Several people commented in last night’s post that Guinness is not vegetarian.


‘Tis (sort of) true – Guinness (and many other alcoholic drinks, especially dark beers) are refined with isinglass.  Isinglass is basically dried fish bladders.  It accelerates the clarification process and, although very little isinglass remains in the drink after it’s finished, many vegetarians and vegans do not consider beers or wines with isinglass to be animal-product-free.


I’ve been wanting to discuss isinglass, as well as gelatin, on the blog for a long time, and I think it would make a great debate topic for a Friday morning.  😉


EVERYTIME I eat a marshmallow, I get a ton of e-mails and comments warning me that marshmallows are “not vegetarian.”  Technically, marshmallows aren’t vegetarian at all – they contain gelatin, which is derived from the collagen inside animals’ skin and bones. It is commonly used as a gelling agent in food, pharmaceuticals, photography, and cosmetic manufacturing.  Basically, gelatin is pig skin.  For a vegetarian, this sounds pretty gross, and honestly, I don’t like to think about my marshmallow consumption too much because I understand it’s definitely not vegetarian (word up: they do make special vegan marshmallows without gelatin).


There are many other examples of things you think are vegetarian but are not – No Meat Athlete once did a post about 8 Common Foods You Thought Were Vegetarian, including Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (it contains rennet, the enzymes from cow’s stomach), French onion soup (beef broth), Caesar dressing (anchovies), and some tortillas (lard).


All of this information can certainly be confusing and overloading for new vegetarians or vegans, and I’ve received many e-mails asking me about these sneaky non-vegetarian foods.  My answer?


Everyone has to determine their own gray area because being a vegetarian or a vegan is not as clearly defined as it may seem.


Whether you’re a vegetarian or a vegan, you are confronted with choices.  Our society puts animal products in so many things, including clothing, paint, food, make-up, and manufactured products.  Everyone who desires to limit their animal product consumption, whether you’re an on omnivore or not, has to decide their own personal gray area.  Will you eat marshmallows?  Drink dark British beers?  Will you wear leather shoes?  Wear makeup tested on animals? The list goes on and on.


I’m not very judge-y when it comes to other vegetarians, vegans, and meat eaters (and I understand that more staunch vegetarians will judge me for not judging!).  I recognize that eating animal products (or not) is a highly personal choice.  And also – it can be a very difficult choice in a society that largely has no issues with eating animals!  In my mind, every little bit makes a difference, and if you can live without steak but not without Guinness, more power to you!  But I also think it’s important to be educated so you can seek out alternatives if you wish.


My gray line includes eating marshmallows and drinking ‘animal’ beer, but not animal-based broth. I try not to buy new leather but sometimes I slip up.  And I eat honey.


So – I’m curious.  If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, what’s your gray area?  Do you drink Guinness or stick to vegan alcoholic beverages?  What about marshmallows?  Do you wear leather? And if you’re not a vegetarian or vegan, are you surprised to learn how many ‘vegetarian’ foods really aren’t?


As always, this ‘debate’ post isn’t to judge or make others feel bad about their choices, but to share opinions and information in a fun way.  No judgy-wudgying allowed.  🙂


Want more info?



  • Jackie @ Baking Charms March 18, 2011, 9:10 am

    Wow that is crazy! I’m not even a vegetarian and reading about those sneaky foods is stressing me out. Who knew?

  • Kathleen March 18, 2011, 9:16 am

    My philosophy has always been “do the best you can.” Right now, my best is not eating meat or milk, but making exceptions for spicy tuna rolls and cheese. Even though that doesn’t make me a “perfect” vegetarian, it’s what I can do right now. Hopefully I’ll narrow my gray area in the future. I know there are some people out there who became model vegans overnight, but I think a lot of us struggle to eat in a more responsible way. Every little bit counts!

    • Matt September 27, 2012, 3:42 am

      First, it doesn’t matter to me how much is left over in the final product. What matters is that production requires use of dead animals, and therefore unnecessary suffering inflicted upon animals.

      I realize that carnism is a deeply ingrained cultural belief system, and the psychology of meat consumption is only recently beginning to be explored in depth. But logically speaking, I do not understand why some people assert that giving up cheese as well as meat is more than they can do…It really isn’t going to negatively impact most individuals if they stop consuming cheese. If you for some reason have no other option for dietary needs, you can make the argument for eating meat products. I am not sure that cheese is a dietary requirement for most people.

      At the end of the day, we are supporting the suffering of sentient beings by consuming these products, and if we do not need them nutritionally speaking then such consumption is unnecessary to the individual…Logically it makes little sense to continue to consume these products, as much as cognitive dissonance pressures us to believe otherwise.

      • Jen July 1, 2013, 12:48 am

        It has nothing to do with cheese being a part of a nutritional requirement, it has to do with what foods she is willing to give up to try and adopt a more responsible lifestyle. They’re probably foods she loves and has been eating her whole life prior to her dietary changes. I think some vegetarians need to cool it and give people credit for trying.

      • Claudia June 4, 2014, 9:58 am

        Logically, she’s doing more to limit her consumption of animal products than the vast majority of western society. I give her alot of credit because her efforts are valid, even if she still wants (yeah, no one NEEDS cheese in their diet and she understands that) to indulge in something non-veggie every once in a while.

      • Steven June 17, 2015, 11:49 am

        I’m a vegetarian and I’m utterly annoyed by vegetarians like Matt.

        • Jamian November 23, 2015, 10:12 am

          I recently switched to a vegetarian lifestyle after years of internal debate. People like Matt are what worried me and kept me away from actually becoming one. It’s a silly reason now that I think about it, but I was deeply worried I would become one of those judgmental types and try to impose my “superior” lifestyle on people.

          I took me actually meeting some really cool vegetarians to make me realize that these guys are a vocal minority in the community. That being said, I do agree with his assessment of diet. I’m of the mind where if an animal must be killed/dead for the food I eat, it is not worth it.

      • Mitch December 20, 2015, 8:33 am

        When you use closed (words not well know outside of vegan/vegetarian rhetoric) words like “carinism” It distances rather than welcomes new people to our community. It is important to have those words! they hep us identify real issues and make conversation easier, however if your meanings are able to be so easily translated (as I have done below) than those words are not being put in their proper context: the in-depth discussions that happen when we have to talk about the effects of the post-human (or the com-post as Harraway would have it)

        “To me it doesn’t matter how much is left over in the final product. I try and avoid any products that requires the use of dead animals in any part of the process.
        The consumption of meat is something we are only starting to figure out, However it seems to me that cheese should be just as easy to give up as meat? Meat can be seen as fulfilling necessary dietary needs, under limited circumstances, however I am not sure that cheese is a dietary requirement for most people?
        I can’t get over the suffering of sentient beings that is caused by continuing to make these products. Especially since there are so many alternatives! “

    • Pamela August 17, 2015, 1:48 pm

      I’m a fairly new vegan…since November. . ..but I haven’t discarded leather, makeup or wine, yet. I had previously gone without wine, dairy or sugar for 13 years. ..I’m enjoying my wine and Still Figuring It Out. Thanks for your guidance.

      • Helen September 24, 2015, 3:30 pm

        Hi Pamela,
        I am a makep artist, and there are lots of makeup brands that do not test on animals (it is illegal in some parts of Europe) and that make vegan products. Some brands are totally vegan!

        So the good news is you don’t have to give up makeup 🙂

  • Ann @ Day by Day March 18, 2011, 9:17 am

    I am a pescetarian (have dabbled in being just vegetarian), which is an entirely different subject, but I definitely do have that “gray area” and I’m fine with it! I don’t love marshmallows, but if I liked them, I’d probably eat them. I have eaten French onion soup, because I was in France and I wanted to eat it while I was there! Overall, I’m pretty lax about it. I don’t slip up and eat beef or chicken, but if I eat cheese that isn’t actually vegetarian, I’m okay with that.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:02 pm

      Does French onion soup taste better in France?!

      • Dee March 18, 2011, 1:14 pm

        Everything tastes better in France, especially the french onion soup! I lived in Paris for 3 years and I swear just being in france and being cooked by a chef with a snooty french accent makes even the simplest foods taste remarkable.

      • SaraRM March 18, 2011, 2:27 pm

        OMGOSH YES!! I dont know what it is but yes the french onion soup in France is incredible!!! Same thing with nutella (i know there isnt diff there but it comes with the experience of eating a “real” nutella crepe in France.

        • Ali March 18, 2011, 2:41 pm

          mmm i love crepes. interesting fact: nutella is made in canada! i was shocked when i found out. i thought it was italian.

        • Eleonora March 18, 2011, 4:21 pm

          From an Italian reader: Nutella IS italian. And yes, the one on sale in Europe (made in italy) is different from the one you get in the US. Same things applies to pasta Barilla! I never checked on the ingredients though, probably they are the same, but sourced in different places.

    • Matt September 27, 2012, 3:46 am

      Why are you okay with it? I realize some people see themselves as being in a transition period from a very culturally ingrained belief system (carnism) over to vegetarianism or veganism.

      If you are a pescatarian solely for health reasons, then I can see your argument. But if you are a pescatarian for ethical reasons, it makes little sense to consume products that necessarily support inflicting suffering upon sentient beings.

      For me, if someone added a little bit of steak to my meal, I would not eat it on the basis that the steak is a minority ingredient. Likewise I will not eat cheese on the basis that rennett is a minority constituent of the final product.

      It isn’t easy psychologically to make this shift, most people can’t even manage to become pescatarians on this basis let alone vegetarians. So you are undoubtedly doing well comparatively. But I wouldn’t encourage one to become okay with that…There is definitely room for improvement, and why not work toward it if you can?

  • mindy @ just a one girl revolution. March 18, 2011, 9:20 am

    I try to avoid gelatin for the most part, but sometimes I just can’t resist something like a Rice Krispie treat!

    Alcohol is definitely something I just say oh well and enjoy it – even knowing it’s probably not veg friendly. Beer and wine are things I enjoy too much to worry about the very minute part that doesn’t align with the way I eat on a daily basis.

    It is hard figuring out where to say yes and no in those gray areas, but feeling like I don’t have to justify it to others is even harder sometimes!

    • Janene @ One Run at a Time March 18, 2011, 9:58 am

      I’ve always been curious about the honey debate for vegans… can anyone elaborate a little more about it? i know it’s technically an animal byproduct, but does it harm the bees in any way? Honestly curious about the thoughts out there on this one! 🙂

      also, a tip for veggie rice krispies lovers: my sister is a vegetarian who avoids things like rennet, gelatin, etc. She uses jiffy puff brand marshmallow creme in her rice krispies- no gelatin, and in my opinion, it’s a little easier to work with!

      • Amara March 18, 2011, 10:07 am

        My dad raised bees for the honey, and some of the trays are full of the baby bees which they lay in the little cells so they have honey to eat when they hatch. There are things you can do to keep them separate from your harvest –no one likes to eat bee babies! But maybe commercially they aren’t as careful? It can be too that some vegans object to the enslavement of the bees –kind of like dairy cows?

        • joanna March 18, 2011, 10:11 am

          i’m vegan and my view is: i don’t need honey, so why take something from another living creature that i don’t need? i also feel this way about milk. yes, the animal isn’t killed when milk is taken, but i don’t feel okay or justified in using another living being for something, especially when i can live a full and beautiful life without these products.

          • Cassie October 9, 2012, 7:46 pm

            The reason that I consume and use honey for certain things is because it promotes the breeding of bees which keeps bees pollinating and keeping the world alive essentially. Bees are endangered and once bees become extinct, humans have only a few years to live.

      • Whitney March 18, 2011, 11:39 am

        I’m not vegan but I have a good friend who has been vegan for years for environmental reasons (not necessarily animal welfare reasons) and she ate honey because environmental it is good for the earth, since honey bees do so much pollination and such.

        So the answer is always based on why a person decides to be vegan.

      • hippierunner March 18, 2011, 1:27 pm

        You guys need to watch my favorite movie- “Bee Movie”! It’s a witty animated comedy starring Jerry Seinfeld that deals with how bees feel about humans consuming honey! 😉

      • Rita September 1, 2013, 3:55 pm

        I found Jet Puffed but not jiffy puffed on Google…

    • Katy March 18, 2011, 10:49 am

      I’m with Mindy (and others). I do my best — I ask about soup bases at restaurants, about dressings, etc. Even then, sometimes I get surprised (like the bruschetta that came with bacon in the tomato spread), but I feel like I’ve done due diligence.

      I typically avoid gelatin, but that’s my thing. I have, since becoming vegetarian, knowingly had meat (a sip of Lucas’ bacon-infused bourbon, for example) and am more than happy living with that.

      For me, being vegetarian is 80% about health and 20% about animal cruelty, so I feel good keeping things flexible, and agreeing to throw out my own “rules” whenever I want.

      • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:03 pm

        Bacon infused bourbon sounds like my worst nightmare, LOL

        • Nick May March 18, 2011, 4:33 pm

          I’m a vegan that does eat honey.
          My understanding of why some vegans don’t eat honey is that it doesn’t have to do with killing the bees. It’s because with commercially harvested honey the bees are smoked out of their homes in order to remove the honeycombs safely and with ease.
          The bees aren’t killed when smoked out, but it is rather irritating and out of sympathy for the animals vegans don’t eat honey.
          So, it has more to do with the unnecessary practice, disturbing the bees natural habitat than anything else.

    • Matt September 27, 2012, 3:47 am

      You sound as if you have an addiction. I have addictions similar to these too, but they aren’t good for us or for animal welfare, and we should definitely work toward eliminating them.

  • Stacy @ Every Little Thing March 18, 2011, 9:20 am

    I think as long as people are doing the best for themselves, it’s completely up to them to figure out their gray area. Being a vegetarian/vegan is difficult and I give anyone props for trying! No one should ever judge another’s views for going veg, since everyone does it for their own reason. Your body will tell you if it’s right for you (I firmly believe it’s not right for everyone, but that some can totally pull it off!).

  • Me-Linh @ Sweet and Sweat March 18, 2011, 9:21 am

    I’m vegetarian too and that gray area is always tricky. I still call myself vegetarian even though I sip an occasional beer (had no idea they had that fish stuff!) or sneak an occasional jello pack into my lunch.
    But I do draw the line on any kind of meat broth, or anything that is obviously derived from meat. I mean, lipstick has some fish scales in it but I’m sure vegetarians still use it. I don’t because I’m only 20.
    But this gray area is really no biggie. As long as vegetarians don’t eat a cow then I won’t judge!

    • Kelly March 18, 2011, 9:29 am

      I too cut a sharp line at broth. Many non-vegetarians don’t understand why I won’t eat something with chicken/beef broth in it. It’s not just a trace amount in this instance.

      • allison @ thesundayflog March 18, 2011, 9:38 am

        i totally agree. i had a wonderful family friend cook an entire meal and tell me he added extra mushrooms for me. the stew was made in chicken broth and had chicken breasts and thighs in it. im not just “picking through” my meals because i dont like the taste, there’s more to it than that.

        • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 11:03 am

          I also cut a sharp line at broth – I will not knowingly eat beef or chicken broth.

  • kim March 18, 2011, 9:22 am

    I am a vegetarian and don’t eat marshmallows or any gelatin products (even my vitamins), but I actually didn’t even know about gelatin until after the first six months or so of being a veg. I think my only gray area would be Parmesan cheese because I just learned that it wasn’t veg friendly!

    • Megan March 18, 2011, 12:25 pm

      can you explain more about parmesan cheese not being veg friendly? i’ve never heard this before & am interested!

      • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:39 pm

        Check out that No Meat Athlete post I linked to – tons of info!

        • Susan March 18, 2011, 4:49 pm

          I think you can get some rennet-free parm!

          • Rose May 22, 2012, 3:32 pm

            Yes, you can get vegetarian Permesan 🙂 It tends to have something called ‘Vegetarian rennet’ in it which is the artificial, vegetarian alternative, to the usual rennet.

            They also tend to tell you that they are ‘Suitable for Vegetarians’ also.

        • Jolene ( March 19, 2011, 5:12 pm

          I had no idea that people thought Parmesan cheese was vegan friendly … I had never heard of this until now. I just assumed that because it is cheese, it has to have animal products in it.

    • Stephanie April 11, 2011, 4:00 pm

      I’m late to the game but Parmesan was the hardest for me to cope with becoming a vegetarian. And then I found out that there are versions made with vegetable rennet! Whole Foods and Organic Valley are two brands that make vegetarian-friendly grated and shredded Parmesan!

  • Hannah March 18, 2011, 9:23 am

    I eat very little meat, but a lot of meat products — chicken broth in my vegetable soup, grr!! I have tried to be weary of buying leather though, it just creeps me out..

