how to read food labels as a vegan: 5 hacks for beginners
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If you don’t have allergies or intolerances, you might not have put too much effort into reading food labels. But when you go vegan, you realise it’s something you just have to do.
Learning how to read food labels as a vegan can be super frustrating and time-consuming when you’re transitioning. If only there was a quick and reliable answer that jumped out at you as soon as you picked up an item – is this thing vegan or not!?
Sometimes it’s not always obvious. One of the unexpected things that happened when I went vegan was spending extra time at the supermarket reading through labels!
After five years of reading (and misreading) fine print on packaged products and making many “non-vegan ingredients” lists on my phone, I share my top hacks for identifying vegan products. so you can get in and out of the supermarket, stat.
How to tell if a packaged food is vegan
Does it say it’s vegan?
Some packaging simply states the product is vegan. Look for certified vegan labels on the front or back.
Beware: “Suitable for Vegetarians” only means meat-free and may contain dairy or eggs.
LOOK FOR INGREDIENTS IN BOLD
By law, food companies have to list allergens in bold on their food packaging. Which is handy for vegans! Look out for milk (whey), eggs, cheese, fish and crustaceans (seafood). You’ll see other ingredients like gluten and nuts in bold as well, but these are fine as long as you don’t have an allergy or intolerance.
FIY: Honey won’t appear in bold! It’s a sneaky one.
For a comprehensive list of non-vegan ingredients found in packaged food, check out my free Vegan Starter Kit, available in the resource library!
SKIP STRAIGHT TO THE ‘CONTAINS’ LINE
Find the allergy information of a product by looking near the bottom of the ingredient list.
If the product contains milk ingredients or eggs, it will plainly say, “contains milk and eggs”. This doesn’t work so well for finding out if it contains meat, but it will quickly tell you whether it’s worth reading the whole ingredients list or not.
what does ‘may contain’ mean?
This one trips a lot of new vegans up. The ‘may contain’ section is just a legality to disclose if food was made in the same area/on the same machinery as allergen products. This doesn’t mean it contains or was made from these ingredients.
more tips for identifying vegan food products
- Stick to the foods with no ingredient lists! Unprocessed plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans are vegan.
- Read the ingredients twice
- Check in vegan Facebook groups or Google if unsure.
- Formulas can change over time. Even if you know a product and have used it for a while, it is better to still check the labels for any changes ever now and then.
when in doubt, leave it out
Learning how to read food labels as a vegan takes patience in the beginning, but with these tips you’ll get faster in no time. If you can’t confirm whether a product is vegan, leave it behind or find an alternative until you’re sure.
If you found these tips useful, there’s plenty more where they came from! Subscribe to the free resources library where you’ll find even more tips for reading food labels, a guide to non-vegan ingredients, and easy dairy and egg swaps.
Where these tips helpful? Let me know your tips or questions in the comments below!