What foods are not allowed on a vegan diet?

A vegan diet eliminates all animal products and foods derived from animals. This means vegans do not eat meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products or foods containing these ingredients. Many people choose a vegan diet for ethical, environmental or health reasons. When transitioning to a vegan diet, it helps to know which foods to avoid. Here is a quick overview of foods not allowed on a vegan diet:

Meat and Poultry

All types of meat and poultry are off limits on a vegan diet. This includes beef, pork, chicken, turkey, duck and other meats from land animals or birds. Some examples of foods containing meat or poultry include:

  • Hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, bacon
  • Steaks, ribs, bbq chicken
  • Deli meats like ham, salami, roast beef
  • Meat-based soups, stews, chili
  • Meat gravies and sauces

Vegans do not consume any meat or poultry products, including processed varieties like luncheon meats. All fresh, frozen, cooked or cured meats are off the menu.


Fish, shellfish and other seafood are animal-based foods, so they are not vegan. Some examples of seafood to avoid include:

  • Fish fillets or steaks (salmon, cod, tuna, etc)
  • Shellfish (shrimp, crab, lobster, mussels, etc)
  • Canned fish like tuna or sardines
  • Fish sauces and condiments
  • Seafood flavored soups or stews
  • Sushi containing fish

All types of fish and shellfish should be eliminated from your diet when you go vegan. This includes fresh, frozen, smoked, cooked or pickled seafood.


Eggs are produced by chickens, so they are an animal product that is not vegan. Some common foods containing eggs include:

  • Scrambled eggs, fried eggs, omelets
  • Baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins
  • Mayonnaise, aioli, hollandaise sauce
  • Egg noodles, pasta
  • Quiche, frittata, soufflé
  • Ice cream, custard, flan

When following a vegan diet, it’s important read ingredient labels carefully to check for eggs. Avoid any foods listing eggs, egg whites, egg yolks, mayonnaise or other egg-based ingredients.

Dairy Products

All dairy products come from cows or other animals, so they do not fit into a vegan lifestyle. Some common dairy foods to avoid include:

  • Milk (cow, goat, sheep milk)
  • Cheese (cheddar, Parmesan, feta, etc)
  • Yogurt
  • Butter
  • Cream (heavy cream, half-and-half)
  • Ice cream
  • Whey protein powder

Watch out for dairy-based ingredients like casein, whey, lactose or milk solids when checking labels. Always opt for plant-based milk and dairy alternatives like almond, soy or rice milk and vegan butters and cheeses.


Honey is made by bees, so it is an animal byproduct and not considered vegan. Avoid foods containing honey such as:

  • Honey mustard
  • Honey baked ham
  • Honey nut cheerios
  • Honey wheat bread
  • Throat lozenges with honey
  • Honey flavored teas

Maple syrup, agave nectar or molasses are popular vegan alternatives to honey. Check ingredient lists for any hidden honey before purchasing food items.


Gelatin is a protein derived from animal bones and tissues, so it is not vegan-friendly. Some examples of foods containing gelatin include:

  • Jell-O
  • Marshmallows
  • Gummy candies
  • Yogurt
  • Ice cream
  • Capsule supplements

Watch out for gelatin on ingredient labels. It may also be listed as hydrolyzed collagen. There are plant-based alternatives like agar-agar that can be used to make vegan jellies or other gelatin-like foods.

Animal Fats and Grease

Animal fats like lard, tallow, dripping and schmaltz all come from pigs, cattle or poultry so they are not allowed when eating vegan. Avoid foods cooked in animal fats like:

  • Fried chicken
  • French fries
  • Doughnuts
  • Potato chips
  • Pie crust
  • Sausage

Greasy fatty foods are often cooked in lard or other animal fats. Opt for plant-based oils like olive, avocado, coconut or sunflower oil when cooking vegan dishes at home.

Animal Broths and Stocks

Broths and stocks are used to add flavor in many foods, but they are typically made by boiling animal bones and meat scraps. Avoid foods containing any type of animal broth or stock, such as:

  • Chicken noodle soup
  • Beef stew
  • Clam chowder
  • Fish stock
  • Bone broth
  • Rice pilaf

Read labels closely to make sure stocks and broths do not contain beef, chicken, fish or other animal ingredients. Opt for vegan vegetable broth or bouillon cubes when cooking.

Animal Byproducts

Some additional animal-derived ingredients to watch out for include:

  • Carmine/carminic acid (red food coloring from bugs)
  • L-cysteine (dough conditioner from feathers or hair)
  • Albumin (protein from egg whites)
  • Casein (milk protein)
  • Lactose (milk sugar)
  • Whey (milk byproduct)
  • Rennet (lining of calf stomach)
  • Cochineal extract (red dye from insects)

Carefully reading ingredient labels can help identify any hidden animal ingredients like these. When in doubt, seek out certified vegan products that have been validated as containing no animal-derived components.