  • Jess (In My Healthy Opinion) March 18, 2011, 9:24 am

    I’m vegan, but I definitely don’t strive for perfection at all. I do my best for sure, and at home, there aren’t any animal products. I can’t always say the same when I go out.. you just never know what’s in what, and I don’t want to spend my whole meal freaking out if I see butter on something.. it’s just not worth it to me. I definitely have a grey area for dining out, or if someone worked really hard to make something for me, I’ll usually at least have a few bites.

  • Brittany (A Healthy Slice of Life) March 18, 2011, 9:25 am

    I’m all about the non judgement. Who is anyone to judge? And why does everything have to be so extreme?

    I don’t eat much red meat, no big reason, I just don’t. But I’ll get a snide comment sometimes when I order a big juicy steak. It’s annoying. Lay off and keep your eyes on your own plate 🙂

    • Summer March 18, 2011, 11:11 am

      It’s so funny that you say that you get judgmental glares for ordering steak; I get the same looks for ordering an all-veggie plate, or a dish with tofu! What’s the deal? It’s like, damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

      I want to say, “Enjoy your own meal. Just because I’m not eating a big juicy steak doesn’t mean I think someone else shouldn’t enjoy it!” Savor that steak, girl!

      • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:04 pm

        Sing them the judgy wudgy song!

        • Amanda March 18, 2011, 12:09 pm

          What is the judgy wudgy song?!

        • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:12 pm

          Judgy-wudgy was a bear. Judgy-wudgy had no hair. Judgy-wudgy wasn’t very fuzzy. Was he? Stop being so judgy-wudgy.

        • Red Head, Yellow Dog March 18, 2011, 12:27 pm

          haha! the song I always heard was “fuzzy wuzzy was a bear. fuzzy wuzzy had no hair. Fuzzy wuzzy wasn’t very fuzzy, was he?”

        • Summer March 18, 2011, 3:31 pm

          Great idea, Caitlin—I’ll give them a whole different reason to stare at me!

        • Kim @ Kim Lives Healthy March 18, 2011, 4:50 pm

          I’m totally busting out the judgy wudgy song next time my future mom-in-law raises an eyebrow about the wedding plans 🙂

  • Holly @ Couch Potato Athlete March 18, 2011, 9:27 am

    I have read the No Meat Athlete’s article and I was surprised! I knew about the Caesar dressing and gelatin, but some of the other ones I didn’t know about!

  • Sarah March 18, 2011, 9:29 am

    This is a great topic. Honestly, it’s the alcohol question that I struggle with the most. I don’t remember what it was like in America, but in Australia many companies DO put when their wine, cider, beer, etc. has been filtered using isinglass, egg or other animal product. However, it’s not a requirement, and the information on the web is insanely unreliable…especially for wines because some vintages are vegan whilst others are not. So I could, for instance, have a Brown Brothers 2004 that’s vegan and a Brown Brothers 2007 that’s not. It’s really confusing, and if I wanted to be 100% pure about it I would have to call the companies of any wines I wanted to drink and not drink new wines when out. To be honest, I am not willing to do this. I don’t have an ethical leg to stand on with this, but I guess this is where I draw my line because drinking a glass of wine with friends is one of the few communal consumption activities I still get to fully engage in as a vegan. Vegans tend to freak out and lecture me if I tell them this, but I have been vegan for a long time…and I am still constantly finding out about wines, beers, etc. that aren’t vegan. It’s insanely hard to keep up with. One could argue that I should just abstain, but I guess my brain has just decided that I sacrifice enjoying food and drink with others in so many other ways – especially in this country – I have to draw the line somewhere.

    Another thing about all this that bothers me is how difficult this sort of thing can make veganism and vegetarianism seem. When I moved to Australia, I had to start carrying a little pamphlet around because they use numbers on labels instead of ingredients for a lot of things and I had no clue what was okay and what wasn’t! I don’t think most people want to live that way. I didn’t….so I just stopped buying anything that was packaged altogether! But I don’t suspect we’ll see the day any time soon where these sneaking little hidden ingredients don’t find their way into surprising places anymore. And until that happens, I actually think it’s better to eliminate the big things and focus on the minutiae later if you want.

    And don’t even get me started on what the minutiae can do to someone who has a history of disordered eating…suffice it to say that I think people should be a lot less uptight about insisting that people can’t label themselves a vegetarian or vegan if they eat something with one of these hidden animal products every now and again. I want the labels to mean something, but they shouldn’t mean everything.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:06 pm

      ” I want the labels to mean something, but they shouldn’t mean everything. ”

      AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I agree 100000 times 1 bijallion percent.

  • Ally March 18, 2011, 9:30 am

    My gray area is ‘honor your body.’ I know for a fact that being completely vegan does not work for me…i went without dairy for about two weeks and my nails got very brittle and my hair very fine. I try to avoid red meat and pork but sometimes I know my body needs some animal protein and I honor that feeling. Just go with what works for you and what you feel comfortable with! 🙂

    • Esen March 18, 2011, 1:26 pm

      That’s so weird because eating cheese makes me feel like crap! I break out and get headaches! I like what you said about honoring your body. So true! Everyone should do what is right for them, and other should just deal with it!


  • Sarena (The Non Dairy Queen) March 18, 2011, 9:31 am

    I’m a vegetarian and there is always a gray area, but I don’t get caught up in it. I make the best decisions I can for me, the animals and the environment. I read labels like a mad woman already due to all the food allergies we have in this house. I try to be mindful of what we eat on a daily basis. I do not judge anyone for any food choices they eat. There has been a lot of judging of me from others lately and really it is ridiculous. I have also heard that vegetarians and vegans are stupid…yeah, that one sat really well with me. Anyway, I think if you do the best you can, no matter what your choice is, then it makes a huge difference for all (even the animals) concerned.

  • Margaret March 18, 2011, 9:31 am

    I think it’s just great when anyone can be more conscious of the food they put in their mouths and how it effects the environment and their bodies. I don’t think it’s wrong to eat meat or use / consume animal products, but I don’t agree with a lot of the methods that have been used to get there and how much is consumed overall. A gray area makes the day-to-day stuff a lot easier and I think it’s prefectly okay to have one. Thank YOU for explaining your thought process!! I’ve slowly been becoming a vegetarian and it’s nice to know that others have this same gray area (so much less pressure!).

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:07 pm

      Pressure free zone 🙂

  • rebecca lustig March 18, 2011, 9:31 am

    this is such a great post! It makes us think about our choices and values. I feel like a lot of people are so quick to call themselves a ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ for the sake of the title, without truly delving into reason and rationalization. Personally, I am a vegetarian but prefer to look at my dietary behaviors as choosing to eat what makes me feel best. If that means enjoying a marshmallow in a smores with a friend, then I won’t restrict myself just “because I’m a vegetarian”. Like with any label, there is a lot of stigma attached to ‘being a vegetarian’– we should more careful about judging!

  • Kelly March 18, 2011, 9:31 am

    Stricter vegetarians won’t agree with me but I think there’s a pretty big gray area and that individuals need to make their own decisions. Yay for my 1 year vegetarian anniversary coming up soon! April 15th!!

    • Shelly March 22, 2011, 4:58 am

      Haha my one year vegan anniversary is April 14! Congratulations Kelly 🙂

  • Maria (RealFitMama) March 18, 2011, 9:33 am

    I am a vegetarian and have been for over 8 years now. I am raising two little girls vegetarian in a world that isn’t always so “interested in my choices” that they feel like they must judge me, tell me I’m harming my children or scoff at the thought of a vegetarian diet being healthy (as they munch down their double quarter pounder with cheese).

    I used to be very judge-y, wudge-y about it. You know, in the beginning, when you’re learning and want to share your new found knowledge with everyone?? 😳 As the years went on and I settled into my new life I became much quieter and many people didn’t know I was a vegetarian (if they didn’t really know me) until a certain opportunity arouse to discuss or mention the topic.

    My gray-area is this: we do not drink cow’s milk, but we do eat cheese and yogurt made with it. We do not eat things with gelatin in them (i.e. jello, marshmallows, prepackaged sweet treats with it). The girls and I take the stance that “we eat nothing that had a face” yet I will, on occasion, eat regular caesar dressing. I don’t buy leather now, but still wear leather items I purchased prior to the switch.
    I pack a daily lunch for my 10 year old (veg friendly) and send in veggie “meats” to my 3 year old’s school because they will not allow us to send an entire lunch everyday from home (we’re still fighting that).

    My husband is not a vegetarian, but since I married him before making the switch (10 years ago) I will buy him meats (TJ’s and WF’s only) if he asks, but I won’t cook them. He fully supports my choice and eats a ton of vegetarian meals because being a chef he knows the benefits of a veg diet. He’s just not ready to give up a bacon cheeseburger or the occasional steak…yet. 😉

    And that just about sums up my gray area…Happy Friday!

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:08 pm

      Happy Friday to my favorite Real Fit Mama.

    • elaine! March 22, 2011, 3:39 pm

      Criminey! Schools don’t let you feed your own kids anymore? (Re: your 3-year-old.) That surprised me.

    • Stephanie April 11, 2011, 4:09 pm

      The whole thing with your 3yo disgusts me. I have thought about this and I’m honestly scared to have a child because of it. I cannot see us being able to afford me as a SAHM and therefore my child will have to go to daycare. I understand that it can be difficult to keep track of who eats what but that’s why you pay $300 a week for a freakin daycare.

  • allison @ thesundayflog March 18, 2011, 9:34 am

    im a vegetarian, but i use leather bags (although most of my shoes are faux-leather, simply because i can’t afford the real stuff! haha), drink “non-vegan” wine and beers. i dont eat marshmallows or jello very often, but i also don’t like to think about gelatin as animal bones anyways. my gray area is weird, but i definitely don’t EAT animals. i really love what you said that every bit helps. it’s not all-or-nothing, and i think if you can commit to not physically consuming meal but cant kick your coach bag habit, it’s not really a big deal.

  • Amy March 18, 2011, 9:36 am

    I’m also a non-judgey (I hope!) vegetarian. For me personally, vegetarian = consuming no meat (and that means no fish) and vegan = consuming no animal-derived products. So, I’d eat marshmallows and drink Guinness (though I prefer Southern Tier Choklat stout), but I wouldn’t necessarily expect a vegan to. I don’t consume meat-based broths, but I end up letting those sneakier products slide. No animal-tested makeup, though! So I guess maybe I’m just random?

    I could not agree with you more about what we eat being an incredibly personal decision. We’re all doing the best that we can, and I gladly support a wide range of educated eating decisions. I do think that if more people took the time to educate themselves, many more would choose to at least reduce meat consumption, but I don’t go in expecting that.

  • Mimi March 18, 2011, 9:36 am

    Love this post! I’ve gradually become more strict about vegetarianism, but that’s mostly because I’ve also become more knowledgeable! Still, I accept that there are some times I’ll mess up a little bit. For example, I didn’t know about the beer!

    Of course, I’m not going to eat a burger or anything, but I just have to make decisions I am comfortable with.

  • Sara March 18, 2011, 9:41 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 13 years. I’ve changed what I’ve done a lot since the beginning, but that fine line can be difficult to determine. For example, one of my medications comes in a gel cap; I won’t ingest it, so I spill the contents on to a spoon of applesauce, but I still get that pill because the medication works for me. I don’t eat marshmallows at all; even the kosher ones my sister bought this week for her kids had fish gelatin. I actually thought the kosher ones would be vegan. Kosher products help when it comes to things like cheese; the rennet will definitely be vegetarian because kosher products will not mix meat and dairy. But I’ll eat cheese in restaurants, and who knows where that comes from. Same with alcohol, though I’m trying to be more aware now and buy things that I know are vegetarian friendly (look online!). I don’t like dark beer, so that helps. 🙂

    • Sascha March 18, 2011, 10:56 am

      I was wondering about your medications. A pill is made in a way that it is perfect for uptake at the right place in your body. Do they still work (have you asked your doctor about this?) because it could be that the content is destroyed in your stomach without a gel cap (not saying that it necessarily is… but it could be). And your not saving any animals by doing this because your still buying this pills and paying for the coating. Your just throwing it away. It seems like a risk your taking for nothing… But maybe I’m totally wrong.

      • Sara March 18, 2011, 11:05 am

        The throwing away of the gel cap is the fine line I’m talking about. I struggle with that decision because it’s still an animal product. The instructions on my medication do say that you can sprinkle it on applesauce. And I checked with my pharmacist, who said it digests a bit differently, but it’s still effective to take the medication like that.

        • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:11 pm

          I forgot to mention this in the post…. While many of the supplements that I take are vegan, some are not. I think medication (for me) falls within a gray area, especially if there is not a vegetarian alternative and I need that medication to make myself healthy.

    • faith @ gracefulfitness March 18, 2011, 4:14 pm

      I learned recently that magnesium stearate, commonly found in vitamins and mineral pills, can be from either a vegetarian source or animal source. If you buy supplements from a health food store you can usually find ones that specify which it is.

  • Maryea @ Happy Healthy Mama March 18, 2011, 9:42 am

    I am not a vegan or vegetarian but do strive to eat a mostly plant based diet. My grey area is yogurt and cheese. I don’t drink cow’s milk but do eat yogurt and cheese. Yogurt for the helpful probiotics and cheese for the taste. I don’t judge others and hope no one judges me for my food choices. It’s a personal choice and really nobody else’s business. 🙂

  • Joanne March 18, 2011, 9:42 am

    I have so much respect for Vegans who have done all the research in regards to foods and products where animal products are used. It’s shocking to find out how many things contain animal products.
    I turned vegetarian only 5 or 6 years ago. Because of how active my life is, my body has to have protein. I really suffered when first turning V and cut out everything. I added fish, dairy and eggs as well as whey protein back to my diet and that works for me. Absolutely no turkey, chicken, pork or beef and will only consume the broths if I’m not told about it (my mother is sneaky in this regard).
    Oddly enough, I can’t bring myself to eat a marshmallow or Jell-O.

  • Ilana March 18, 2011, 9:42 am

    Honestly it drives me nuts that people are so obsessive with telling other people about themselves and their choices. I eat a vegan diet and everyone asks me about my protein and calcium consumption, but I really want to ask, how closely are they monitoring their own? Grah. If we all stopped judging we’d all be a lot more peaceful.

    • Dori March 18, 2011, 11:34 am

      I love this comment. And I agree. I have had enough of feeling like I need to justify my protein intake. Talk about judgey, a doctor arrogantly and smugly told me on Monday that I am not healthy because I don’t eat meat or drink milk.

      • Dori March 18, 2011, 11:35 am

        He also told me I will never be able to run a marathon because of it (plus my pale complexion).

      • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:12 pm

        Tell your doctor that just because he has a medical degree doesn’t mean he’s God of the universe.

        • Dori March 18, 2011, 12:42 pm

          Lizz, yeah… he said I am too pale and fragile, and I need to go out into the sun or I will get a stress fracture. He said I need Vitamin D & Calcium, based on the way I LOOK. Ridiculous.

        • Dori March 18, 2011, 12:43 pm

          By the way, I don’t look unhealthy or malnourished at all. My skin is not grey-pale, it is porcelain pale! And I looked exactly the same when I used to eat meat.

    • Maureen @ Notes on a Visual Life March 19, 2011, 4:28 am

      Haha, your doctor sounds like a douche. Girl, I say you go out there and run that marathon (with an awesome time I’m sure) and send him a picture of you rockin’. Send him over to No Meat Athlete in the meantime.

      Fragile my bum.

    • Stephanie April 11, 2011, 4:16 pm

      O.M.G.YESSSSS! This drives me bonkers. I say I’m a vegetarian and I immediately get questions about my protein, iron, calcium…and just recently, I’ve started asking them back if they get enough or even too much. I monitored mine in the beginning just to make sure and that’s more than I can say for 90% of the people asking me.

  • Joanne March 18, 2011, 9:43 am

    Caitlin – isn’t your husband a strict Vegan?

  • Sara March 18, 2011, 9:43 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 13 years. I’ve changed what I’ve done a lot since the beginning, but that fine line can be difficult to determine. For example, one of my medications comes in a gel cap; I won’t ingest it, so I spill the contents on to a spoon of applesauce, but I still get that pill because the medication works for me. I don’t eat marshmallows at all; even the kosher ones my sister bought this week for her kids had fish gelatin. I actually thought the kosher ones would be vegan. Kosher products help when it comes to things like cheese; the rennet will definitely be vegetarian because kosher products will not mix meat and dairy. But I’ll eat cheese in restaurants, and who knows where that comes from. Same with alcohol, though I’m trying to be more aware now and buy things that I know are vegetarian friendly (look online!). I don’t like dark beer, so that helps. 🙂 I also do not wear leather, but I must admit that it’s really hard to find shoes I like.

  • Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat March 18, 2011, 9:45 am

    Wow, I was definitely surprised to hear about some of those foods! I’ve seen vegetarian/vegan marshmallows in health food stores that I visit, but I never knew what it was about the normal kind that made them unsuitable for veggies. Thanks for the info Caitlin!

  • Ashley (whole-ier) March 18, 2011, 9:46 am

    great post! It took me a long time to decide to give up meat because I was scared of being judged (I still eat fish). But like another comment said above- I just try to do the best I can. It is my decision to pick what I put or wear in/on my body. I think slowly I will end up giving up fish and other animal products, but like all things- it is a process.

  • Carpensm @ A Life Without Ice Cream March 18, 2011, 9:47 am

    So I start by saying that I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan but am dairy free because of an extreme sensitivity. I do fundamentally believe that there is a gray area for everyone and lets all not be judgey.

    But… I think this is an issue with food labels. Many times I have picked up a “Vegan” faux-dairy product (this happens the most with cheese) and read that it has sodium casinate or casein (both a milk derivitive).

    I’ve often wondered how vegans feel about this. I’m not a huge fan of it because it means I can’t eat it because these products bother my stomach.

    I would be really interested in what a vegan’s response is to this and have even posted on my blog about it.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:15 pm

      UGH YES – I totally agree. It is so annoying when there is ‘dairy free’ cheese that has casein.

  • Melanie March 18, 2011, 9:49 am

    Love this post – and completely agree. I have been a vegetarian for 12 years – but I still eat products with gelatin. We all do the best we can!

  • Kelly Adams March 18, 2011, 9:49 am

    I’m vegetarian and I eat marshmallows. I could probably live without them, but I don’t really WANT to….
    at the end of the day, if I really had the desire to eat meat again, I would…the point is that I don’t want to at this time.

  • Meghan March 18, 2011, 9:56 am

    Another vegetarian chiming in! The gelatin/isinglass things have definitely caught me out, too–I’ve been vegetarian since I was eleven, but I didn’t know Guinness wasn’t vegetarian until I was about 27. (Um, not that I was drinking Guinness that whole time.) That said, not all dark beers automatically use isinglass, and lots of other wines and beers do–Magners cider, for example, isn’t technically vegetarian, but Strongbow is.

    I think my personal rule is to just be a vegetarian in good intent. So while I don’t drink Guinness now, I don’t beat myself up about having drunk it in the past, and while I do buy wines marked vegetarian/vegan when I’m shopping (I’m in the UK, and food labels here are awesome in that regard), I don’t grill my waiter if I order a glass of wine in a restaurant–odds are they wouldn’t know about isinglass anyway! Any step makes a difference, and so I just try to do the best I can.

  • Katie March 18, 2011, 9:58 am

    I’m with you on the non-judgment, for sure! I’ve looked at the beer list before and the ones I typically drink are vegan, but I admit I don’t check for sure before trying a new beer. I still do dairy, but try to buy organic and have been buying Cabot veg-friendly cheese recently. However, I guess I don’t ask when I eat at restaurants, or at others’ homes. I can’t do broth though – fortunately, after being vegetarian for over 20 years, most of my friends and family know well enough to warn me when something is non-veg. Last year, I was about to dig into some scrambled eggs my grandpa had made when he said, “Katie, there is oil in those.” I was like, ok, that’s cool. Then my mom told me by “oil” he meant “bacon grease.” Yuck!

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:16 pm

      hahha oil does not = bacon grease.

  • Carolyn @Eat Well. Live Well. Be Well. March 18, 2011, 9:58 am

    I am a vegan; though probably a reluctant vegan. I prefer not to put myself in a box. I eat the rainbow for vibrant health. I so wear leather. I even ate milk-chocolate dipped strawberries on my wedding night. Oh my. (Only my new husband witnessed. 😉 )

    I don’t have a defined gray area to be honest. Every thing I do is a choice, and I don’t want the word “vegan” do define who I am.

    While I would consume a beer that contained isinglass, I would not drink a glass a milk, eat a cheese enchilada, or have a steak today. Tomorrow, if I woke up and my body wanted those things, I would reconsider.

  • Ash @ Good Taste Healthy Me March 18, 2011, 9:59 am

    I do eat meat but am trying to limit my consumption. I don’t eat red meat and try to make two meatless meals a week. I considered becoming a vegetarian (though my fiance would be so unhappy) but I just don’t think I ultimately want to do that. I decided to buy organic meats and buy locally whenever possible. Being responsible about where you get your meat makes a difference. I do NOT want to eat meat from factory farms. I respect anyone’s choices and commend people on being vegetarian/vegan and maybe I will be at that point someday. For right now, I eat meat, but who knows what the future will bring?

  • Liz March 18, 2011, 9:59 am

    My reason for not eating meat is environmental and for ethical reasons associated with the meat industry. For me, I compare it to driving a car. We only own one car and I try to drive as little as possible. But that doesn’t mean I’m never going to drive a car ever. So, I will occasionally have a bite of meat if it is from a source that I trust or if it is something amazing my husband is eating. Maybe that doesn’t make me a “real” vegetarian, but I think the important thing is the positive impact of cutting back at all. I think you are still having an amazing impact on the environment, and eating some marshmallows won’t change that!

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:16 pm

      I like this car comparison!

  • Ashley (The Vegetable Life) March 18, 2011, 9:59 am

    Very interesting post! I am a vegetarian and was actually talking to my friend the other day how I “technically” cant eat marshmallows because they contain gelatin, and she was shocked! I think my grey area varies, for the most part I do try to avoid all animal products such as beers and gelatin, but sometimes If I want a marshmallow or a s’more, I am going to eat it.

  • Julia March 18, 2011, 10:04 am

    Very interesting post! Thank you for bringing up this topic.

    This again shows how complex our world is, espcially the food world. If somebody chooses to live a certain diet but for some reason can’t stick to it 100 %, that’s is totally fine! I mean, there’s is just so much you can do.
    And driving yourself crazy because of your dietary choices all the time, isn’t healthy either.

    I’m not a vegetarian or a vegan but eating healthy and unprocessed food is super important for me! In an ideal world I would have no problems with that but in the real world I do struggle very often. I just try to make the right choices whenever I can.
    But before I collapse on the street due to low blood sugar and no healthy food options available, I’d go for that white bread sandwich 😉

    I always admire how open-minded you are towards other people’s choices 🙂

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:17 pm

      Thanks 🙂

  • Amara March 18, 2011, 10:14 am

    We say we’re “vegan” but we’re really not. We avoid meat and dairy purely for health reasons (a little tip: if you don’t want to go veg –NEVER read the China Study! I wanted to argue but I couldn’t 🙂 ) We just don’t do dairy and meat at home. We still go out with friends once a week or so and treat ourselves, but I still feel pretty good about our cancer and heart disease odds by eating this way.

  • Gretchen @ Honey, I Shrunk the Gretchen! March 18, 2011, 10:17 am

    This is a really interesting post, Caitlin! Glad you wrote it. I’ve gone vegan for Lent this year, and been dabbling in and out of vegetarianism for a long time. I watched Food, Inc as well and decided right then and there to commit to ethical eating, but I’m still not sure if that includes eating meat, dairy, or other animal products right now. There’s just so many fine lines that are hard to see when it comes to truly ethical treatment of animals, and so it’s almost like it’s easier not to eat animal products at all than to have to worry “Is this REALLY free-range?” “Are these REALLY cage-free eggs?” etc.

    That being said, I think that the best thing that anyone trying to promote a cruelty-free lifestyle can do is to make it just, y’know, not a big deal. It’s not about the labels, it’s about the animals, and it’s about your health, and it’s about the environment. But what so many people (yourself included) has said is correct — people just get on EDGE when you throw around terms like “vegan” or “vegetarianism.” The hackles raise, the judgement starts, and the battle’s already been lost. So you’re right! You just do what you feel is right for you. And other people will hopefully see how happy you are, how healthy you feel, and want to find out just how you were able to accomplish it. And it goes from there. 🙂

  • Christine @ Bookishly Boisterou March 18, 2011, 10:19 am

    Great, really intersting post. I’m not a vegeterarian myself, but try to be conscious of what I am eating and if there’s a better way to do so. For example, I recently read the ingredients for chorizo that I was cooking for my husband, and let’s just say it will never set foot in our house again if I have any say!

  • Danielle March 18, 2011, 10:23 am

    I try not th label myself, mostly because I don’t want others to judge my choices! I always have found that people who say they’re vegetarians but then go and eat an egg, etc., have people saying “Well, you’re not a REAL vegetarian then!”… I think everyone has their own definition of vegetarianism and veganism (which is important), and we should respect that. So I totally agree with you that everyone should do what they feel is right, and not worry about everyone else! Labels are just that – labels… it doesn’t define you as a person and you’re beliefs.

    I think what I was most shocked to find is that a lot of canned soups that have vegetables in them, with no meat, are made with a meat broth. I’ve learned to carefully scan the list of ingredients when buying a vegetable soup to see what type of broth is used, or if it explicitly says “vegetarian.” It’s tricky navigating the grocery store sometimes!

  • Becca @ bellebottoms March 18, 2011, 10:26 am

    I feel like this area is why I consider myself a “flexitarian” 🙂 there are just too many rules to follow, so I base my eating decisions on more of a case by case basis. For instance, I mostly stay away from meats, but will eat the occasional chicken if it is free-range, organic, raised well, etc. I also eat fish…..and marshmallows! 🙂

  • Natasha Hurst March 18, 2011, 10:33 am

    I am pescatarian although I do eat allot of vegetarian and vegan as well. I am not judgy at all, unless it’s of someone who’s on the soap box, but doesn’t follow it themselves. It’s a personal decision what your grey area is. I believe that every thing you do makes a difference.I buy as much animal free products for my home and personal use, but I’m not perfect by any means. I don’t buy anything leather. After just recently reading the appendix in the book How it all Vegan, realized there are allot of chemical names for animal products that I had no clue about. Some of the things were actually disturbing and shocking to me ie: Musk(oil). I am now much more aware and read labels much more carefully. I’ve read many “vegetarian/vegan” blogs that don’t follow by the book. Unless your hard core and know your stuff I think people should tread lightly about preaching to others. Great topic!!

    P.S. This book says most domestic beers, white distilled vinegar, brown and white sugar use animal charcoal for filtering.

  • Clarissa March 18, 2011, 10:37 am

    On that note, many cheeses contain enzymes only found in the stomach of cows…so you’d have to go sans cheese if you’re a veggie unless you KNOW what’s in the cheese. Obviously vegans are good to go.

  • Jessica @ Jessica Balances March 18, 2011, 10:38 am

    I love your no judgement policy — I really think that’s so awesome and important when it comes to creating a space where people feel comfortable. I am not a vegetarian or vegan, but I do find it shocking that so many things are made with animal products! I really respect people who take the time to research such things, and maybe I will be one of them at some point… but, for now, I am pretty uneducated about the whole thing. I’m still trying to reduce my meat consumption, focus more on learning exactly where my food comes from, etc. I respect you for being open and honest, as always! I learn a lot from your blog. 🙂

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:18 pm

      Thank you 🙂 I always learn more from readers and awesome comments like yours!

  • Emily March 18, 2011, 10:42 am

    I was a vegetarian for about 10 years (and then I met shell fish and sushi.) I definitely did not lead the strictest vegetarian lifestyle. I wore leather, I did not know that marshmallows were not vegetarian…but I definitely do not think that would have stopped me from eating them, and I absolutely continued to drink beer. I agree that eating is an extremely personal decision and I think you absolutely get to make your own rules for what your diet allows.

  • Sascha March 18, 2011, 10:48 am

    I’m a vegetarian and I get these questions also sometimes (although I do not eat marsmellows. I don’t like the taste of it) mostly about my not always vegetarian cheese and whine. I don’t think there is much grey area in the way that you don’t know if it’s vegetarian or not (I think honey may be some grey area for vegans) but that doesn’t mean that I as a vegetarian have to be perfect all the time. Nobody ever asks a meat eater why he wouldn’t eat dogs or cats (although, not very serious. some vegetarians use this as an argument for vegetarianism) and that their behaviour isn’t very consequent. I’d rather be inconsequently “good” (being a vegetarian and sometimes drinking wine without knowing if it is vegetarian or not, or eating cheese that isn’t vegetarian) than consequently “bad”. Most meat eaters around me like this attitude and some of them reduced their meat intake as well. Perhaps it is even good to let people realise you can make a difference without beating yourself up over every little rule.

  • kirsten March 18, 2011, 10:49 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for 6 years and I do consume both gelatin and guiness. My feeling is that unless I am going to go all the way and stop eating eggs or dairy then I am going to continue to eat them. If it is not actual meat (pork, chicken, beef, fish) then it falls into my grey area. My feeling is that whether you are a full vegan or a vegetarian that still eats fish, we are all on the same team and should be supportive of each other. 😀

  • K March 18, 2011, 10:50 am

    THIS is one of the (many) reasons I will never label myself as vegetarian or vegan or anything else, I guess. Life is too short and I want to be able to enjoy beer, for crying out loud, if I want to. Dried fish bladders be damned.

    • Jess March 18, 2011, 11:37 am

      This is how I feel about it, too. I have been avoiding meat of all kinds and most dairy (I make allowances for yogurt), but if anyone asks about my dietary choices, my preferred answer is the oh-so-vague “I’m trying to eat a healthier diet lately.” I’m currently working up an excellent rationale for Guinness consumption: something along the lines of “I feel happy when drinking Guinness, and happiness decrease stress, which lowers blood pressure….” 😉

    • Jess March 18, 2011, 11:38 am

      This is how I feel about it, too. I have been avoiding meat of all kinds and most dairy (I make allowances for yogurt), but if anyone asks about my dietary choices, my preferred answer is the oh-so-vague “I’m trying to eat a healthier diet lately.” I’m currently working up an excellent rationale for Guinness consumption: something along the lines of “I feel happy when drinking Guinness, and happiness decrease stress, which lowers blood pressure….” 😉

      • Caitlin @ The Caitie Experiment March 18, 2011, 11:43 am

        This made me laugh because it reminded me of Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde trying to explain why Ali Larter couldn’t have killed her husband! “Exercise releases endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t kill their husbands!”

      • K March 18, 2011, 11:45 am

        I love your rationale, Jess. 🙂 Actually, I believe there is some truth to it.

  • Julie (A Case of the Runs) March 18, 2011, 10:50 am

    I totally agree with not judging. This is why some people are “afraid” of vegetarians/vegan… because some choose to make other people truly uncomfortable by being preach-y. Of course a little discomfort in learning the realities of our consumption is fine, but too much is offputting to many.

    I tend to think more about the “flesh” of animals than the actual animal products. Even when I go into bouts of vegan eating once in a while, I was fine with honey. I think the problem is that we “label” ourselves too strictly. Following a rough guideline would work for most people — it’s not like we’re going to eat marshmallows and drink Guinesses all the time.

  • marie March 18, 2011, 10:53 am

    #whitegirlproblems 😉

  • Kate March 18, 2011, 10:55 am

    Thanks for posting about this topic, Caitlin! I am a fairly new vegetarian, mainly because I don’t want to support the meat industry. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of eating ethically-sourced meat ever again, but right now it’s simpler for me to just not eat meat at all.

    That being said, I have some concerns about rennet and other animal-derived products in non-meat foods. Truthfully, I have concerns about eating dairy at all. But for the time being, I feel really good about my decision to stop eating meat and to stop supporting the meat industry financially. I feel like those of us who aren’t “perfect” vegetarians or vegans shouldn’t feel like we’re doing something wrong or not doing enough.

  • Kate March 18, 2011, 11:00 am

    Yes, I knew about gelatin and rennet, but isinglass is a new one for me. Thankfully I don’t drink beer or red wine.

    I avoid marshmallows, yogurt with gelatin in it, all cheese with rennet in it(unless I am at a restaurant, love fresh parmesan).

    I love to shatter small childrens’ illusions about jello and rice krispie squares. I love the horrified squeals! ; )

    One day they will thank me, I hope. Their parents… not so much I think.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 11:19 am

      Hahah I love everything about this comment.

  • Rebecca March 18, 2011, 11:01 am

    I know someone who is vegetarian, though now she’s decided to try veganism, at least for a while. I honestly don’t think she’s done enough research on it, but not my life/choice, so I’ll keep my mouth shut.

    I really don’t think about the fact I’m eating animals. It’s what they’re there for (Genesis, anyone?), in my mind: using resources. Native Americans use every part of a buffalo, and farmers try to use every part of their pigs, if I remember right. (Laura Ingalls Wilder or some such book series.) And Eskimos (well, Inuits) hunt seals, etc, because ***it’s the only real food/protein/meat source they have.*** You gotta do what you gotta do.

    No straight marshmallows for me (if they’re in a s’more or something, I’ll tolerate them), so no problem there. Haha.

