Diet restrictions for vegetarians depend on several factors, including the type of vegetarian diet you follow. Semi-vegetarians sometimes eat chicken and fish, while lacto-vegetarians, lacto-ovovegetarians and strict vegetarians eliminate all meat, fish and poultry, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Other than meat, food eliminations for vegetarians are often a matter of preference. However, there are several food items that vegetarians typically avoid.
Exclusions by Vegetarian Type
In addition to excluding meat, lacto-vegetarians do not eat eggs. However, lacto-vegetarians do consume at least some milk and dairy products. Lacto-ovovegetarians eat both eggs and dairy, and ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but not dairy. Strict vegetarians, also known as vegans, eliminate all eggs, dairy and animal-derived foods from their diet.
Foods Containing Gelatin
Vegetarians typically avoid foods that contain gelatin, a thickening agent derived from animal collagen. Gelatin is often an ingredient in marshmallows, yogurt, margarine, jello, gummy candy and cottage cheese, as well as in other dairy products, including sour cream and ice cream, according to the Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America. Gelatin is also used to make capsules for medicine and supplements, and is an ingredient in some liquid medications. Check labels to determine if a particular product contains gelatin. Products that list gelatin or kosher gelatin as an ingredient are not considered vegetarian. Dairy products such as yogurt and margarine that commonly contain gelatin often have vegan or vegetarian alternatives. Plant derived gelatin alternatives include agar-agar, soy-based gelatin and pectin.
Other Tricky Ingredients
The Vegetarian Resource Group outlines several products and ingredients that are either non-vegetarian or are only sometimes vegetarian. Stearic acid, found in some gums, candy and flavorings may come from either animal or vegetable sources. Monoglycerides and diglycerides are additives that can be either animal- or plant-derived. Enzymes used in cheese making are often animal-based. A common coagulating agent in cheese is rennet, made from the stomach lining of calves.