Meals at Restaurants

Eating at restaurants that are not specifically vegan can be tricky on a vegan diet. Some things to watch out for include:

  • Butter or meat drippings in rice or veggies
  • Chicken/beef stock in sauces and gravies
  • Milk/cream added to mashed potatoes
  • Eggs or cheese in salads and dressings
  • Fish sauce or oyster sauce in Asian dishes
  • Lard or bacon fat for frying

Let your server know you eat a vegan diet and ask about available vegan options when dining out. Be aware that many seemingly vegan menu items may be prepared with hidden animal ingredients.


Many popular desserts contain dairy, eggs, gelatin or other animal products. Some examples include:

  • Ice cream
  • Custard
  • Pudding
  • Cheesecake
  • Milk chocolate
  • Marshmallows
  • Gummy candy

Luckily there are many decadent vegan dessert options available too, like fruit sorbet, dark chocolate, coconut ice cream, vegan cheesecake and more. Baking your own vegan sweets at home is a great option too.

Non-Vegan Shopping List Items

When doing your shopping, it helps to know which common grocery items are not vegan-friendly. Here are some examples of foods that are generally not allowed on a vegan diet:

Non-Vegan Foods
Ice cream
Sour cream
Cream cheese
Hot dogs
Ground beef
Chicken nuggets
Gummy candies

Get in the habit of checking labels and ingredients lists whenever grocery shopping. Over time you will learn which products fit into a vegan lifestyle.

Vegan Substitutes and Replacements

Following a vegan diet requires making some substitutions and swaps for non-vegan foods. Here are some ideas:

  • Use plant-based milks instead of cow’s milk
  • Try vegan cheeses made from nuts or soy
  • Swap egg replacer for eggs in baking
  • Use vegetable shortening in place of butter
  • Opt for maple syrup, agave or fruit spreads instead of honey
  • Try soy-based or coconut-based yogurts
  • Replace ice cream with sorbet or vegan ice cream
  • Use vegan chocolate/candy that is gelatin-free

With plant-based eating on the rise, there are now an abundance of vegan alternatives available for meat, dairy and other animal products. Experiment to find your favorites.

Accidental Exposure

When transitioning to veganism, you may accidentally ingest small amounts of animal products on occasion. Some examples include:

  • trace eggs or dairy in baked goods
  • chicken stock not disclosed in a soup
  • milk powder in mashed potatoes
  • hidden gelatin or honey in a product
  • bacon bits on a salad
  • fish sauce in a stir fry

Being a perfect vegan 100% of the time takes practice! Don’t be too hard on yourself. Just try to learn from any accidental exposures and avoid those products or preparations in the future.

Things to Double Check

Certain processed or packaged foods commonly contain hidden animal ingredients. Always give an extra close look at these products:

  • Bread and baked goods
  • Candy, chocolate and gummies
  • Cereals
  • Chip flavors like BBQ, ranch or nacho cheese
  • Fruit juice and soda
  • Margarine and spreads
  • Noodles, pasta, rice mixes
  • Pizza crust
  • Sauces and dressings
  • Snack foods and crackers
  • Soup and bouillon cubes
  • Vitamins and supplements
  • Wine and beer

Don’t assume that something is automatically vegan friendly. An extra few seconds glancing at ingredient lists can help you avoid mistakes.

Common Questions About Vegan Diets

Why do vegans not eat honey?

Honey is made by bees so it is an animal byproduct. The common vegan stance is that honey production can be exploitative and harmful to bees. Agave, maple syrup and other plant-based sweeteners are popular vegan alternatives.

Can Vegans eat yeast?

Yes, yeast is vegan. Yeast is a single-celled microorganism that acts as a leavening agent in bread, beer and wine. It does not come from an animal, so vegans can safely consume products containing yeast.

Are peanut butter sandwiches vegan?

Plain peanut butter sandwiches without meat, cheese or other dairy ingredients are vegan. Many commercial brands of bread and peanut butter do not contain animal products. However, always check labels to be safe.

Do vegans eat tofu?

Yes, tofu is a popular staple protein source in many vegan diets. Tofu is made from soybean curds pressed into blocks. As long as no animal products are used in the preparation, tofu is completely plant-based and vegan friendly.

Is pizza vegan?

Some pizzas can be ordered or modified to be vegan if they do not contain cheese or meat toppings. Many pizza restaurants now offer vegan cheese as a dairy-free option. Check that the crust and sauce do not contain hidden animal products.

Can Vegans eat french fries?

French fries can be vegan if they are not cooked in animal fat or broth. Many restaurants fry fries in oils like canola, sunflower or corn, making them vegan friendly. But always check since some use lard, tallow or chicken fat.

What breakfast foods can Vegans eat?

There are many delicious vegan breakfast options like oatmeal, fruit, toast with nut butter, tofu scramble, smoothies, cereal with plant milk or vegan pancakes and waffles. Get creative mixing and matching plant-based whole foods.


Following a vegan diet means excluding all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty as much as possible. Sticking to a fully plant-based diet requires being aware which foods and ingredients come from animals. With proper education and diligent label reading, it is possible to adhere to a vegan lifestyle and enjoy a wide diversity of food options. From wholesome produce, grains and legumes to convenience foods made with plant-based ingredients, living vegan is achievable and rewarding.

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