Thanks to the thousands of vegan blogs and recipes out there, it’s much easier to cook vegan than it used to be. And even non-vegan restaurants are now offering legit vegan options. But what about packaged foods? Many have animal-derived products hidden inside, which makes it hard to tell right off the bat which options are vegan-friendly and which aren’t.
“When reaching for a vegan snack option in the store, it is always a good idea to check out the ingredient label,” says Deborah Murphy MS, RDN, founder of the Dietitian Debbie blog. “The non-vegan ingredients I come across most often in snacks are dairy-based, like casein, sodium caseinate, whey, lactose, or milk powder,” she says. These are often used for flavor and texture in starch-based products like cookies, crackers, and chips, or to add creaminess to drinks. “A few other common ingredients to watch out for include: gelatin, collagen, shellac, monoglycerides, carmine, or confectioners glaze,” she says, all of which are made from animal parts. And of course, honey is a no-go for most vegans. “When you are just getting started, it can be helpful to look for the ‘V’ on the label of products that have been certified vegan,” she says.
It’s also worth noting that just because something is vegan, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s nutritious. “A plant-based or plant-forward diet can be a huge jump start to building vitamin and mineral stores,” says Kimaya Joshi, RD, LDN, a dietitian and founder of Well Seasoned Nutrition. “However, vegan does not automatically mean ‘healthy.’” Many of the snacks listed here are accidentally vegan, but aren’t nutrient dense. “We still need to be conscientious about putting nourishing foods into our bodies,” she says, not just focusing on food that is labeled vegan.
Still, there’s a time and a place for tasty snacks that might be lacking in the nutrition department. To make it easier for all the plant-based eaters out out there, here’s a list of snack foods that you probably wouldn’t guess were vegan. Because they’re made by major food companies, most of the snacks listed below are made in factories with non-vegan snacks and thus may have come into contact with eggs, dairy, or animal products during the manufacturing process—but frankly, that’s tough to avoid unless you’re opting for brands that are totally vegan. And unless you have a diagnosed allergy to a product, it’s not really a problem.