I suspect many people haven’t tried the animal substitute vegan products I talked about last week. But this week—even though we are still talking vegan products—may be different. I’m betting you’ve tried, or at least heard of many of the vegan snacks and other items below. Likely, however, you didn’t give a thought one way or another to the fact that they were vegan. And if you haven’t tried the items, it is more food adventure and experimentation for you.
Everyone has heard of Nutella. I know people just love it. Interestingly, I have never tried it. However, after one of my conversations with W—the woman I talked about last week who I met in Alabama—she brought me a jar of Nutiva. Nutiva is also a hazelnut spread but this brand is organic, dairy-free, non-GMO and vegan. Both brands are gluten free.
Further, both products use palm oil. However, Nutella uses regular palm oil. Palm oil, as you may know, is responsible for about 8% of the world’s deforestation. In fact, it is recognized as so destructive that the EU recently banned it. Though vegan (it’s comes from the fruit of oil palm trees), most vegans will not eat it because sourcing it is so harmful to animals who live in those rain forests. Nutiva uses Palm Done Right brand palm oil which is sourced in a way that no habitat is destroyed.
It comes in two flavors: original and dark. I tried both and both are very good. But the dark is my favorite.
After I wrote this post originally, I wrote one about international volunteering I wanted to try. One such place is with orangutans in Borneo. Babies by the hundreds are left orphaned by the deforestation of their habitat in order to make room for palm tree to be grown. It’s a issue worth exploring if you are interested.
Tofu seems to be one of those things people love or hate. Whenever I talk to someone who squarely falls on the “hate” side of the debate, I ask them how they tried it. Because, yes, plain tofu can be utterly bland and have an unusual consistency. But here’s the thing about tofu. It is sponge-like and will absorb whatever flavoring or sauce it’s put in. Having a great sauce can make tofu incredibly palatable and downright yummy. Tofu is a great way to increase the protein, soy and non-dairy calcium in your diet. It also has fiber and omega-3 fatty acids.
But the entry for this list isn’t about plain tofu. I’ve always only purchased the plain. But a couple months ago, on a whim, I bought a package of Baked Tofu in the refrigerator section of the fruit and veggie section next to regular plain tofu. You know how it is? Sometimes you are in the mood to try something new, something you’ve never tried before. Honestly, I wasn’t even sure what the heck I was supposed to do with baked tofu.
But a few days later I was having a salad so I crumbled a bit of the baked tofu over it and it was fantastic. You could eat it plain, I suppose, since it comes already flavored. Anyway, since it comes ready-to-eat which can be super convenient when you are in a hurry or don’t feel like cooking, I thought it was a good addition to the list.
Amazon doesn’t sell it. So the link is to the company that I see the most in stores, Nasoya Baked Tofu, so you’ll know what it looks like. Trader Joe’s also has their own brand of baked tofu.
In the last six months or so, I’ve been looking for vegan products to use as a meal substitute to have on hand for days I’m in a hurry and, particularly, for travel days. I watch a lot of hiking videos and saw several people eating Larry and Lenny’s The Complete Cookie so I ordered some. They were better than okay but I wouldn’t call them great. Though vegan, they use protein powder to tout their 16 grams of protein per cookie. And I just do not like protein powder. To my palate, there is always an aftertaste.
So, after my second box of The Complete Cookie, I was happy to discover the ProBar Meal. These are so good. Dense and filled with good things like oats, fruit, greens, seeds. They are organic, gluten-free, non-GMO. And best of all: no protein powder.
I buy the variety pack with one each of 12 flavors. However, that said, I do have my favorites. They are Chocolate Coconut, Banana Nut Bread and Superberry with Greens. If you are looking for travel or adventure day food that is easy to take on the go, filling and still tasty, you might want to give the ProBar Meal a try.
Since I wrote the post, I have tried to get away from these types of foods and stick more to the whole food plant-based more natural foods. That said, I still really like the Pro Meals. Additionally, I have added Bobo bars to my must-have bars to keep on hand. I’m partial to the oat bites.
Like processed foods in general, Kale Chips can be a high in sodium. But as a once-in-a-while snack, they are great. They can also be a little expensive but when they go on sale you can snag a really good deal. One time at a store in Albuquerque called Sprouts (fantastic grocery store if you ever come across one) I found them for half off. That day, I stocked up.
