’re a pescatarian, step away from it immediately. Luckily, we did some digging and Commonsense Organics sells a brand that is totally vege and vegan friendly!

3. Marshmallows

Guys, most marshmallows contain gelatin, didn’t you know this? Gelatin is almost as gross as calf rennet… almost. It’s derived from collagen inside animals’ skin and bones. So no, if you’re vegetarian you really, really cannot eat marshmallows when you have a hot chocolate – put that packet down. Oh, and Haribo contains the same thing. In New Zealand we are actually lucky enough to have plenty of options when it comes to plant-based friendly foods so again, just double check the packets when purchasing anything you think doesn’t align with your ethical dietary requirements.

4. Beer

Or more specifically, Guinness as it uses isinglass in its production – isinglass is made from a fish byproduct. There aren’t direct traces of isinglass in Guinness, but it is used in the manufacturing process. So remember that next time you want a pint.

5. Figs

Genuinely mind blowing, this one. Figs are not vegetarian. Well, kind of. It depends if you count insects as ‘animals.’ When a wasp pollinates a fig (firstly, did anyone else know wasps had to pollinate figs?), they often gets trapped inside. And for a fig to be edible, they have to have at least one dead female wasp stuck inside. But as the female wasp dies inside, an enzyme from the fruit breaks down the body into protein. Weird, but not quite sure if this warrants swearing off figs all together… at least it’s not bees. Right?

6. Low fat yoghurt

Some low-fat yogurts contain gelatin and unfortunately that is no-go for vegetarians but your morning smoothie doesn’t have to be ruined. There are lots of brands available at your local supermarket that make their products without gelatin, it just pays to do your research. Or coconut yogurt is a delicious, plant-based alternative – always check the label!

Words: Alyss Bowen
Photo: Getty Images

A version of this article originally appeared on graziadaily.co.uk.


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