    And no, I’m not surprised at how many “vegetarian” things really aren’t. The broth thing I knew, and there’s something in certain breads that vegans try to avoid, I think (learned from the friend who’s trying veganism).

    • Vikki March 18, 2011, 12:28 pm

      My grandparents raised pigs and chickens and I had great uncles that raised cows. The general assumption was that you used everything but the “oink.” I’m clearly from a farm family so I have to be honest, I’m an unabashed meat eater. I have relatives that hunt and I will eat that meat as well. The “Little House Books” (as far as food consumption is concerned) are very close to the lives that my parents led back in the 50s and 60s. Hunt for it or raise it yourself was the mantra of my grandparents. I am trying to do a better job at being a conscious eater of meat. I have no desire to go vegetarian or vegan.

  • Joanna@ Drizzle of Sunshine March 18, 2011, 11:02 am

    I am not a vegetarian, but I have to say I admire everyone who is one or is trying to be one. The discipline it takes must be hard and I don’t think I have enough strength to do it! Kudos to all of you!! And as for the debate…”To each his own.” What’s right for you doesn’t have to be right for everyone and no one should be made inferior by those who are doing something differently.

  • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 11:02 am

    Comments from the first time I posted the post (sorry for the double post):

    #1 Danielle
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 9:18 am [edit]
    Hey! I’ve been silently lurking around your bog for a while here but never commented. But I just couldn’t resist with this post. (awesome blog by the way).

    I’ve been a vegetarian for almost 12 years. When I started, I was a strict ovo-lacto, no gelatin, lecithin, beef broth, chicken broth, or ‘natural’ flavors kind of girl (I’m still searching for a vegetarian friendly Lucky Charms). About 4 years into this ‘diet’ I re-evaluated why I became a vegetarian in the first place, and came to the conclusion that (for me) fish was alright to eat. In the eyes of true vegetarians, I’m looked down upon but what matters more to me is my conscience. I still abstain from foods with gelatin and lecithin, but I always worry when I go out to eat, “was this cooked with chicken broth? or bacon grease?” Let’s be honest: when you go without meat for a while, the effects of accidental ingestion tend to have adverse reactions…

    While I don’t purposefully go out and look for leather things, it’s so hard to avoid it in today’s manufacturing society.

    But beer? I could never give up!! =)

    I guess my gray area comes down to: what can I do/eat and still live with myself for? That’s more important to me than what other people think.


    #2 Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 9:27 am [edit]
    I try to be aware of what I’m eating, but I never want to become obsessive about the food in my mouth, so I’m okay with ingesting a tiny bit of animal products, as in the case of Guinness, marshmallows or parmesan cheese. I know that I’m not a perfect pescatarian, but I also feel that my efforts make a huge impact by themselves- people always say that eliminating just one meal with meat per week can make a huge difference! Worrying too much about my food only makes me cranky, irritable and kind of anal, so I try to just go with the flow and make the best choice given what’s presented to me.


    #3 Meri
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 9:45 am [edit]
    My reasons for being vegetarian are different than most- I “chose” to be a vegetarian as a toddler, mostly out of sensory issues with meat’s texture I think. I’ve always eaten cheese and eggs, but never meat or fish. I think its unsustainable to have a largely animal product based diet, so I haven’t started eating meat, and probably never will. However, due to my slightly different reasons for being a vegetarian, I’ve always eaten gelatin, worn occasional leather, and lots of times just picked the meat off of things, therefore probably getting a lot of the meat fat in my food haha. I agree 100% that it is a very personal choice, and I think the more we think about what we are choosing for our diets here in the US, the better.
    I appreciate this post a lot, thanks!


    #4 Hannah Hawley
    on Mar 18th, 2011 at 10:36 am [edit]
    I am not a vegetarian, dabled in my past, and have come to realize that my body really does function at its best when I eat animal protein.
    My reasons for trying to go vegetarian when younger had to do with animal rights more than my health, which is why I had no problem going back to eating meat.
    When budgets are tight, meat is less, and I buy meat at the grocery store. When my budget isn’t tight, I rely on local meats only. I want to know where my meat came from and that the animals were treated well prior to their death. I personally cannot wait for the day to raise my own animals for consumption.
    I realize this view point will not be accepted by a lot, and that is ok. I would rather be able to know the food that is ingested by my animals, and ultimately by me. I would rather know they had a great life, that a scratch behind the years made them lean into me. The quality of life and quality of food not only affects the animal but me as well.
    What you elect to injest basedon your vegetarian lifestyle is still all about personal choice and personal preference. No one should look down upon you becase you chose to drink a beer or eat a marshmellow.


  • Orla March 18, 2011, 11:04 am

    I am a vegetarian for health reasons but I still eat fish – I live beside the sea and have an amazing fish shop 5 minutes from my door.
    While at the start I wasn’t very strict regarding gelatin and parmesan cheese I have found myself becoming more and more aware of ingredient lists.
    I tend to run into problems when eating out and would always question what stock was used in a soup etc. I recently asked about the stock in a soup in a deli near where I work and explained that I didn’t eat meat when told there was chicken stock in it. I got the reply ” What? You don’t eat meat? Even Chicken???” I laughed so much until I realized the girl was serious!
    My grey area is when I visit a friends house for dinner who may have forgotten that I don’t eat meat. If she has prepared a meal with meat, I will not disrespect them by just not eating it but I ususally fill up on vegetables and minimize the meat. It is difficult!

  • Clare March 18, 2011, 11:12 am

    Thank you Caitlyn! It is a myriad of endless choices out there, especially now that I am vegan *was vegetarian for 16 years first). There are certain hypocrasies that I “commit” as well. Including eating whatever baked goods my 72 year old friend gives me, instead of rejecting her gifts and befuddling her with a “Now I’m vegan” speech. It’s sticky out there!

  • monicanelsonfitness March 18, 2011, 11:14 am

    great post and comments here. I am a vegetarian but I have no rules, that means I am not going to panic if I eat marshmellows or get fish sauce in my food when I get Thai. 🙂

  • Freya March 18, 2011, 11:16 am

    This is sucha good post! I try and avoid all animal products where possible – but I don’t have the money, time and facilities to avoid ALL animal products – ie I live in the middle of nowhere, if i refused to buy white sugar and only organic etc etc then I really woudl be broke and extremely limited in what I could do. If I move to a more populated area (soon hopefully!) I hope to be able to ‘be vegan’ in more respects than just what goes into my mouth.
    Saying that, honey is a grey area – I don’t eat commerically produced honey, BUT my gran’s neighbour makes honey and I know it is 100% cruelty free (based on my limited knowledge) so I have that in small quantities.

  • Amanda @ AmandaRunsNY March 18, 2011, 11:17 am

    Even if you are a vegetarian who consumes some of these gray area foods, the amount of meat you are consuming is so much less than a typical diet, and thus the health and environmental impacts are dramatically reduced.

    I am not a vegetarian but I am trying to work to that point. But I do feel that even in my mostly vegetarian state that I am making an impact, which is the reason I choose to eschew meat for the most part. Also, my cholosterol went down a ton once I started eating less meat, so I can’t deny that my health has improved as well.

    I don’t judge anyone by their adherence to diet rules, but I do think that everyone is better off eating less meat and dairy products. And so that means we are all doing our part to make this lifestyle more acceptable, mainstream, and manageable.

  • Anna March 18, 2011, 11:21 am

    Interesting post. I’m always amazed by just HOW MUCH we care about what other people eat- how they define it, etc. Like, simmer down, everyone.

    On a similar note, I’m always interested ask vegans (animal rights-motivated vegans) how they feel about the fact that many organic crop fertilizers are animal products. I worked on a USDA-certified organic farm last summer and we used bone meal (ground up cow bones), blood meal (dried cow blood) and fish emulsion (pulverized fish) to fertilize the plants. While you’re not outrightly eating these products (they’re applied to the soil) I bet some poeple would still be bothered by it.

    It’s a tricky situation- it’s either animal products or harsh chemicals. Take your pick.

  • Parita @ myinnershakti March 18, 2011, 11:22 am

    The way I tend to view this is if I know that the food I’m eating contains certain “non-veggie” ingredients or elements, I am accountable for what I’m eating. If on the otherhand I truly had no clue, I’m not too hard on myself. Great post!

  • Andrea ( March 18, 2011, 11:22 am

    I really really admire you. The fact that you are able to openly discuss such topics, without making people feel judged one way or the other, is beautiful. I’m not a vegetarian, and I know this might sound trite (maybe because a movie shouldn’t affect me more than what I already know about animal cruelty), but after seeing “The Cove,” I was very very disturbed and couldn’t really touch any animal products for a long time. I still have a moment of pause when I think about it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 12:20 pm

      I really want to watch The Cove but I honestly think it will kill me and/or make me really really depressed.

      • jessica March 18, 2011, 3:18 pm

        it will! it made me so sad/angry but i think it’s important to have those emotions so that change can happen.

        • Mary March 18, 2011, 9:41 pm

          It’s about something really horrible, but it’s a great movie & definitely worth seeing. It was actually that catalyst that made me go from being a pescatarian to being a vegetarian.

  • Kara March 18, 2011, 11:23 am

    I’m not vegetarian, but my mom is, so none of this was a surprise to me. I actually like pointing this kind of stuff out to self righteous vegetarians as they are eating a Caesar salad 🙂 Not saying that all vegetarians are self-righteous, but some are (just like some meat eaters are too)

  • Clare @ Fitting It All In March 18, 2011, 11:25 am

    I’m a “vegetarian” and I drink Guinness and eat marshmellows and smores flavored things. I stick to veggie broth.
    Great post though – I’ve been struggling with what I do and don’t eat lately and making your own decisions without strict labelling is important!

  • Amber from Girl with the Red Hair March 18, 2011, 11:29 am

    I am a vegetarian – kind of – because I eat fish sometimes. So I guess I’m pesco-vegetarian? I eat fish maybe once a month.

    BUT I will also occasionally eat things with gelatin (like candy – which my fiance just pointed out to me last night lol) and have gravy from time-to-time.

    I HATE labels. So stupid. Eat what you want, when you want. I don’t eat meat for ethical reasons and because it doesn’t appeal to me, and I do prefer to eat mostly plants, but I also like candy from time-to-time 😀

  • Sarah for Real March 18, 2011, 11:30 am

    Interesting post! I had no idea about all the little animal product uses. I have to say I’ve always loved your matter-of-face, “this is how we do it” attitude about you and your husband’s eating. (And now I have that song stuck in my head…) You aren’t preachy or judgy about vegetarianism which I really appreciate.

    Being a flexitarian, my “gray area” has more to do with people than animals. Usually the times I eat conventional meat are because it’s been lovingly prepared for me by a friend/family member or something like that. I know some would judge me for seeming wishy-washy about my choices, but they just don’t understand my priorities.

    I think that’s really what it comes down to in our eating choices and “gray areas”… priorities. Which is clearly a very personal decision.

  • Kristen March 18, 2011, 11:35 am

    I find eating with too many rules really difficult. I’m not vegetarian or vegan- but when I went vegan for a day, I found I was constantly googling to figure out if my gum was vegan or of the glass of wine I wanted to drink was vegan…it really is hard to be a “staunch” vegetarian or vegan in our world.

    The only reason I’m NOT surprised about all the animal products in everything is because I did do so much digging for my vegan challenge.

    I have often considered going vegetarian-ish. I say “ish” because I really think that I would eat vegetarian most of the time, but that I would have a meat dish every so often just because I love food so much and like to try so many things.

    This is a great post- definitely good to hear so many opinions!

  • Allison @ Happy Tales March 18, 2011, 11:35 am

    Caitlin, what an awesome post! I don’t judge at all what people choose to eat and what they don’t choose to eat. I myself do not have a label, but I eat a pretty plant based diet with some fish thrown in, and some chicken/other meat thrown in whenever I feel like it (and I know what the source of the meat is). As far as vegetarian items go… i think it’s up to the individual to decide their own personal gray area. I do wish society would be more up front, or maybe just not as sneaky… about putting animal products in where they “don’t belong”. I bet there’s a lot of vegetarians out there who use make-up tested on animals and don’t even know it. I think we need to do a better job on educating ourselves!

  • Janel March 18, 2011, 11:38 am

    I think we’d all be better off if we just stopped labeling the way we eat, whether it’s vegetarian, vegan, lacto-ovo, pescatarian, etc. We should feel free to eat what we want, and not eat what we don’t want, without explanation. I think removing our own labels would help with that. I usually tell people “I eat what makes me feel best” instead of explaining my plant-based food choices, or focusing on what I *don’t* eat.

    • Amy March 18, 2011, 12:16 pm

      Great point. I end up characterizing my diet as “vegetarian” most often as an easy way of representing the way that I eat to others; others’ weirdly rabid interest in what I eat makes me feel like the label is necessary. It’s definitely a cycle, and you’re right – maybe we need to start rejecting labels first, rather than hoping that people will stop judging/commenting on what others eat, therefore necessitating some description.

      Um, I hope that made sense!

  • Caitlin @ The Caitie Experiment March 18, 2011, 11:39 am

    I didn’t know that about Guinness, but it TOTALLY makes sense to me — I’ve always complained that the reason I don’t like it that much (and ONLY drink it on St. Paddy’s Day) is because it tastes “meaty” to me (and I’m not a vegetarian). People usually look at me like I have two heads, but I think it tastes like liquefied beef jerky or something. I know that makes no sense because it’s fish byproduct rather than beef, but still… now I have a backup explanation. 🙂

  • Dori March 18, 2011, 11:41 am

    I was out to dinner a few weeks ago and my friend asked if the beans were vegetarian. The waitress checked and told us that the beans are, but the rice isn’t. It was cooked in chicken stock. This is something I never knew about or considered. I will start asking myself about rice and soup (another thing I didn’t think about if it was a vegetable soup)… We all have to do what is best for us, and I will eat a marshmallow every now and again.

  • JRoch March 18, 2011, 11:48 am

    I only really judge people if they define themselves by their particular diet, and make statements to others and why their diet is best.

    If you’re willing to step up as an expert in something (even if you don’t call yourself an expert…talking about it like you ARE an expert is the same thing), I would expect you to be thorough in your following of it, or you just sound self-promoting.

  • Heather @ Health, Happiness, and Hope March 18, 2011, 11:49 am

    Excellent post! Although I am a vegetarian, I don’t get caught up in the little asides like marshmellows. I don’t eat meat because it is a personal choice and I truly notice the different in my overall health and well-being by avoiding it. It’s been around 2 years since I had any meat specifically, and it’s simply a lifestyle choice. However, it is not something I obsess over in the way of “gray” areas.

  • Sam @ the neurotic yogini March 18, 2011, 11:49 am

    Very good post! I think a lot of people don’t realize the amount of foods that actually contain animal products! Here’s some more foods that arents veggie:

    Happy Friday! 🙂

  • Amanda March 18, 2011, 11:51 am

    It isn’t possible to be perfect regardless of which manner of food consumption you choose. We all face gray areas in which a decision has to be made personally. I’m not really surprised by the foods that aren’t “really” vegetarian and I’m sure there are more. If you want to know exactly what you are eating and how it gets to your table you have to be involved in the process from the beginning to the end. Very few people have the ability to do this. To be honest even if you control the process completely, you will still have a negative impact on the animals that are native to that environment, be it through pest control or just damaging their natural habitat and misplacing them. Regardless of what people claim no one is perfect and no method is perfect, everyone has to deal with the gray areas.

    I raise/grow as much of my own food as possible and get my meat through local sources or butchering animals that are raised by me or my family. I know where my food comes from, how it was treated and what it ate. I am comfortable with eating meat knowing that the animals were treated well. I’m not comfortable going to the grocery store and buying hamburger. I grow a garden and can my foods so I know what is being put on my plants, put in my jar and I am grateful that my food does not travel 1,000s of miles to get to me.

    I’m well educated and my choices allow me to sleep at night. I think that is the best anyone can do, vegan, vegetarian or omnivore.

    • Shauna March 18, 2011, 2:17 pm

      Yes! So many people forget that animals are harmed in the growing of pretty much all food. Grain harvesting kills off thousands of small animals, birds, etc every season.

      I try to think about how to make choices that are mostly good for the most number of creatures. Sustainable small farming is the best way to go and that often means eating meat to support a small farmer who need animals to keep the farm operation healthy and sustainable.

      • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:25 pm


  • Kacy March 18, 2011, 11:54 am

    Great topic! I struggled with this when I was a vegetarian. Now I’m not but I rarely cook or purchase meat. I eat it a few times a month and enjoy vegetarian and vegan meal the majority of the time. I think any little bit helps, but the more we can do the better. I don’t eat gelatin because it grosses me out, but if it’s in a product and I don’t know it and I consume it I’m not going to feel extreme guilt about it.