They are a good potato chip alternative and made with the superfood kale. Plus. they aren’t fried. They are air-dried. While most brands are pretty good, my favorite is Brad’s Kale Chips. They come in several flavors including Vampire Killer (garlic, obviously), Cheeze It Up, Nacho, Radical Ranch, Original and Naked. I like all of them but Naked is my favorite.
To be honest, I almost forgot about kale chips until reviewing this post. I’ve had friends who’ve said you can make tasty kale chips in air fryers. It isn’t something I have tried but I cannot imagine the those really capture the goodness of the bagged ones. They would, however, have a lot less sodium. Have you ever made your own?
As a vegan, I thought it meant not having chocolate since I assumed all chocolate was made with milk products. Not so. Let me share two of my favorites:
- First, in the colder months I love drinking a cup of hot chocolate sitting in my bed in the evening. (Hot chocolate and air-popped non-GMO popcorn sprinkled with Bragg Liquid Aminos (highlighted last week) are my two go-to winter night snacks.) I tried several brands of vegan hot chocolate mix before landing on my favorite. I love Coconut Cloud Hot Cocoa. It comes in two flavors: Toasted Marshmallow and Regular. I’d love to see them do a dark chocolate version. You mix it with water or nut milk. I use unsweetened soy milk. The company also offers powder creamers (which might be nice to have on hand for those time you run out of liquid coffee creamer) and lattes that all look pretty scrumptious too. Next winter I might try the Spiced Chai Tea Latte. Doesn’t that sound good?
- Second, I found excellent vegan chocolate bars from a company called Lily’s. I’ve only tried the Salted Almond Extra Dark Chocolate (70% cocoa). It is bitter and not too sweet which can help from the temptation of eating too much. There are many of the bars that would be fun to try. Plus, they make baking chips. All of their products are sweetened with Stevia so there is no added sugar. Additionally, their chocolate is Fair Trade and non-GMO. One caution, however. The brand has lots of chocolate bar flavors and only a few are vegan.
I still haven’t tried the Spiced Chai Tea Latte. It still sounds good and I remain loyal to the hot chocolate though haven’t found myself having it as much this winter as in winters past. I don’t have the chocolate bar plain but continue to enjoy it for cooking.
Most Surprising Vegan Snacks
The following two products are called “accidentally vegan.” While they are vegan, you won’t find them advertised or packaged as such.
I was shocked when I learned Oreo Cookies were vegan. I’d have bet everything in my bank account they weren’t. After all, that creamy slightly greasy center seems like it must made with lard, sugar and milk. I still don’t exactly know what it’s made of. But whatever it is, it isn’t any part animal. So, enjoy Oreos.
The other surprise—though not as surprising to me as the Oreos—was learning that some Pop Tarts were vegan. Again, I would’ve bet the outside crust had lard or butter. One note, however, with Pop Tarts. Not all flavors are vegan. None of the frosted ones are because the frosting uses milk and gelatin. However, the unfrosted strawberry, blueberry and brown sugar cinnamon all are.
Fun fact and coincidentally, when Pop Tarts came out in 1964, these three were among the four original flavors. Apple currant was the fourth original flavor.
Most Surprising NOT Vegan Products
Even though I’ve known this for a while, I’m still always a little puzzled and shocked when I think about. There are many more but two products I’d be sure were “accidentally vegan” were wine and Cheerios. Good thing I didn’t bet the farm or I’d have lost the farm.
Part of the wine-making process includes filtering, called fining. Fining agents include fish bladders, gelatin, egg whites and casein (a milk protein). As I understand it, there are easy vegan alternatives and I saw an interview with a woman whose mission it is to help wine makers understand this and help them make the switch.
Wine-making is an old practice and the fining process is often a matter of “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” I think slowly many wineries, especially ones that already advertise minimal use of pesticides and other chemicals, will transition to a non-animal fining process.
That said, I freely admit to drinking wine (you just don’t see much vegan wine or, I should say, advertised vegan wine). And, when visiting a winery, it never yet has occurred to me to ask about their fining process. When I’m there, I just enjoy the libation and the atmosphere.
As I’ve said before, I’m far from the perfect vegan I wish to be. Wine falls under The Cheese Clause I mentioned last week.
