New to vegetarianism? Join the club. The number of Americans giving this eating lifestyle a try continues to rise. Back in 1997, the Vegetarian Research Group found that only about one percent of U.S. adults followed a vegetarian diet. In 2016, that number sneaked up to 3.3 percent.
The most commonly cited reasons people gave for ditching meat were health, the environment, and animal welfare. Current U.S. Department of Agriculture nutrition guidelines suggest eating a diet low in saturated fat, so cutting out meat from cows, pigs, and chickens can help shift your diet toward more vegetables and leaner, plant-based sources of protein, like beans and pulses.
If you just started your vegetarian journey, you’ve already come to terms with the fact that chicken wings and sirloin steaks are now a part of your past. It’s unlikely that you’ll accidentally put a cheeseburger on your plate, but meat and related products have a sneaky way of ending up in surprising foods.
Here are dishes to look out for if you’re trying to adhere to a vegetarian diet.
Soups: Even veggie-based soups like broccoli cheddar soup or French onion soup are often made using chicken broth. Typically, black bean soup and lentil soup are safe options, but check the ingredients or ask the wait staff just to be sure. Here’s how to make a vegetarian French onion soup at home.
Jell-O, gummy candies, and marshmallows: These treats are made using gelatin, which is derived from animal bones (like cow hooves). Don’t worry—you can still have your s’mores and eat ‘em too. You can now find kosher and veg-friendly marshmallows that contain no gelatin (and they taste exactly the same).
Refried beans: This Mexican side dish is traditionally cooked in lard. But check labels. Some grocery stores offer canned vegetarian versions that are cooked in oil instead.
Pad Thai: Even if you order the tofu or vegetable option, pad Thai contains fish sauce. This condiment is common in various Southeastern and Eastern Asian cuisines, so keep that in mind as you browse menus and recipes. (This homemade cauliflower fried rice recipe might cure your craving.)
Worcestershire sauce: This popular condiment gets some of its umami flavor from anchovies. FYI, you can get a vegetarian worcestershire sauce (no anchovies!) online or in certain stores.
Caesar salad: Traditional Caesar salad dressing combines mayo, mustard, vinegar, garlic, olive oil, lemon … aaaaaaand anchovies. Luckily, more and more anchovy-free options are available in stores all the time (or you could make your own and simply omit the little fishies).
Miso soup: Miso, tofu, seaweed… Seems safe, right? Unfortunately, many restaurants make their broth using bonito flakes, which comes from dried fish. Stick with edamame for your Japanese restaurant appetizer.
Bloody Marys: Um, sorry to break this news, but everyone’s favorite salty brunch beverage contains Worcestershire sauce. You could politely ask your bartender to make the drink without it—or order a mimosa instead.
Word of advice: Mistakes happen when you’re going vegetarian, and it’s best to live and learn. Don’t beat yourself up for accidentally slurping up bonito flakes. Do your best; forgive the rest.