    I agree that you have to choose your own gray area and I think judging others for their food intake is ridiculous.

  • Amber K March 18, 2011, 11:54 am

    I actualy just had this conversation online when someone said that Yoplait yogurt had gelatin and was therefore not vegetarian. Many posts later someone else looked further into it and it turns out they use kosher gelatin which doesn’t use animal parts.

    Until recently, I had no idea people even worried about stuff like that! I have been a vegetarian since I was a young child, so I didn’t even think about anything other than just flesh meat.

  • Heather March 18, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I would say that 80% of my diet is vegetarian. I split some meals with my roommate and she is definitely not a veggie lover. I spend less on groceries by splitting these meals, so for right now I buy meant. When I move into my own place, I will probably return to a vegetarian diet.

    In Oprah’s vegan episode, one of the the only parts that struck a chord with me was Michael Pollan’s comment that if we couldn’t watch it happen, we probably shouldn’t eat meat. I doubt that I could watch it happen. Of course, then I feel like a horrible person for still eating meat based on what my roommate eats and based on money.

    It is amazing how much we judge how other people eat. I know I do it because I will make comments about the lack of vegetables in my friends’ diets. However, I am sick less often and always feel better than them. I don’t make comments about their diets based on moral concerns, but on concerns for their own health. If other people want to eat meat that’s fine; however, I definitely promote the intake of veggies among my friends and family.

  • Kiran March 18, 2011, 12:00 pm

    I am not a vegetarian, but reading all about using animal product in everyday foods just stresses me out.

  • Natalia - a side of simple March 18, 2011, 12:11 pm

    I’m not vegetarian but being gluten-free I definitely get those shock moments when I realize the additives and ingredients in certain foods. That’s why I really try to stick to basic, real food. It just makes it easier!

    But I do think Guiness is gluten-free and vegetarian friendly on St. Patrick’s Day… 😉

  • Stacy March 18, 2011, 12:17 pm

    I’m vegetarian and it is definitely hard to know what does and doesn’t have animal products. Even reading the ingredient list isn’t always helpful because of more unheard of items like rennet. I had no idea about that! To be honest though I’m not super strict about things because like you said, it’s really difficult in our society. Just the other day I bought Worcestershire sauce without realizing it is made with anchovies.

  • Kristen March 18, 2011, 12:29 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! When I became a vegetarian 3.5 years ago, I was confronted with whether or not I should eat marshmallows, Caesar salads, etc. To me, there is no “strict rule” to what I consider vegetarian (although I know a lot of people would argue against me). I happen to love marshmallows, but since I know they contain gelatin (so does Jell-O BTW) I only eat the occasionally. Same with Caesar salads – I try to avoid them at all costs, but I honestly feel better about eating anchovies than I do about eating beef or chicken. However, I do only eat these things on occasion and it is a conscious decision that I am making. But, I feel that just as there are vegans, pesco-vegetarians, lacto-vegetarians, etc., you can sort of “make your own rules” to what you eat. It was YOUR decision in the first place, so why can’t YOU decide what you eat. It would be like a vegan saying a vegetarian who eats eggs isn’t really a vegetarian, in my opinion. Again, thanks for the post! I will still drink my Guinness beer occasionally – especially in black + tan form with some Blue Moon on the bottom! ;o)

  • Liz @ Tip Top Shape March 18, 2011, 12:37 pm

    This was a really interesting post. I didn’t know that stuff abotu beer. That is actually really gross. haha

    My general feeling on not eating animal products is that every bit helps. Every meal that you choose not to eat meat or any other animal product is a step in the right direction. No one eats perfectly and it wold be maddening to try to!

  • Chrissie March 18, 2011, 12:54 pm

    I’m a fairly new vegetarian. I’ve been as strict as I can… I didn’t stumble across Matt’s list until about 10 months in, and at that point, I’d had soups, Caesear salads, etc., without realizing what was in them. My biggest gray area/stumbling block so far has been things like potlucks at work and meals at people’s homes. I always try to ask what’s in things and whatnot, but at a certain point, I feel like I’m being rude. I also worry about travelling outside of the country while vegetarian.

  • Megan March 18, 2011, 12:55 pm

    i love this post! the comments are so interesting for me. i became a vegetarian in september, but before then was only really eating poultry. i’ve never had a hamburger (unless i did when i was a toddler & don’t remember it!) since im such a newbie to the veg world, i make plenty of mistakes. but i also knowingly slip into the “gray area” sometimes. i’ve eating a smore since september, i am not as careful with checking products for gelatin, etc. i am trying to be more mindful of my purchases – i live in a community while i do a year of service and we have a fixed grocery budget with lots of people to feed which translates to cheap food. the yogurt we buy has gelatin! so i buy my own food products, which comes at an expense, but makes me happy. i am vegetarian for both ethical and environmental reasons, but am far from perfect in this venture. i saw a michael pollan quote that essentially said if you can’t watch meat being prepared, then you shouldn’t be eating it. that describes it perfectly for me!

    & for those being vegetarian for environmental reasons, maybe you’ll find this website interesting. has a quiz where you can see your environmental impact on the world.. it was interesting to see my results compared to my roommates who are meat-eaters. no judging, just interesting.

    thanks so much for this post caitlin! i love when you have debates on your blog 🙂

  • chelsey @ clean eating chelsey March 18, 2011, 1:02 pm

    I think that there’s always a gray area in any kind of situation. For me, I tend to call myself vegan(ish) because of the fact I just can’t tolerate dairy products (besides greek yogurt). So, do I still eat honey? If it’s cooked in something. Do I eat eggs? If they’re cooked in something (and if I know the source). But I don’t go so far as to make sure all of my clothing/purchases are “vegan”. I think I’m doing pretty well just as I am!

  • Lauren March 18, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I don’t label myself as vegetarian because I will drink beers & wines without knowing if they are vegetarian/vegan, and I occasionally (once every month or 2) will eat fish. I eat a mostly vegetarian diet, but I don’t think the label is necessary.

  • Charlie March 18, 2011, 1:05 pm

    I eat marshmallows & Parmesan. Mostly, I don’t eat something that is meat but if they used meat to make it (like in marshmallows) I don’t mind that much.
    I never use animal-based broth at home but if there is an asparagus soup at a restaurant, I’ll eat it, chicken broth or not.

  • Katie March 18, 2011, 1:10 pm

    I didn’t even know about all the sneaky things! But when I find out about all the things like what gelatin is and (now that I know) what Rennet is, I have no desire to eat it. That would be all I would think about when I’m eating that particular food.

  • Kelly March 18, 2011, 1:11 pm

    I love this topic. Great discussion for a Friday afternoon. I have been vegan for almost 4 years now. For me personally, education is the key. For example, at first I ate Cheerios and thought they were vegan….that is until I found out that most cereals are fortified with D3 which is derived from lanolin (from sheep or fish). As I learn more I adjust. Now I’m to the point that I eat whole foods and try very hard not to eat any processed foods. Bread is the tricky part because I suck at making my own. But answering the question…what is my grey area? Sugar…sugar is processed through bone char so therefore hardcore vegans won’t eat it. I’m doing my best but you just can’t bake things without using sugar. I wear the leather I have but do my best not to purchase anymore. I’m in love with Matt & Nat bags and have given all of my leather bags to my sister who has no problem using them. No marshmellows either not even the vegan ones. Those things are $6 for like 10 little tiny marshmellows. OUCH! I also don’t eat honey if I know about it. It is the one thing I will make an exception for in a restaurant though. It’s funny to me though that when you tell someone you are vegan the first thing they look at are your shoes…then your purse…then what you eat.

    • Chrissie March 18, 2011, 1:22 pm

      Thank you for mentioning those bags! So cute.

    • Kelly H. (Shiny Happy Vegan) March 18, 2011, 8:37 pm

      There are many types of sugar that are vegan- ie turbinado and beet sugar. Many white sugars are vegan as well, you just have to check the label!

  • Emily March 18, 2011, 1:12 pm

    I’m vegetarian and do not eat animals, period. This includes no gelatin, fishy beer, etc. Every once and a while, I realize that a food I thought was ‘safe’ actually contains something that is not part of my diet. I don’t wear leather or pearls, but I do eat honey and dairy products. Based on my personal beliefs, it is wrong to eat animals. However, I don’t think it’s wrong for someone else to eat them if their own beliefs allow that. One of my pet peeves is self righteous vegetarians/vegans preaching to others that don’t share their diets, and I hope to never be that person. Vegetarians are annoyed when meat eaters don’t respect our choices, and I think meat eaters have a right to be annoyed when veggies don’t respect their choice to eat meat.

  • Tessa @ Amazing Asset March 18, 2011, 1:12 pm

    I personally feel that judging people, on anything really, is simply immature. People are entitled to their opinions and feelings. I am not a fan of others commenting on what I eat, please mind your own business 🙂

    • Tessa @ Amazing Asset March 18, 2011, 1:12 pm

      I mean that is me saying that to others that comment! haha 😀

  • Meredith (Pursuing Balance) March 18, 2011, 1:24 pm

    Great post! I’m vegan, but I also have gray areas. For instance, if I go out to restaurants I’m not asking them what’s in the bread. I just hope for the best. Also, when I buy groceries I obviously try for 100% vegan, but if the ingredient list has some dairy or egg listed under the “contains less than 2% of the following” heading, then I will still buy it. I don’t eat marshmallows or wear leather, and I don’t drink alcohol so the beer isn’t an issue for me — good information to know though, as I had no idea! Thanks for telling me!

  • Jessica @ The Process of Healing March 18, 2011, 1:25 pm

    I think it’s all about our own personal choices. Me, i’m not a vegetarian but I was at one time. And I didn’t stress about those little things.. I figure that any effort to lower your meat consumption contributes, even in a small way.

  • Angela March 18, 2011, 1:28 pm

    I’ve been vegan for a little over a year now and I have decided not to consume gelatin, alcohol, or honey for ethical and environmental reasons. I don’t feel like I need these things and don’t feel deprived without them. However, I know this is not true for everyone and respect that. My main goal has always been to live as compassionately and consciously as possible because that is was makes me feel happiest. Others may have a similar goal but approach it in a different way. I have not bought any clothing or shoes made from wool, leather etc. since I’ve become vegan, but I still have non-vegan items from before I made this change in my lifestyle and still wear them because it is not economically feasible or reasonable for me to replace them. I know that I will choose differently in the future and appreciate my new awareness. Everyone has the choice to do what they want with the knowledge they gain and this is personally what I have chosen for myself, not anyone else. I can share the knowledge I gain, but it’s not for me to judge what others do with their knowledge.
    I think that everyone has to just try their best to do what they believe is right for them, because that’s all anyone can ask for. As Colleen Patrick Goudreau says, “Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something, anything!” Don’t not try to reduce your consumption of animal products just because you can’t eliminate all of them. Every little thing each individual can do to make a difference adds up to a big change for animals, the earth, and people everywhere.

  • Kira March 18, 2011, 1:32 pm

    As a pescetarian, I’ve drawn the line at non-seafood animal flesh. Generally, I try to avoid but don’t get bent out of shape about meat-based broths. I do better in my own kitchen, but when I’m eating out or someone else is cooking for me, I try to be more hospitable. Wasting food is a far greater sin in my mind than consuming something that’s derived from an animal product.

  • Matt Frazier March 18, 2011, 1:34 pm

    Great post today, Caitlin! My gray area is definitely beer and wine… once I find out something is not technically vegetarian, I stay away from it. For example, I don’t eat marshmallows or drink Guinness anymore.

    But do I do research every time I want to try a new beer at a bar, or find a bottle of wine that looks good? No. If I were to do that, I think I’d stop enjoying being vegetarian.

    Like you, I’m not really into the “label” aspect of either being vegetarian or not. I think people who don’t eat meat but eat every other food that isn’t vegetarian are still awesome. I think people who eat fish are awesome. Every bit helps.

    Thanks for this post!

  • hippierunner March 18, 2011, 1:39 pm

    I am a vegetarian but try to lean towards being vegan. The gray area for me is weird. It freaks me out a little to eat egg but I have no problem eating marshmallows. I think if $$ weren’t an issue I would definitely have an easier time eating things free of animal products. I think the smart thing is for everyone to just do the best they can! 🙂

  • Ali @ Ali Runs March 18, 2011, 1:43 pm

    I had no idea that Guinness had animal products in it. (Fun fact, my first family dog was named Guinness 🙂 ) I had heard about marshmellows and to tell you the truth that freaked me out more than anything and I’m not even vegetarian! I think this was a really smart, well thought out post. Everyone has their own opinions, so there will never be a right or wrong.

  • Jamie March 18, 2011, 1:58 pm

    I am very very lenient and I don’t label myself vegan or vegetarian for that reason. I don’t like eating meat and I don’t like eating dairy, but if something has a tiny bit of animal products in it, I am not going to die. I know a lot of people do it “for the animals” but personally I do NOT believe using animals is wrong. Eating animals is natural and okay – it’s found all over nature! Yes, some (most) of the methods used nowadays to grow and process the animals are disgusting and wrong. But my point is that while I avoid things that are obviously dairy or meat, something that contains traces of it is OKAY.

  • Danielle March 18, 2011, 2:02 pm

    I recently bought Walgreens brand Airborne and read the ingredients and it has fish in it. I was totally surprised. I am a vegetarian and once I know something has an animal product I will eliminate from my diet. Rennet is also used in a lot of fresh mozzerellas as well, in addition to parm. My grey area is getting narrower and narrower, I feel wierd about consuming my favorite dairy products and am considering making the transition to being vegan. Although I do wear leather, which I know is not consistent.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:25 pm

      No idea Airborne had fish products in it – odd!

  • Emily March 18, 2011, 2:02 pm

    I’m not vegetarian. I’ve dabbled in it a bit. When I got pregnant it went right out the window because my body needs mucho protein and I wasn’t an experienced enough vegetarian to make sure I was getting enough. But I’ve been a casual vegetarian for a year or so. Mostly why I did it at all was for health reasons. I did it to keep my cholesterol lower, it also helped me focus a lot more on veggies, beans, whole grains and things I should be eating, and kept me away from splurging on a burger and fries. But I was surprised at how many vegetarians really thought I was a terrible person for how I was doing my vegetarianism. I got many comments from my blog, from friends and friends of friends about how awful I was for putting any animal product in me. I have mixed emotions on not eating meat for animal rights. That’s another topic all together, but my biggest issue was the gray areas. Everyone has different motives for being vegetarian. I’m accepting of my friends and all of their dietary wishes. I just didn’t see how they could judge me from what I was eating and thinking I either had to be a die hard vegetarian or none at all.

    But it doesn’t surprise me a lot of what’s not vegetarian. I knew about the geletan from elementary school and jokes about how if you eat jello you’re eating fish bones. I do see people who have no idea though. I have a vegan friend who has been vegan since she was 9 or 10, and takes it very seriously. She ate french onion soup for years, having no idea what beef broth even tasted like, so she had no idea it was beef broth in the soup! She ordered it when we went out to eat one day in college and I told her it was beef broth and she about threw up! haha So it’s surprising what can slip through if you don’t really know how things are made

  • jen @ taste life March 18, 2011, 2:14 pm

    When I became a vegetarian at 13 I wasn’t really up with what had animals in it and what didn’t. I ate Jell-O, marshmallows, probably ate stuff with chicken stock in it, etc. I got much stricter in college, but I’ve actually eased off a bit now that I’m in my early 30’s. Sometimes it’s just not worth it to me to make myself crazy. One time I ate a Rice Krispie Treat made with, gasp, marshmallows. Sometimes I have a bite of rice a the Mexican joint, even though I’m pretty sure it’s made with chicken broth. Overall, though, I eat a vegetarian diet and even lean towards mostly vegan foods at home. It’s so nice to finally feel comfortable with my decisions and not feel like I need to be perfect.

  • Lauren @ Sassy Molassy March 18, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Caitlin, I think this is a great discussion for a happy Friday. 🙂 I too am a non judger although I also eat meat occasionally. But I truly feel like as citizens who should care about each other, we should not look down upon others based on their food choices. We all make choices in so many aspects of our lives that others might not approve of and whose to say one person is right and another is wrong? Happy Friday!