I don’t eat Cheerios. Still, it is always the example I cite to others when I’m talking about how tons of products use animals without most of us realizing it. And it isn’t on the label in a way you’d recognize, making them hidden non-vegan.
The first time someone told me Cheerios weren’t vegan, I thought surely the person was mistaken. I mean, how could they not be? But that’s the thing about hidden animal products in food…they are hidden and not on the label as something you’d recognize as animal. In the case of Cheerios, they extract Vitamin D3 from lanolin which is from sheep’s wool. It’s also called wool wax or wool yolk which I’d never heard of before. Further, if the sugar in Cheerios is white cane sugar, the process of making it white is done with calcium carbonate which comes from the bones of animals.
Can you start to see how difficult it is when it comes to hidden non-vegan products? Not all vegan products (like Oreos and Pop Tarts) carry the vegan labeling. Likewise, not all non-vegan products are labeled in a way you can easily identify them as using animals. I feel lucky that I can look things up on the internet as so much as been written about so many products. Makes you wonder how vegans figured all this out pre-internet.
An Awesome Non-Food Vegan Product
Recently I was watching videos of Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers. One hiker, Mary Mansfield, is a vegan. In a gear video she created before walking, she talked about how she didn’t want to buy a down-filled jacket or sleeping bag as nearly all hikers do because it wasn’t vegan.
I’ll be honest, that never would’ve occurred to me. I hope to get there but right now I’m still concentrating my efforts on figuring out all the hidden animal products in food.
Anyway, the most popular long distant hiking shoe was another gear item she didn’t want to use because it wasn’t vegan. Even shoes that don’t use leather often use glue rendered from animals. She decided to hike in Brooks brand sneakers. (Link is to company website.)
That made me sit up and take notice. I’ve been a Brooks devotee for more than 20 years. Brooks Ariel for over-pronators is my shoe of choice (with an insert for high arch support) and adore them. I was so happy to learn that nearly every Brooks shoe is vegan. I didn’t think I could be a bigger fan of the shoe. Yet, after learning that, I am.
Your Thoughts on Vegan Products?
I love to hear your thoughts on any of these products or other vegan products you love.
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Really enjoy your blog Debbie. As an Oliver owner myself (Hull #355) I find your blog interesting, helpful, informative and fun. Please keep up the good work!
Oh, Andrew, thank you for the nice comment. I’m glad you enjoy it. Maybe our Olivers will cross paths someday on the road. I’d love to meet in person.
Thanks for the info. Didn’t you just love the Mary Mansfield PCT posts? I so looked forward to each days adventure and beautiful photography.
That’s awesome someone else enjoyed Mary. I continue to follow and enjoy her videos. I’ve watch several YouTubers who’ve done the PCT and I find I really enjoy those who vlog daily. Have you seen Sara Dhooma? Her trail name is Carmen, as in “Where in the world is Carmen San Diego?” She is a full-time hiker and also a lot of fun to follow. Thanks for the comment, Gloris.
Nice post Debbie, thanks! I too follow Mary Mansfield! I love her “Goooood morning”! Her PCT hike last year was incredible and I sure enjoy her posts/videos. I’m in Oregon but sure can’t imagine through hiking. I’ll check out your other suggestion. I’m not vegan, or even vegetarian as I still eat organic/free range/pasture raised chicken/turkey, dairy, eggs. This was a good eye-opening post as I do like the idea of less animal products. Real nice to know about Brooks – they are a great company. Thanks!
That’s awesome. Have you continued to watch her? She’s getting out a little and doing some hikes in England which are fun to see. I especially enjoy them because I’ve never been to England. Another Brooks fan, that’s great. Taken care and thanks for saying hello. I mean…”Gooooood morning.”
Gooood Morning! Oh yes, still follow her! I too enjoy seeing England. I wish I could be there hiking with her as I’m sure it would be fun. I like her minimalist ways as well. Have a great day!
You certainly packed this entry chock-full of information and ideas! It’s nice to see this stuff online. It gives me hope for wider spread progress.
One of the books I read early on was entitled, “Vegan Freak” by Bob and Jenna Torres, who both seemed to drop out of site. They have been offline publicly since 2009 and seem determined not to resurface. For a while they had a web site (I think I remember that correctly) and a radio program, but those disappeared, too.
