30 September, 2007

Is it Vegan?

But is it vegan? Seriously, pick up any item that didn't come from the produce section of the grocery store and the question has to be asked. There is fish in some orange juice, sugar in canned goods, whey and lactose in countless items. To keep myself sane while shopping I do a number of things:

1) Get familiar with the bad ingredients: There are tons of lists of animal derived ingredients on the internet. People load them onto their palms, crackberries, and ipods. Some vegans even print them out and carry them around on paper! For me, my palm pilot is my best friend. It even has internet which allows me to do research on exotic ingredients and possibly animal derived ingredients on the fly.

2) Work out a method of scanning labels: The FDA finally did something I like, allergens must now be listed on labels in big bold print. I look for milk and eggs in bold first, and if I see either one I immediately put the "food" item down. If I don't I begin a careful scan of the label looking especially for casein (even though it's dairy it sneaks through), sugar, and chicken stock or fat (not considered an allergen).

I'm also paranoid so I check for whey too, even though that is usually counted as a milk product and ends up in the bold print. After that scan I look again and see if there is any suspicious looking ingredients, this is when lists (electronic or otherwise) come in handy.

3) Avoid processed foods all together: There are a number of ways to do this, go to your regular grocery store and buy more fresh produce and frozen veggies. Or frequent your local produce stands and farmer's markets, along with local natural food stores. Even the corporate natural food stores will make shopping easier for you.

When I go shopping I get bulk items from our local natural food store, then hit up produce stands and farmer's markets, after that I go to the corporate natural food store, and any items I miss I try to get at a regular grocery store.

4) Support Cruelty-Free companies whenever possible: It saves you headaches, and it helps some people who are consciously doing the right thing like you. Most vegan friendly companies will say so on their packaging or websites. I also usually double check by searching for the company name followed by the word vegan.

Oh! I forgot to explain the fish in the orange juice, which brings me to a salient point. Fortified foods often contain animal derived vitamins and minerals. The fish in the orange juice was Omega 3 fortified orange juice, where the omega 3 happened to come from fish oil! Some soy milks have been known to be fortified with animal ingredients as well. When in doubt ask the internets.

Also, remember, humans are animals too. Support fair trade items, local produce, small businesses, and union made goods. Not only will you be doing a good thing, but usually the products are of better quality, and contain fewer mysterious ingredients. Be a conscientious vegan.

1 comment:

  1. So call me paranoid, but I have a few questions, things I'd like to throw out there. I'm not vegan, but seriously considering it, going to start trying @ least!

    I've heard so many varying reports regarding soy and I just want other's opinions. I've heard how good it is for you, and then my mom goes and tells me about how there are articles about it increasing your likelihood of getting cancer.

    Also, what about pesticides on vegetables? Does anyone else overly worry about these issues like I do!?