  • Erin March 18, 2011, 2:22 pm

    I’m a vegetarian, but I do wear leather. I try to avoid gelatin as often as possible, but sometimes I miss it in the ingredients list, or sometimes I just want a gummy bear. 🙂 I’ve been vegetarian since I was 15 and I find that the older I get the more relaxed my stance on gelatin and isinglass type products gets. Plus, I had a Guinness last night as well. 🙂

    My husband is a meat eater and I usually don’t cook it for him. As long as I’m cooking, we eat vegetarian and he’s ok with that. I’m not going to judge anyone for eating or not eating meat, so why should they judge me for eating a gummy bear. 🙂

  • Britt March 18, 2011, 2:39 pm

    I’m a vegetarian – but the only thing [big] thing from me calling myself vegan is cheese. I try and stick to everything vegetarian, as much as possible. I don’t do marshmallows, or anything gelatin, I don’t wear or buy leather, I refused to buy a car with leather seats, I’m not legal so beer isn’t something to worry about 🙂 I do eat honey though! I’ve switched all my make-up products and sunscreen to cruelty free. (Ocean Potion is the only one I know of that doesn’t test!) I’ve been vegetarian for 6 years now.

  • Ellie@fitforthesoul March 18, 2011, 2:42 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian but don’t eat meat all the time. And my fave meat is always fish 😀 yayyy. Just sometimes when my mother makes beef i’ll eat it, or treat myself with chicken, pork, etc. Tacos anyone?! This is b/c of stomach cramps from meat indigestion though~But I really think that eating patterns should be up to the individual and for WHY HE OR SHE DOES IT! For example, if all a person is concerned about animals is their well being, then I’m sure that individ. will not even wear any animals products or be completely vegan. On the other hand, if one is veg. b/c of certain health discomforts, then there is more room to pick and choose, as long as the body allows. (and eat marshmallows) don’t know if i made sense here! haha!

  • Sarah for Real March 18, 2011, 2:46 pm

    I just thought of a question on this topic. I eat “flexitarian” which means I generally order vegetarian meals when dining out. However, occasionally I’ll get a stray bit of bacon in my omelet or a piece of shrimp in my tofu-rice bowl. It doesn’t bother me because I eat meat occasionally, but I was wondering how that enters the “gray area” conversation. Would a vegetarian spit it out? Return the whole meal? Just eat it? Or maybe it’s about being very careful where you dine out?

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:26 pm

      If I ordered a dish and there was a chunk of meat in it, I would definitely return it AND ask for my meal to be comped. This is not a gray area for me!

      • Sarah for Real March 18, 2011, 4:41 pm

        I expected that would be the case and I can definitely see why!

        Do you specifically mention to the wait-staff that you’re vegetarian even if you’re already ordering a vegetarian meal?

        • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:50 pm

          Only if I were getting something that normally has meat it in. So if its a sandwich with chicken, I would be like, can I have that without meat because I’m a vegetarian?

        • Sarah for Real March 18, 2011, 4:55 pm

          We must have a lot of sloppy chefs in Spokane I guess. I wouldn’t feel comfortable being a true veg here because there must be a lot of meat flying around in the kitchens!

  • jessica March 18, 2011, 3:23 pm

    i have been a vegetarian since i was 12
    (i’m now 23) and for the first year i ate campbell’s vegetable soup and mcdonald’s french fries. after i learned that the soup was made with beef stock and the fries dipped in animal fat, i started taking a closer look at what i eat. i think i now have found a happy medium and seem to have the same grey areas as you! i’ve found it extremely difficult with new boyfriends (and their family.) they try to accomodate me by making extra veggies, but cooking them in the roast pan with all the meat drippings, or veggie soups with chicken broth. now that i’ve been with the same guy for a while they are starting to get it, but i almost wind up feeling guilty for not eating what they made me…

  • Carolina March 18, 2011, 3:24 pm

    Great topic! I’m a vegetarian, I don’t eat marshmallows or jello, I don’t drink real milk but I do have cheese. Just like you, I draw a sharp line with broth & always ask when I eat out (did you know Pei-Wei cooks their noodles in chicken broth?). As far as drinks go, I enjoy my dark beers & wine. I don’t drink often, but I do drink & I’m sure not all of it is 100% veg friendly — I’m okay with that though. I feel good about the decisions I’m making & at the end of the day that’s what matters: we must be comfortable with our gray area.

    • caitie March 18, 2011, 7:25 pm

      AHHH thank you for bringing up pei wei!! I think I usually get rice their instead of noodles but now I will for sure not get the noodles!

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 8:09 pm

      pei wei fail

  • Ashley March 18, 2011, 3:38 pm

    This is an interesting post! I love seeing all the responses.

    I’ve been vegetarian for two years and vegan for eight months of that. I’m slowly falling back into vegetarianism, though – I’ve allowed some cheese back in every once in a great while and I don’t balk if something is made with cream or butter. I do not drink cow’s milk, though (never have) and can’t get back into yogurt. No eggs either.

    I stopped labeling myself as either-or and just keep mum about my diet choices. I was tired of A.) no one in my life being supportive and B.) the “vegan police” I found online while looking for support. I still had some leather, my makeup wasn’t vegan, etc…therefore I was “not a vegan”.


  • Jen March 18, 2011, 3:51 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian, but I’m very cautious about my intake of animal-based fat and processed foods due to genetic predisposition to cardiovascular diseases, so I eat a lot of vegetarian meals. I hate it when restaurants don’t post soup bases or when they add cheese without asking first; I steer clear of cream and pretty much all dairy fat, so I was really annoyed a few weeks ago when I spent $5 on a bowl tomato basil soup that turned out to be so heavy with cream that it was orange. And they sprinkled a hefty helping of parmesan cheese on top. I was expecting a tomato broth with basil leaves and some other vegetables… should have asked first!

  • Sarah March 18, 2011, 4:14 pm

    For me I guess my gray area is cheese. I only buy vegetarian cheese, but when I’m out, I’ll eat cheese without knowing. Gelatin, however, is something that I will never knowingly eat. I check all labels. I only buy vegetarian (preferably vegan) supplements, and avoid over the counter medications that contain gelatin. I actually try to avoid medication as much as possible…only if necessary, but never for a little headache, etc.

  • Jennie March 18, 2011, 4:16 pm

    I’ve been wanting to start a blog for a long time – and I finally did a post last night. My first topic?? “Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cucpakes.” I’m totally LOLing right now. I had no idea Guinness used animal by-products. But, nontheless, what is used seems to be quite nitpicky.

    I love this post, and your outlook on the whole thing! It’s so refreshing and I hate how people can be so judgmental sometimes. I’m a new vegetarian/borderline vegan…but I have a pretty big grey area.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:28 pm

      hahah i love it! Vegan Guinness Chocolate Cupcakes sound good to me.

  • Pam March 18, 2011, 4:31 pm

    I really love how you introduced this topic with grace – it is okay to have a gray area!! I’m pretty strict, but I have a somewhat “if it didn’t ask and you can’t tell” rule -l ike when someone brought label-less bread to my house that MAY have had egg involved as a brushing on the crust – I had a bit, but I didn’t keep the whole loaf. I also draw some lines – i avoid honey, but I don’t really care that much, so if someone makes something special, it’s okay if it has honey in it. I’m not taking them to vegan school over it.

    Also, condoms are cool with me. You know they aren’t vegan? But I reasoned that I was doing better things for the Earth by not having babies than not using a product that contains milk.

    • Caitlin March 18, 2011, 4:32 pm

      Oh i thought lambskin (i.e. non latex) weren’t vegan but latex were….??

      • Pam March 18, 2011, 4:42 pm

        Nah, they have milk in them. (WTH!?) You can get vegan ones, but they’re from like, Australia.

  • Cynthia (It All Changes) March 18, 2011, 4:41 pm

    I follow your rules Caitlin. I do my best but other health issues make it hard to completely avoid some things. I eat honey but don’t eat regular sugar because it makes me sick.

    Over all I eat what I enjoy mentally and physically. If it causes me mental stress or physical stress I don’t eat it. Plain and simple for me but definitely not cut and dry.

  • Shannon March 18, 2011, 5:29 pm

    I love how non-judgy you are about other people’s eating habits! I was a vegetarian and I hated the way non-vegetarians made assumptions about who I was because I chose not to each meat (okay, in all honesty, I was a pescatarian because I love fish, but still). I started eating meat again because my body and soy do not get along. Very small amounts are okay, but for the most part I avoid it… My doctor was also concerned that I wasn’t absorbing enough iron and he felt that maybe my body NEEDED meat. You know, when I started eating it again and stopped eating soy, some of the health issues I’d been dealing with went away.

    In the past couple of years I’ve been on three different naturopath monitored diets to determine food sensitivities and hopefully solve other health problems…I think the issue is just food. I’m amazed that no matter what I was or wasn’t eating, people had strong views about why what I was eating was WRONG…

    I figure we’re all different and because of that what we need to fuel our bodies is very different too. And life’s too short to judge people…besides, you might discover that the weird thing someone else eats is actually something you might enjoy yourself because while it may fall into the “vegan” category and you’re a staunch meat-eater, it might still taste good!

    To answer your question – I’m just surprised and what is hidden in our food in general. The first elimination diet I was on had zero tolerance to corn and soy for the first two months and then I got to reintroduce them slowly to see if there was a reaction. Do you know how many things have one or both of those in them? So, no, animal products in seemingly vegetarian foods don’t really surprise me…

  • Autumn Tao March 18, 2011, 5:32 pm

    I agree. Though I wish the entire world was vegan, and though I do judge, I keep my opinions to myself (unless it’s my husband, who I want to live a long, healhty life!).

    As a vegan, my grey area includes wine and beer, leather goods I owned before the made the transition, and honey. That’s me!

  • Katalina March 18, 2011, 5:49 pm

    Dear Caitlin, I know ur blogfrom the beginning but I guess I have commented only a few times. I titally loved this post!!I will begin that I eat meat, but because of my religion ( Christian orthodox) I eat animal free foods (vegan) every Wednesday and Friday of the year, and also for all the Lents, that adds up to half a year vegan… and I am saying this because I totally agree that everybody has their grey area! My fiance does not follow the religion as strict as I do, so I have to cook vegan food for me sometimes, and meat for him!! and maybe sometimes some oil will just slip in another pan, I wont trash my food!! I try to look what I eat, but not to go CRAZY and not to OBSEDATE!! sometimes I have the impresion that the food stamp took over some people too much, they dont eat meat to protect the animals, but will judge, be rude, send offensive emails and comments to a person that does not live by the same rules, I find this totally disgusting!! I like your respect for different opinions and lifestyles, it is very nice and HEALTHY to make space for a “grey area” in ur life!! 🙂

  • laura @ box run eat March 18, 2011, 6:07 pm

    I personally don’t eat anything which contains gelatine but if another person eats a completely vegetarian diet except for some gelatine I certainly wouldn’t want to judge or get all holier than thou on them as they’re doing more than most people. It gets on my nerves when veggies get like that as it can be off putting for non veggies and enhance stereotypes.

  • Isaac March 18, 2011, 6:21 pm

    I’m a lifelong vegetarian, raised in a vegetarian family, and I really appreciate that you are getting this conversation going, Caitlin. Most of my life, I’ve had to deal with these kinds of surprises and have had to ask myself whether they fit within my personal grey areas, or whether they violate my personal ethics. I’ve never eaten meat voluntarily, which is a personal crowning achievement, but I have eaten by-products voluntarily, which leaves me feeling disappointed in myself, and our food industry.

    Finding out that foods that I’ve consumed contain sneaky ways of including meat is definitely upsetting to me, and once I find this out, I usually go out of my way to avoid these foods. For example, I will never be eating another Dorito again, due to the unnecessary clarified beef stock added:

    Honestly, I think these grey area decisions come down to WHY you are a vegetarian/vegan in the first place.

    Without writing an essay, for me, there are 5 main reasons for why I am a lacto-vegetarian:

    1. Biology and Health – I don’t think meat is ideal for human biology. And let’s face it, we all eat to get energy from the sun, and since we can’t photosynthesize through our skin, eating plants is 1 level away, eating animals is 2 levels away from our energy source.
    2. Socio-economical – If everyone were a vegetarian, I have reason to believe world hunger would be “abolished”. Meat is an energy hog. And the meat industrial complex is both largely subsidized in the country, and also a very wasteful industry.
    3. Animal Cruelty – especially in this country, animals are literally tortured and treated as “goods”. If you own a dog or cat, I personally see very little difference in eating a pig versus eating a dog or cat.
    4. Bad Energy – decaying flesh no long has a life force. It’s static energy within the body, which alters one’s energy field
    5. Spiritual – I believe all conscious animals/plants have souls, or some variation of concentrated “life-force”. I’d prefer to eat a lower form of consciousness.

    So how does this translate into my grey area? Well, if I find out something has a meat by-product in it, I tend to go far out of my way to avoid it, within a sane spectrum of reason. I’ve found that generally, if I’m debating it, then I error on the side of don’t eat it.

    At a certain point, I stopped buying leather, but I won’t be wasteful and throw my leather away. I refuse to buy a car with leather seats, or leather furniture. But I will eat eggs or dairy if they are harnessed from animals treated well. But I will not buy cheese with rennet (if I can help it), and I always try to avoid lard and animal/fish broth. I do eat honey, but I try avoid gelatin unless they are in vitamin supplement capsules that my body needs (and can’t reasonably find in other forms).

    Basically, I try to avoid anything that involves the death of an animal, but I don’t mind animal byproducts if they are treated well and not tortured or killed in the process, or products that support the meat industry (even though vegans have a point that we don’t really NEED it to survive).

    That said, I have eaten a marshmallow or two in my time, knowing it had gelatin, but as I grow older, I am more resolute in my eating habits. And the more I find out about how we sneak meat into our foods, the more cautious I am at restaurants to ask questions and avoid foods that I cannot ethically support eating.

    The most interesting question/dilemma for me has always come down to this: if I was starving and needed to eat meat to survive, I think I would. Despite my reasoning, and disregarding the fact of whether I actually have the enzymes, if I needed meat to stay alive or stay healthy, then I think I would do it, in as healthy and ethical of a way as possible.

    What about you other vegetarians? Would you eat meat if you were in a life-threatening situation, or would you die for your cause?

  • Robin March 18, 2011, 6:42 pm

    I really liked your post, as well as all of the responses. I haven’t eaten meat or gelatin in 19 years, but I never really drew the line with the type of cheese I ate until about a year ago. That was apparently my gray area. Now that I’m almost vegan, I remember that I became a vegetarian because I love animals, and I have to do whatever I can not to harm them. But I will never judge someone on their beliefs, or their diets, just as I don’t want to be judged on mine.

  • caitie March 18, 2011, 7:15 pm

    I’m pretty much on the same page as you! I do not eat the broth from animals but dont restrict myself from eating marshmallows (which is pretty much never anyway) or drinking beers. I looove parm cheese but I havent been buying it recently because of the rennent. I also try not to buy leather but sometimes I still do, but never would buy a car or furniture made of leather (and of course NO fur). I dont know why I view some things (beer) ok and not others (broth). Just sort of random I guess

    • caitie March 18, 2011, 7:22 pm

      Also, could someone please tell me why vegans wont eat honey? I know that its from an animal but are bees harmed or anything during the process? I am not trying to sound rude at all, I just honestly know nothing about the honey process!

  • Kim March 18, 2011, 7:55 pm

    I respect vegetarians and vegans for a number of reasons….but something that I never put together is how educated you all are about what’s it your food! I think that its great, you should know exactly what you’re putting into your bodies, and whether you choose to eat some things or not….at least you KNOW what is in your food!

  • Kelly H. (Shiny Happy Vegan) March 18, 2011, 8:00 pm

    Great debate topic! I am a vegan (a new one) and am very strict with not consuming or using anything with animal products in it or used to make it. When I decided to go vegan, I knew it had to be all the way. If I truly believe that animal suffering is bad (and I do), than how can I justify that a little suffering is okay? Of course I chose to be a vegan for other reasons as well (health, environmental, starvation of people in 3rd world countries because of American’s desire to eat meat, etc.). I’ve always thought leather was kind of a grotesque thing, but never thought about animal products in cosmetics. Now I do. I choose to support companies that proudly state “No animal products & not tested on animals”. When I first made the switch to veganism, the one thing I was unsure about was honey. I hadn’t read enough on the topic and was unsure whether it was an environmental concern. (I figured the animal cruelty issue was a weak one for me to claim on this issue since I will squish any bug that comes near me). Ultimately I decided that I wanted to be a true vegan, with no “buts” or exceptions. Honey is easy enough to avoid and not something I need, so I’ve decided to eliminate it. No more grey areas for me 🙂

  • Michal March 18, 2011, 8:20 pm

    Kosher marshmallows are vegetarian. 🙂

  • Jen March 18, 2011, 8:22 pm

    I loved this post. I do my best to be an informed eater. I do not eat meat (poultry, fish, gelatin, etc). I recently in the past month have stopped eating dairy and eggs. If honey is in something like the wheat bread at a restaurant I’m not going to loose too much sleep over it. Dining out is a gray area. I try to plan ahead and do research. Sometimes nutrition info isnt avaliable and I do my best. I’m sure I’ve consumed ‘hidden dairy’ here and there. I don’t drink guiness, but I’m sure I drink non vegan wine. I do buy organic sugars and unbleached flour. I try to buy animal friendly products. I do my best with what I’ve learned along the way and that’s good enough for me 🙂

  • Mary March 18, 2011, 9:33 pm

    This is such a great post! I love reading everyone’s responses. I was a pescatarian for 4 years & stopped eating fish in the past year. Before I stopped eating it, however, meat-eaters would always drill me with questions about why it’s okay to eat a fish and not okay to eat a cow. Ummm why do you care about the logic behind my food choices??

