The Surprising Foods That Aren't Vegan (And What to Eat Instead)

For those who follow a vegan diet, it's important to be aware of the many non-vegan foods that may be lurking in unexpected places. While most people are aware that meat and dairy products are off-limits, there are many lesser-known non-vegan foods that can be easy to miss. In this article, we'll explore some of the surprising foods that aren't vegan, and offer up some alternatives to help you stay on track with your vegan lifestyle.


One of the most surprising non-vegan foods is honey. Many people assume that honey is a vegan-friendly sweetener, but in fact, bees are often exploited in the process of harvesting honey. This can include smoking out the bees, removing their honeycombs, and replacing them with sugar water. If you're looking for a vegan-friendly sweetener, consider using maple syrup, agave nectar, or date syrup instead.

Certain Types of Sugar

Believe it or not, not all types of sugar are vegan. Some types of sugar, such as bone char sugar, are processed using animal bones. While this type of sugar is less common these days, it's still worth checking food labels to ensure that the sugar you're consuming is vegan-friendly. Look for sugar labeled "vegan" or "unrefined," or try using alternative sweeteners such as stevia or coconut sugar.


While many types of alcohol are vegan, some beers and wines use animal products in the production process. For example, some beers are filtered using isinglass, a substance derived from fish bladders. Similarly, some wines are filtered using animal-derived products such as gelatin, egg whites, or fish bladder. If you're looking for vegan-friendly alcoholic beverages, look for options labeled "vegan" or "unfiltered," or stick to spirits such as vodka or gin, which are typically vegan-friendly.

Plant-Based Milks

If you're a fan of milk, you might be surprised to learn that cow's milk isn't the only non-vegan option. Some types of milk, such as goat's milk and sheep's milk, are also non-vegan. Fortunately, there are many plant-based milks that are vegan-friendly, such as almond milk, soy milk, and oat milk. These options are typically lower in calories and fat than cow's milk, and can be used in recipes and coffee just like traditional milk.

Egg Substitutes

Eggs are a staple in many recipes, but if you're vegan, you'll need to find an alternative. Fortunately, there are many egg substitutes available, such as mashed banana or applesauce, silken tofu, or commercial egg replacers made from potato or tapioca starch. These substitutes can be used in recipes such as baked goods and omelets, and can help you achieve the same texture and consistency as traditional eggs.

Tips for Avoiding Non-Vegan Foods

Navigating social situations and restaurants can be challenging for vegans, but there are some tips that can help. When eating out, ask your server about vegan options or substitutions, and be sure to read food labels carefully to identify any non-vegan ingredients. Some restaurants now label vegan options on their menus, making it easier to make a selection.

If you're attending a social event, offer to bring a vegan dish to share, or eat before you go so you're not tempted by non-vegan options. If you're traveling, research vegan-friendly restaurants and stores in advance so you know where to find food that fits your dietary needs.

It's also important to remember that being vegan isn't just about what you eat, but also the products you use. Avoid products that are made from animal-derived ingredients, such as leather, silk, and wool. Look for vegan-friendly alternatives made from synthetic materials or plant-based fabrics.

In conclusion, there are many surprising non-vegan foods that can be easy to miss, but with a little education and awareness, it's possible to stay on track with a vegan lifestyle. By opting for alternative sweeteners, vegan-friendly alcohol, and plant-based milks, you can continue to enjoy your favorite foods without compromising your values. With a little planning and preparation, it's also possible to navigate social situations and restaurants while still adhering to a vegan diet. So go ahead, embrace a vegan lifestyle and enjoy all the delicious foods it has to offer.