What was shocking to me reading their book, as you mention, is animal products get used all over the place, in places and things hardly believable. One conclusion of “Vegan Freak” was: it’s pretty much impossible to be a “complete” vegan, no matter how hard you try. They also raised the issue of what do “ethical vegans” do with all the things they may have accumulated prior to taking the vegan plunge? Destroy them on principle, continue to use them to avoid “wasting” an animal’s sacrifice, give them away or donate them to spare an additional animal life. One that would otherwise be killed to produce a similar item? Quite a quandary.
I guess I mostly adhere to the 80 / 20 principle. I came at this from a purely health standpoint after a colonoscopy scare. With no help, encouragement, or even acknowledgment from my physician: “Just keep eating what you’re eating and come back in 3 years”, he said. Didn’t sound right to me so I found a book by the doctor (Hiromi Shinya) who performed the first colonoscopy, actually invented the technique and equipment, and found he was a proponent of radically changing the way we eat to avoid a second “bad” colonoscopy. The info in his book made sense to me. It’s a bit dated now, but it got me on the path. The Whole Food, Plant based movement and my wife’s cooking generally keeps me on the right path, health wise and food wise.
I haven’t eaten a meat, fish, dairy, or similar entree item since 2012 however, I know there’s dairy hiding in many restaurant meals, but I can only swim upstream until my strength runs out, and it can be exhausting avoiding things if eating out a lot. I’ve been doing this so long now that I forget that others still eat real meat and dairy sometime, so I sometimes forget to ask the waitress to hold the cheese, etc. When it arrives, rather than send it back due to my own oversight, or perhaps tempt a kitchen worker whose having a bad day or has a bias against vegans, I simply segregate things on my plate and eat as little of the offending item as possible. When health is the primary motivator, 95% essentially reaches the goal. I’m a bit less a stickler for non-food, non-vegan stuff, but I rationalize this by thinking that the animals are being killed for their meat, so their ancillary products would otherwise go to waste.
Anyway, this is pretty long compared to your other comments, so I hope I’m not going to break the interface pasting this into the comment box.
Live long, healthy, and prosper.
Thank you B for such a long and thoughtful comment. I stop in at used books stops now and again so I’ll keep my eye out for Vegan Freak. (Love the title.) Most of the books I’ve read on the subject are from doctors such as The China Study, Eat to Live and one that’s on my to read this is the Blue Zones. I have seen ethical vegans go through that same dilemma in some of the Facebook groups I’m in.
And I love your approach. It’s sound. I can see where, if you obsessed about all the hidden dairy and other animal products, you might not be doing your health any favors. Stress is as big of a factor as food for many people. I’m sorry you had a scary colonoscopy but, the silver lining for sure was how it opened your eyes to the ways you could help influence your own health. I have heard so many stories that were similar, where doctors take a wait and see approach or say keep doing what you’re doing rather than trying to be proactive. On the other hand, I’ve heard interviews with frustrated doctors who don’t often talk about food as medicine to the patients because people for the most part would rather take a pill than give up the food that is killing them.
So glad you commented on the two vegan posts.
Hopefully, your doctor didn’t tell you that. The preponderance of evidence is generally considered to be the opposite, although who knows anything for sure these days? The phytoestrogen from plant sources has the remarkable capability of binding, and thus blocking, estrogen receptors, thereby eliminating any of the negative estrogen reactions we typically think of that are actually only caused by synthetic or natural animal estrogens. So, no need to fear tofu (fermented bean curd). This has become as much a political topic as a scientific one, so I guess it comes down to who and what you believe. Different strokes for different folks, as they say. We all dance to our own drummer. Best wishes.
Yep, B, I have heard it explained how you said it. There are two kinds of estrogen that binds to cells. One is bad and one is good. And that’s where the confusion comes in. So many doctors tell patients not to consume soy because of the estrogen. I heard the science explained by Dr. Kristi Funk (a leading breast cancer specialist). I wish I could remember exactly how she said it. It was precise but still in a way a non-doctor could understand. She’s seen the most extreme cases of breast cancer and she is a strong proponent of eating soy.
I did a little research and found another interview with Dr. Funk regarding soy. This is just two minutes long but it also speaks to why so many doctors are confused and, wrongly, tell there patients not to consume it. Hope you find it useful. This is a YouTube clip from her visit to the Rachel Ray show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDiS84Y3GC4 And here is another one when she was on Good Morning American https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MsBxa3gDxZg