    Generally, I just go with my gut in deciding what to eat. If something makes me feel funny or guilty (ethically), I don’t eat it. I make my choices because I CAN make them, and don’t expect anyone else to make the same ones. I don’t buy leather but I still have some bags & shoes from a few years ago that I love. I also just found out about a year ago what gelatin was (for some reason I thought it was synthetic nowadays) & have tried to abstain from eating it since. However, last year my sister made some white chocolate covered marshmallows and for Christmas I got some gummies in my stocking so of course I haddd to eat them all. I also don’t buy dairy or eggs, but would totally eat a non-vegan cupcake if someone wanted to give me one.

    One thing that was surprising to me was that bar soap and body wash (i.e. pretty much all Dove products) have Sodium Tallowate, which is ‘rendered beef fat’. soo now I only buy products that are clearly labeled.

  • Kris March 18, 2011, 9:34 pm

    Great post! I’m not a vegetarian, but I eat very little meat. Mostly because I don’t like it that much, and I love, love beans and veggies. I’m a pretty educated eater so I’m not surprised by what isn’t vegetarian that some might think is. I try not to be absolute in anything, mainly because I grew up w/ a close relative who was a religious fanatic. That person imposed so many restrictions and rules on our family when I was growing up that I can’t stand it when people don’t have any tolerances for others different opinions and lifestyles. I am not here to judge anyone. Everyone has to live with themselves at the end of the day. I’m an animal lover, so I try to be thoughtful, and I try to make humanitarian and environmentally sound choices in my life. But I’m far from perfect and I’m not going to tell anyone else how to live their life.

  • BroccoliHut March 18, 2011, 10:01 pm

    I’m not a vegetarian anymore (just added fish) but I was pretty black and white. I ate nothing with gelatin, chicken broth, or any other product that required the death of an animal.

  • Libby March 18, 2011, 11:21 pm

    I’m with you on the gelatin. I know they aren’t vegetarian but they were the only thing I didn’t give up when going vegetarian 6 years ago. For the last month I’ve been trying to vegan (with the exception being our own chicken eggs) and did finally stop gelatin in lollies and marshmellows. I do miss them though :-(.
    I have heel spurs so have trouble buying shoes. Luckily Crocs, which I’ve found to be the best, don’t have leather but still buy some leather shoes. I won’t buy any make-up/skin care tested on animals though – there is no need for that to happen these days. Great post. I love how you are never afraid to deal with the sensitive subjects most of us try to avoid.

  • jenn March 18, 2011, 11:30 pm

    Great post! I am what I prefer to call a flexitarian (flex between vegan and vegetarian) but eat vegan 99.9% of the time for dietary/health purposes. The only time I flex is when dining out if I’m not exactly sure of all of the ingredients – it’s not purposeful. I think all of the information in the comments is so great, but like most have said – the important thing to remember is to set your own standards and be accountable to yourself. I often joke about the “vegan police” who chastise people who are “bad vegans” by not going in 150% and they should be happy that people choose to eat this way, even if it’s one meal a year! I think it’s important to note that there’s a huge difference between an ethical vegan and a dietary vegan. I’m in the dietary vegan group and often feel guilty that it’s not for ethical reasons, but ultimately…my own health is more important to me. However, it is a wonderful byproduct that I’m helping animals and the environment as well.

    The only thing I really dislike is when someone says “I’m a vegetarian, but I eat meat once every few months or so for the protein.” Um…then you’re not a vegetarian. Same with people who say “I’m a vegan, but every now and then…I treat myself to cheese.” Then you’re not a vegan, plain and simple. It’s fine to say you follow a mostly-vegan/vegetarian diet, but I think that “cheating” and still calling yourself a vegan/vegetarian really sends the wrong message to people who don’t know a lot about this way of eating & it then seems like we’re all just faking it for the title.

    Also – honey is a great debate in the vegan world. About 50% will say it’s vegan…and the other half say it’s not. Again…personal choices.

  • Emma (Namaste Everyday) March 19, 2011, 12:44 am

    I feel like I am constantly being judged for no longer being a vegetarian. I chose to revert to eating meat since I started college, because I knew it would be challenging to live as healthily as possible as a vegetarian on campus. But I do still have vegetarian sympathies! I only eat meat about once a week, but I can’t call my self a vegetarian because I do so. what gives? so i usually call myself vegetarian-sympathetic lol.

    • Kate March 20, 2011, 11:28 am

      I just say I have vegetarian tendencies…I lost a taste for meat my junior year in college but I do eat it…but sometimes I’ll go for days not eating it. Since I’m single and it’s just me I don’t really buy meat to cook…And if I have the option of tofu and/or lots of veggies I do it 🙂

  • Maureen @ Notes on a Visual Life March 19, 2011, 3:35 am

    I was a vegetarian for about 3 years and then took the vegan plunge 5 months ago. It’s been great! I would say I’m a 60% dietary vegan and a 40% ethical vegan. I had a few minor dairy related slip ups in the early days (which happened to be during Christmas…yikes, not the best time to transition into veganhood). My vegan grey area includes sugar (although I purchase vegan sugar for at home use) and certain clothing items (mainly wool). I haven’t purchased any leather products since I became a vegan but I still have items the I acquired BEFORE I went vegan. I often wonder about my leather purse, shoes, and belts that I bought many years before. I have kept them and continue to use them mainly because I can’t afford to replace them all with high quality non-leather items. So I treat these things carefully. I also try to make sure my cosmetic and personal care products were not tested on animals and do not contain any animal ingredients. There have been occasions when I’ve had to use someone else’s products without knowing the ingredients and background but sometimes you just have to let it go or you’ll make yourself totally insane. You can really get down to the nitty gritty: the paint on my walls, my car, etc….but I just can’t go that far down the road.
    I certainly don’t expect everyone to be as into this as I am and I’m thrilled to bits to just meet another vegetarian or vegan or to introduce omnivores to vegan food! It’s magically delicious 🙂
    PS: If you find yourself in Los Angeles and need some tasty food go to Flore in Silverlake and have your mind blown.

  • anne March 19, 2011, 5:24 am

    I’m all for people making their own decisions about what they do with their bodies. I mean, I’m allowed to be vegan so why should I police how others treat themselves?
    That being said, I feel almost offended when people say “Oh I’m vegetarian but I sometimes eat fish” or “I’m vegan but I still purchase products tested on animals”.
    To me, if you’re going to label yourself as something, then you should act as such. If you sometimes eat fish or you still buy products tested on animals then you aren’t vegetarian/vegan. I don’t care what actions people take, I mean in an ideal world everyone would be vegan/eat locally/etc but I know it isn’t possible, but I don’t like when they misrepresent themselves.
    All in all, it’s hard for me to accept gray areas when people claim themselves to be something.

  • khushboo March 19, 2011, 6:12 am

    I love this post! For me, eggs aren’t considered vegetarian but I do consider cheese, marshmallows, jello vegetarian! India, they are super strict abt vegetarianism so cheese is considered non-veg (with exception of like boursin) and they make gelatin-free jello! Bottle of pesto sauce are also marked as non-veg! My company sells Barilla products so that really hampers our sales of pesto bottles :s

  • RebekahK March 19, 2011, 7:10 am

    I too think that it is awesome how you have opened an honest debate about a very touchy subject but everyone has been so respectful of one another! For as long as I can remember I have 8-9 times out of ten chosen the veggie option over the meat option when available. More often than not ordering the “veggie plate” at restaurants even as a kid. Other than being different from everyone, I never knew what that made me. I did this mostly due to personal preference however my love for all things animal factored in (especially when it came to meat on a bone which I refused to eat). Apparently I gave up my rights to being a southerner since I didn’t eat fried chicken = )
    I saw the word Flexetarian recently (yes I live under a rock) and I thought “by golly!” that is what I am and I just didn’t know it. I have always been afraid to talk to vegetarians and vegans about recipes and suggestions, afraid of the dreaded holier than thou attitude since I do eat meat occasionally and I could never give up my milk products entirely. It is so refreshing to see a post like this. Kudos to all participating!
    I still am not sure where I am going with my eating habits, but I know that for me it will be hard to be completely vegetarian. My husband is a die hard meat-a-holic although he loves his veggies too. There are times (few and far between) that I get a craving for meat of some sort, and I have felt guilty in the past for indulging like I was breaking some kind of code of conduct. I know that I need to learn to be at peace with listening to my body, all-or-nothing attitudes and expectations get me nowhere. If I beat myself up when I eat meat and feel like a failure it is no different than missing a workout and deciding to quit exercising all together. So here is to being healthy and happy whatever that may mean to each individual!

    • jenATX March 24, 2011, 5:36 pm

      Every now & then I crave a huge, juicy burger topped with cheese… (imagine the sound that Homer makes when he’s drooling & that’s how I feel). I haven’t ordered one in over a year but I will take bites of my family’s burgers just to get the taste. Some people give me a hard time for that & it sucks, but such is life!

  • PoweredbyPeanutButter March 19, 2011, 9:21 am

    This is a really great post, really interesting. I think my grey area was definitely honey, but I have cut that out altogether now. What I’m still not sure about is Vitamin D in things like cereals as I have heard it is animal derived, so I suppose this is my grey area. Its difficult to know where to draw the line I suppose.

  • Zo March 19, 2011, 10:20 am

    I really enjoyed reading this post and comments. I gave up most forms of meat years ago, but still eat poultry. I try to buy beauty products that aren’t tested on animals and dairy products that are RBST free…but the more I read, the trickier I feel all these issues are…so there’s a lot of “gray area” (sometimes these turn out to be areas that I thought were black or white). I do think it’s better to look at it as “doing something” as opposed to “not doing everything”….

  • Kathy @ newlywedindc March 19, 2011, 11:48 am

    I’m more relaxed about those things now. I was a vegetarian for 10ish years, vegan for two of those years, and now for that past year I’ve been eating fish, so I guess I’m pescatarian now. But I finally understand now that labels aren’t important, and everyone has to do what is right for them and make their own choices. Being vegan allowed me to have a pretty obsessive and at times unhealthy relationship with food…a person can go crazy trying to make all the right choices and eliminate so many things from their diet and lifestyle. After awhile, it just got to be too much for me, mentally and emotionally as well as physically. Now, I let the gray area pass by and I’m in a much better state for it. To each their own!

  • Mrs. Muffins March 19, 2011, 9:56 pm

    I love that you posted about this topic. It’s sort of a ‘controversial’ thing, you know!? I’m pretty strict about buying anything that’s tested on animals but I eat cheese, so some people might think I’m a hypocrite or whatever but in my mind, I’m just doing what I can, the best I can. I have no problem using alternatives to products that are tested on animals but some of my favorite foods involve cheese! With that said, I do try to limit my intake of it and try to eat only organic dairy products.


  • Audrey March 20, 2011, 3:59 am

    I’ve been a vegetarian for two years now, and dealt with this ALL the time for the first year and a half. Since I’m a begeatarian, not a vegan, I don’t eed to worry about eggs, dairy, honey, or other stuff that vegeatrains eat but vegans don’t. Still, when I first started people woul say stuff like, well just eat around the meat in the soup or pull off the pepperoni. I couldn’t do that. That meat and parts of the animal have seaped into the food, and what’s worse is since you’re not eating it, you’re wasting food. If any part of the animal was used, I don’t eat it. As for wearing animal skin/fur, that has nothing to do with being a vegetarian/vegan, in my book. One is what you wear the others are what you EAT. What do you think?

  • Kate March 20, 2011, 11:23 am

    I knew a lot of this stuff for years because I grew up with friends that are vegetarian AND keep kosher (p.s. the mom is a WONDERFUL cook).

    Here was the shocker for me, something that WAS Vegetarian…Baco Bits!?! I don’t like them anyway(or bacon very much unless it is on a sandwich or with eggs..otherwise it just overpowers the flavors of food) but a friend was making something and her friend was vegetarian and they were using Baco Bits

  • Ali (Student On A Health Craze) March 20, 2011, 1:09 pm

    I’m pretty strict when it comes to things like gelatin, cheese and non-vegetarian alcohol, but that’s mainly because the gelatin thing creeps me out, and (perhaps luckily) I’m not a fan of any of the non-veggie cheeses/alcohols/soups.

    That said, I have the occasional weak-moment with tuna. About once a year, I’ll just go mental, eat quite a bit, then feel ill and not want it again until the next year rolls around!

  • heather March 20, 2011, 6:03 pm

    I thought the No-Meat Athlete post was a little fear-mongery. Guinness aside, the vast majority of beers are veggie-friendly. Very few jellies and jams are made with gelatin anymore–almost all of them use pectin. Especially if you live in an urban area, most local restaurants are attuned to the beef stock issue and make their vegetable soups with veggie stock. (Chains can be iffy, as can really high-end restaurants. But local cheap and mid-range places are generally good about it.) Very few dressings other than Caesar (outside of high-end restaurants) include surprise meat–why spend money on the bacon when you can make a passable imitation for way cheaper? Even some of the restaurants I’ve worked at have anchovy-free Caesar dressing (mostly because it’s cheaper, not because they have any deep concerns about us vegetarians, haha). A lot of Mexican restaurants have moved away from using lard in their products, although you never know with the more traditional ones.

    I’m pretty low-key about vegetarianism–I’ll pull pepperoni off pizza and still eat it if I’m hungry enough and there are no other options, haha. I try to avoid meat stocks and gelatin and all that stuff, but I won’t stress out if I find out I accidentally consumed some. It’s just food! It’s probably not going to kill you. And I would never ever worry about beer (especially considering I’m not a Guinness fan in the first place!).

  • Elizabeth Jarrard March 21, 2011, 12:58 pm

    I try to say that I “eat a plant based diet” rather than vegan. but saying i’m vegan is easier for people to understand. I like the former wording better because I do drink guiness. I will eat marshmallows. I do eat honey (much better than hfcs) and gasp-i might still buy leather occasionally. People just need to stop being judgmental and just worry about their own lives, morals and convictions. i won’t judge you so don’t judge me

  • jessy March 21, 2011, 3:47 pm

    for me, i can’t say i have a grey area and i believe this is because i’m an ethical vegan. i avoid animal products and always make sure everything i consume is vegan (to my knowledge. when i come across something i’m unsure about i always think, “when it doubt, go without.”) because i don’t take consuming non-human animals or their products lightly. i see all animals as equal with us humans so i try and do my absolute best for all. i’d know each person is their own and has their own ideas, morals, ideals, and perceptions and i say, “live and let live!” instead of judging too harshly.

  • Rachel March 26, 2011, 5:34 pm

    I consider myself vegetarian (not vegan). I’d say I draw a pretty strict vegetarian line for myself: I won’t eat chicken broth (I always ask about soups) or anything with gelatin. On the other hand, I don’t worry about eating a veggie burger cooked on the same grill as a meat burger, because that’s not my meal, and therefore not animals that I caused to be killed.

    I did, however, start wearing leather shoes again after many years (I still don’t wear leather clothes or belts), because I have extremely cranky feet and I had a hard time finding veg shoes that were comfortable, especially sandals. I felt really uncomfortable with this decision for ages, and still look for veg shoes wherever possible.

    I think everyone has to find their own line. Still, I dislike it when someone calls themselves vegetarian but still eats fish, or chicken stock, or that sort of thing – it makes it much harder for the rest of us, who have to deal with the “but my cousin is vegetarian and she eats fish!” comments.

  • Lauren @ Team Giles April 12, 2011, 5:09 pm

    Hold the phone… Honey isn’t vegetarian? Did I miss something?

    p.s. I like your vegetarian views. 😀

  • Catari October 11, 2011, 4:45 pm

    Ha! Great article on one of the more divisive issues among vegetarians/vegans. I try not to judge other vegetarians or vegans since I know that living an animal-free lifestyle involves years of learning. Who makes the choice to give up meat only AFTER thoroughly researching gelatin? Stories about factory farms are usually enough! And why would one immediately assume there would be chicken stock in those mashed potatoes, tomato soup, or veggie sautes? Or that Skittles are vegan but not Starbursts? Mistakes happen and you’ll learn from them!

