How Do I Know If It’s Vegan? (+ Free Printout)

When you’re vegan it goes like this: things like reading labels become routine, and it’s easy to pick out the cruelty-free from the not. Enquiring in restaurants becomes second-nature, as well as having a mental list of alcohol I can buy in bars that’s vegan-friendly. But I guess it’s easy to forget that not everyone does this on a daily basis, not everyone knows how to do this, and it can be a little bit of a minefield to begin with. This has become apparent to me recently, with family members asking me what I can or can’t eat when I visit them for Christmas, and the super, super common answer my friends give me to “Where do you want to go to eat?”, almost always identically word-for-word, goes like “Well, I don’t mind, you’re the one with dietary restrictions, so you choose.” A kind enough sentiment but usually unnecessary. If you can eat there, I usually can too. (I do say usually, because if we go to a steak house I probably won’t be happy).

So this post is a little guide to those of you who might not be vegan but you’re hosting a veggie for Christmas, a friend of someone who’s powered by plants, or a new vegan who’s trying to work this whole thing out. Here are some tips and tricks for supermarket shopping!

Vegans don’t eat:
Meat or animal by-products (that’s anything that comes from an animal).

✿ Milk
✿ Butter
✿ Cheese
✿ Honey
✿ Beeswax
✿ Casein – this is milk-derived
✿ Whey – milk-derived
✿ Ghee – butter, usually in Indian products like naan bread
✿ Gelatine – often found in sweets
✿ Carmine – a red food dye from crushed beetles (e.g. found in the red Bulmers cider)
✿ Lactose – milk-derived

In the supermarket
A handy trick of working out whether something isn’t suitable in under 30 seconds – look for anything that’s bold in the ingredients list, because that’s allergy information, and will usually include milk and eggs. If you see that then you can immediately put the product back, and crack on with your shop.

My mental process of reading a label more thoroughly goes like this:

✿ Is it suitable for vegetarians? If I can see something is veggie-friendly, then I’m a step closer to knowing it’s a-okay.
✿ Does it contain milk? Also look out for things like ‘milk powder’, and things that are derived from milk.
✿ Does it contain eggs?
✿ Does it contain honey or beeswax? (Usually in things like cereal, desserts and beauty products)
✿ For extra points, does it say it’s vegan friendly? Sometimes I’ll go straight for searching for that rather than reading through all the ingredients if it’s a product that’s likely to say, such as things in health food shops. Be aware that most items don’t say suitable for vegans on it, but a lot do have suitable for vegetarians, especially frozen food. Don’t think just because it says suitable for vegetarians means it’s also suitable for vegans, as it might contain something else, like cheese.

Sometimes, you can tell something won’t be vegan without even picking it up, just from reading the title/description of the product. So if something says it’s creamy or cheesy, then no thanks. BUT some things can be deceiving, especially meat-flavoured crisps and some biscuits. Texas BBQ Pringles? Yes, please. Bacon Rasher crisps? Sure. Bourbon biscuits? Usually yes, and give them all to me.

On the other hand, some things won’t be suitable even though you’d expect them to be. Some plain flavoured branded crisps might contain milk (usually the store’s own, cheaper alternatives are vegan-friendly, yay) and things like pesto or hummus might contain egg or milk. Not all dark chocolate is okay, so always check that.

I hope this is a helpful starting point! A lot of this is knowledge from experience, but a lot of the information can always be found with a quick internet search. Good luck on your vegan-friendly food purchasing!

Hey! Here’s a Free Printout: here’s a word document (rather than PDF, so you can edit it if you wish) to give to friends/family at the holiday season if they’re doing a shop and you can’t go with them: Vegan Supermarket Shopping

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