One of the functions for food labels is to tell us what is in the product, so we as consumers can decide whether we will choose it or an alternative.
With the increase in the number of people choosing to follow a plant-based or vegan diet, it is important for us to know what to look out for on food labelling.
Firstly, there are some obvious ways to check that a food is vegan-friendly:
It will say "suitable for vegans"
It will have one of the following labels on it.
Some food products will not have either of the above, but may still be vegan. So it is worth understanding ingredients lists a bit more and knowing what to look out for. The list below should help you discern whether a product is vegan or not.
E.G. Oreos don't market themselves as being a vegan product, but they are! And lots of crisps are vegan (even some prawn cocktail ones), but again don't market themselves as such.
The next important thing to check is the ingredients list.
Of course meat, eggs, milk and cheese are all easy to spot on an ingredient list, but there are lots of terms used in food industry that are not understood by the general population, and some of these terms indicate ingredients from animal sources.
The following is a list of ingredients that are not vegan:
Gelatin, sometimes listed as E144
E120 (red food colouring, cochineal extract)
E966 (ingredient derived from lactose)
Some forms of vitamin D3- Vitamin D2 is always vegan however.
When checking whether a food is vegan, it is also worth having a look that as whether the food is fortified.
Fortification= adding vitamins and minerals into a product.
Vegan diets can be lacking in some key nutrients, and rather than relying on a supplement for everything, it is easier to get some through foods.
The nutrients to look out for are:
Vitamin B12, which must be added to a vegan diet by either a supplement or through eating fortified foods 2-3 times/day.
Foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin B12= cereals, nutritional yeast, vegan spreads, some mylks.
Calcium, which is present in some veggies (particularly greens) and nuts/seeds, but tends to be poorly absorbed. Fortified sources= calcium-set tofu, mylks (rice, soya, oat and almond) and some dairy-free yogurts.
Vitamin D should be supplemented, but as many are not vegan friendly, look out for fortified food products. Some fortified products= Mylks and tofu.
On the topic of fortified products, I would like to mention that is is worth buying a good quality fortified milk-alternative. Homemade versions do not contain calcium, B12 and vitamin D, but most fortified brands do. Always check that a milk is well fortified- you do not want to become deficient in any!
There is lots to know when following a vegan diet, particularly when you are getting started. Hopefully this blog will be of some assistance next time you are shopping, but if you need more advice on ensuring adequate nutrition, please get in touch and find out how I can help.
Lots of love,