  • Kathy October 13, 2011, 11:35 am

    Presently my gray area is pretty wide. I have been vegetarian since the mid 90’s and vegan probably about 10 years now. BUT, I do cheat. Living with a carnivore and not having anyone around me who is vegetarian, it gets hard. I do not eat meat or any meat products whatsoever – no gelatin, marshmallows or the like, but I do occasionally eat cheese and regular white sugar. Then I kick myself for doing it. You can’t be 100% perfect 100% of the time. Even automobiles with the interiors and tires have some animal products in them. You have to draw a line somewhere. Life is life and I do strive to do my best, but I will never be perfect.

  • Dynamics October 13, 2011, 11:51 am

    Definitely head over to No Meat Athlete and check out that post and comments. People are adding to it all the time. My biggest shock was GUM. The new, at the time, Trident Layers is NOT vegetarian. Great dialog today.

  • Danielle October 13, 2011, 11:52 am

    I try and avoid leather and I avoid gelatin as much as I can (though I have a maaaaajor love for gummy candy). I always check cheese labels for rennet, but I had no idea about the fish bladders used to make beer. I can’t say I’m vehemently on one side or the other but I always like to think about these things.

  • Laura October 13, 2011, 11:57 am

    So interesting – had no idea about Guinness or parmiggiano-reggiano. I’m vegetarian, but I’m pretty lax about things like marshmallows, gelatin and apparently parmiggiano-reggiano. I usually try to not eat marshmallows or gelatin just because they’re not whole foods anyway, but I don’t see myself cutting them out entirely. And I’m still kind of bad about buying leather, although I feel awful.

    You’re right though – everyone has to draw their own lines. Diet is such a personal choice, and who are we to judge what’s right for someone else? What matters to me is that I’m making the choices most right for me.

  • Elizabeth @ reads recipes runs October 13, 2011, 12:54 pm

    Love this post! I think that people can be so judgemental about someone else’s diet or what they define it as. Who cares! That’s one of the huge issues I had when I was vegan/vegetarian… people would be like Well did you know if you eat THIS then you AREN’T?!? Really though, define your diet however you want. You need to eat what’s best for you! And that’s more than just nutrition, it’s what’s best for your beliefs and lifestyle.

  • Heather @ Better With Veggies October 13, 2011, 1:29 pm

    This is a common topic recently – it’s interesting because people are starting to be nervous about the labels they use, simply because others can be so judgmental sometimes. I wrote a similar post recently, as I don’t eat meat, dairy, or eggs (but am very nervous about the vegan label). I personally avoid all food items that have gelatin and the like in them, but every person has to make that decision for themselves. I don’t ever want to become the judgy person, I just want to be knowledgeable about my choices and share good food with others. 🙂

  • Kerin December 13, 2011, 3:10 pm

    I know this post is a little older but I like the way you talk about this subject. I am a meat eater but only sparingly and I’m very particular of where it comes from and how it was raised. I also will not eat lamb or calf and I am trying to move away from beef altogether. I appreciate the conversation and it helps to also see the variety of meals that you cook.

  • steww February 22, 2012, 12:44 pm

    Interesting topic. Grey area sums it up as well. I suppose for me it’s what I ingest. I wear by products of the cruelty industry and probably use plenty but try not to eat or drink any.
    Honestly you could drive yourself mad though. How many harvest mice are killed and made homeless every harvest? Should I therefore eat no crops involved in their slaughter? Is the fertilizer used to grow the crops I eat derived from deaf fish and so on and on.
    So I don’t over think it. I go as far as I can. Cruelty free food and drink and cosmetics.

  • Kate February 24, 2012, 1:29 pm

    I was a vegetarian for quite some time, and even though the jellying substances derived from animals were secondary (rather than primary) products, I avoided them anyway.
    I still never hopped on the whole vegan train, growing up surrounded by farms (and living on one) gave me what I like to (humbly) consider a devils-advocate opinion on the matter.

    While most vegans refuse dairy/eggs (well, most of my vegan friends) is because of the dismal conditions in which many of these animals live in. I.E. poor milking conditions for cattle, and poultry confined to very crowded squalor.

    HOWEVER! What I remind them that while this is an excellent reason to not purchase products from companies that exacerbate these issues (in the case that more localized, animal-friendly conditions are not offered at an affordable and obtainable price and place), there are some flaws with the whole “I refuse dairy and eggs because it is cruel to hurt/take from animals”.
    For one, cows enjoy being milked. Same as sheep need to be sheared. Without these human-inflicted actions, they would be overheated or in pain. (with the exception of sheep 100s of years ago, who had much thinner coats because they were not bred to produce thick wool).
    In addition, I have a slight suspicion that some of my (less informed) “vegan” friends don’t consume eggs/egg products because they are “baby chickens”. This too, is untrue. A chicken produces an egg (in some cases, daily) regardless of whether or not a rooster has fertilized it. What we use for consumption are laid, unfertilized eggs. The same way a human woman has a period – the evacuation of an unfertilized egg. A chicken has no need for these! (not in the ways that say, bees have for honey).

    Food for thought.
    I’m ready for the firestorm of vegan critique.

  • Elizabeth May 26, 2012, 11:33 pm

    I think it’s awesome you do what you want And don’t worry about rules but rather what you are comfortable with!

  • Alexandria Vegetarian Bagpiper September 7, 2012, 10:28 am

    I try not to use anything animal based if I can, but like you posted, there are so many things that are it is almost impossible. I do try to seek vegan alternatives where I can though.

  • Margo November 11, 2012, 2:12 am

    I’m a new vegetarian…only stopped eating meat about 6 moths ago and I’m still learning what I will or wont eat. I stopped buying makeup and things from companies i know test on animals years ago, and though I’m sure I buy things from companies that do sometimes I try very hard to stick to companies I know do not. I just learned about marshmallows having gelatin so I’m not eating them or jello or other things I know have gelatin in it, I feel for myself that if I don’t eat meat I can’t eat bones. I also don’t wear fur or leather BUT I have leather coats and things that I have had before I stopped buying it so I will still wear that since I already owned it but I will not buy any leather or fur now ( I never bought fur before either) this all might change as I learn more and decide what my “grey area” is. right now I still eat eggs,and cheese, milk,honey ect, and I don’t disagree w/ eating milk or eggs ect but I do have problems w/ how they are treated and what they put in it that is bad for us humans, I get eggs often from a local man I know who has chickens for eggs and as pets and I do not feel any guilt about eating them or honey however like I said I’m a newbie and still learning so my views I’m sure will change as I learn more I’m not sure where my view will go yet but I think milk and cheese might be cut out someday, not because i feel we shouldn’t eat or drink it but because of how the animals are treated in those factory farms.

  • Scott November 29, 2012, 6:19 pm

    I basically consider myself an at-home vegan (or as close to it as possible) and an out-on-the-town vegetarian. When I’m out at the grocery store, I try to avoid dairy (even in chocolate or crackers, etc.), eggs, anything with gelatin, and of course any meat or fish. I do eat honey which I guess is not really vegan. When I eat out, I will have eggs and cheese (even parmesan occasionally), and it’s possible some of the vegetable soups I’ve ordered at a restaurant may have had chicken stock or something like that in it without my knowledge. Definitely have avoided Caesar salads and stuff like that because I knew the dressing had anchovies.

    But of course I’m always learning new things (it’s only been almost eight months since I decided to go vegetarian) and there’s definitely huge grey areas. For instance, my mother sometimes sends me some food in the mail including hot chocolate mixes which do contain milk and nuts & bolts (basically a snack mix with cereal, nuts, and pretzels) that, after eating a bunch of it, I found out had Worcestershire sauce on it. She didn’t know that that has anchovies in it (although now she does) but I did finish eating the batch because I felt it would be almost more wasteful to throw it out. I didn’t know about the isinglass issue about beer and wine until recently, but I haven’t really gone out of my way to avoid those beers/ wines. I do like a few dark beers that probably are made that way and I probably won’t stop drinking them.

    I also totally buy leather but will probably find another material for my shoes, furniture, belts, etc. once these current products wear out. Fur has always made me cringe, which I realize is a bit hypocritical of me at this point given my leather weakness.

    I’d prefer bath products like soap and shampoo and antiperspirant and whatnot that don’t involve animal testing but they’re hard to find and it’s hard to know which companies don’t test on animals (I cynically assume most do). I know the Body Shop is against animal testing so I like to buy stuff there but the downside is it’s terribly expensive and somewhat inconvenient to get to so I don’t always do that.

    So yeah. I feel like I’m doing my part and nobody’s perfect and whatever you are doing to prevent animal cruelty and make the world a more efficient/ less terrible place is admirable to me and keep doing that! Whoooo!

  • SashaD January 23, 2013, 4:56 pm

    I am new to being a vegan, so right now my gray area is pretty large! It’s all very new, and I don’t want to get overwhelmed and quit, so I am taking it in baby steps. I try to be “glass half full” about it and focus on the fact that I am trying to be better, rather than chastising myself or others for not being completely vegan. It’s always better to do something than to do nothing!!

  • Michael @ Changes in Longitude June 6, 2013, 12:52 pm

    Marshmallows are so confusing. I tried to find some for a vegetarian friend. I learned the kosher ones are made with fish gelatin and the halal ones are made with beef gelatin. I never realized gelatin was animal-based in the first place.

  • Cindy July 5, 2013, 12:07 pm

    I am trying to be vegetarian and I recently found out about mcdonalds fries and their animal flavoring…ugh. I don’t eat gelatin, and I don’t eat anything to my knowledge to have animal products in it. Other than eggs or cheese. I’m actually trying to get off of dairy now since you really don’t need dairy products. I do drink red wines and I haven’t looked up which ones are vegetarian and which ones aren’t, but I’m sure I’ll look it up one day if it really starts to bug me lol!

  • Lindsay July 21, 2013, 10:25 pm

    With out bees and honey, most produce wouldn’t exist! It’s not easy to be vegetarian. How dare people judge each other. To each their own. It’s only that persons business what they choose to put in and on their body

  • Tricia January 25, 2014, 7:55 pm

    I disagree with most of these posts. I find it annoying that people call themselves vegetarians when they are not because it confuses the general public so much. It’s like saying you are a virgin but enjoy the occasional one night stand. Or that you are the shop manager when you are his/her employee. Or like saying you are a graduate when you don’t have a degree. So please you people who are not veggie, do not say that you are! I just don’t know why you pretend.

  • joel tolhurst February 20, 2014, 3:34 pm

    i think its wrong that people can judge, its like being back in the stone age, i don’t label myself, at this moment i don’t eat meat and i’ve cut out dairy, but the reasons for me being vegetarian is my own personal reason, so no one can judge me if one day i do eat meat, no1 is perfect even animals eat other animals, as humans we have survived for thousands of years eating animals, i think that the way we treat our planet and those on it now is terrible, but if i put a marshmallow in my mouth i wont feel bad.

  • Star March 26, 2014, 7:27 pm

    I just wanted to say (in case no one else did) that not all beer has isinglass (you can check to see what brands are safe) & they do make vegan marshmellows. There’s two brands Dandies and Sweet & Sara
    You can even get vegan peeps (called Veeps) & smores from Sweet & Sara!

  • Hermilie smith March 31, 2014, 3:08 am

    I have no idea about this as I had never tasted this but I am thinking it may be non -vegetarian. But I think it will be tasty enough. Keep on sharing new and interesting things with us.

  • Amanda's Imagery May 18, 2014, 3:24 pm

    Vegetarianism is a lifestyle choice for us and has been for over two years (I find we have progessively gotten striceter and move a bit more towards veganism as time progresses), but we choose to not allow it to get in the way of living a normal and relaxed life too. No vegan marshmellows for the campfire? We will deal with it. Guinness is all there is for beer option…? We will have a glass. We will not eat meat directly ever… but these gray areas where small parts are from animal… we do the best we can. Ideally homemade marshmellows and beer… but seriously… most don’t have the resources to have these things all the time. Do I find it repulsive these things have fish bladder and cow intestine in them… Um yes…. its repulsive. Maybe further on this journey I will not be able to bring myself to consume them longer. Let’s be real…. it just sounds gross.

  • Ruby Peterson May 24, 2014, 1:27 am

    I’m with you!! First off, I don’t judge anyone else – how they choose to eat is entirely their business!! I became Vegan last July – “cold turkey” LOL. This decision was solely for health reasons – I am hoping to lower my cholesterol levels – eating no cholesterol. (I know our body produces cholesterol). I have leather and small bits of fur (more than 20 yrs old) and I don’t freak out when I realize I’ve eaten a healthy homemade cookie that may have one egg in 48 cookies!! I don’t eat Soy products either so I make my own faux meats – they’re incredible! Even my husband thinks they taste like meat. After eating meat for 60 yrs I still like the “taste” of chicken and BACON!! and I don’t apologize for that! My family eats meat – I don’t. I don’t judge them and gradually they are judging me less and less. My surprise bonus is that I lost 17 lbs in the first 3 months and have maintained that without starving my self or becoming an exercise fanatic, or . . . . . . . giving up beer and wine! 🙂

  • Elli England May 30, 2014, 2:27 am

    Thank you! You’ve voiced what I’ve been struggling with for so long. I’ve never met so many judgmental people than when I decided to not eat meat, which was a ridiculously personal, and very complicated decision. I still eat fish. And I still haven’t been able to kick my Jello habit. God forbid if I have to quit drinking my British Ales.

    Giving up meat was hard. It was a sacrifice. I admit, I loved bacon and rare steak. I still love the smell. But I hate how our food is farmed. I decided to make my own sacrifice, in hopes of in some small way, reducing the suffering of a few other animal. I don’t judge anyone by the food they eat, or don’t eat, and find it really surprising that people tend to want to find some failing when they realize I don’t buy meat. Having to constantly defend what I put in my mouth is exhausting, but makes me more adamant to stay the course.

  • Reagan Kanter June 9, 2014, 3:00 pm

    Hello! I have been vegetarian for almost 3 years now, and I have dabbled in both being vegan and being on a completely raw diet. Dairy is a large part of my diet that I am slowly trying to phase out. I own a pair of shoes that have leather, and occasionally I eat products with gelatin in them. I haven’t done much research in alcoholic beverages, but there are websites that have lists of drinks that tell you if they are vegan or not. I want to stop using animal products completely, but I honestly don’t know what to take out first.

  • magwitch October 15, 2014, 3:51 am

    It’s great that we can all choose our own “Grey area”. However, on a very basic basic level, if you put any kind of flesh in your mouth, please do not call yourself a vegetarian. It really takes a basic definition and muddies every aspeclt of of that definition. I’m growing a little tired of being told the caterer sent along a tuna sandwich for my vegetarian lunch. These labels serve to create clarity, and when people decide they want to tell everyone they’re vegan this week, for instance, and then eat a bunch of chocolate the next, it really confuses the hell out of everyone (especially the carnivores, who don’t have a clue). Eat whatever you want…no one will stop you, but show some respect for the values that these labels carry while you’re figuring out your diet. It can’t ALL be great area.

  • Mike April 4, 2015, 9:49 am

    Thanks for the article. I think that we are going to have to declare marshmallows to be okay. The vegan alternative runs $1/oz versus $1/lbs for the non-vegan type.
    My Dad tells a story about a Catholic fellow that he worked with at North American Aircraft Company in the 60s. In the 60s the Catholics were very big on only eating fish on Friday (still practiced, but not to the same extent). One Friday a coworker was making a run to the local burger joint and bringing back hamburgers for the crew. Dad’s Catholic friend went ahead and ordered a hamburger. Dad asked him about eating the hamburger when they all sat down to lunch and his friend reverently bowed his head and said “Lord bless this fish” and then moved on.
    The moral of the story is obvious. I think that we will also pray that the Lord blesses our vegetarian efforts and move forward with eating marshmallows in good conscience.

  • DeeAnn June 29, 2015, 2:49 am

    I’m an “ovo-lacto vegetarian”. I do the best I can, and I don’t use leather products. I figure if I don’t know something has dead animals in it, then I forgive myself. For example, I order vegetarian options at restaurants, and I usually ask if they’ve used meat broths. I look at labels on processed foods before buying them. But…..if I forget to ask specifically, or if I’m eating at a friend’s home or at a catered event, sometimes I’ve been served things that have animal bits. I don’t over worry and I don’t make a big fuss. I remember a friend made a chicken dish as a main dish and she asked me why I wasn’t eating it. “Chicken isn’t meat is it?” I’ve been a veg since 1980, and it’s definitely much easier now. I used to grind soybeans and rice to make my own veggie burgers!

  • Emma October 20, 2015, 3:16 pm

    My gray areas in life pretty much went away when I was diagnosed with Type2 diabetes. 10 years of strict vegetarianism — loads of vegetables — and complete proteins such as beans and rice. The carbs killed my system. There aren’t very many vegetarians proteins that aren’t also high in carbs. (a lifetime of tofu). Eggs and meat were back on my plate to save my life. I felt guilty for years.

Healthy Tipping Point