What can I give a vegan?

When we’re selling our products in person we often get interest from people shopping for their vegan friend, coworker or family member, and they are not quite sure what vegan is – they just know that their friend or loved one often has difficulty finding tasty treats to eat!

A vegan diet is plant-based and avoids all products derived from animals of any kind, which means in addition to avoiding meat (mammals, poultry and fish), they do not eat products that contain eggs, milk, butter or honey among other things. Be sure to read labels carefully because products readily found in the grocery store, bakeries or restaurants often contain dairy...even when you wouldn’t expect it – such as in rolls or bread. You can scan to the bottom to see if they contain “milk” or “eggs” to quickly rule out a lot of popular products, then go back and review those that don’t list either for other potential animal-based ingredients. The FDA requires that the most common allergens be clearly identified under the ingredients section, which include milk (dairy) and eggs. Other common allergens you’ll notice that must be clearly identified per the FDA include fish, shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans. Granola bars, trail mixes, cookies and cereals are the more common foods that frequently contain honey, so be sure to review those labels extra carefully.

Veganism, for many people, often follows a spectrum and you may find that the person is working their way towards a completely vegan lifestyle but may not be there yet, and may still consume some things such as fish or bakery products with eggs or butter. Always ask if you are unsure! They’d be happy to tell you rather than inadvertently eat something they stopped eating. And always be sure to ask again over time as they may have eliminated things they used to eat since the last time you prepared food for them.

Another popular plant based diet is vegetarian. Vegetarians do not eat animal flesh – so no meat, but generally will eat dairy products and/or eggs and/or honey. Some will eat fish, though they may refer to themselves as pescatarian if they eat fish but not mammals (beef, pork, etc.) or poultry.

You may have noticed some products labeled “plant based”. Plant based products by definition are derived from plants, so rely on plants as a protein source instead of animal products. A plant-based “cheese” for example, is usually vegan. However, while a plant based diet focuses on eating more vegetables, fruits, seeds and grains, it does not necessarily mean eliminating animal products completely. Be sure to read the label carefully! Plant based is often a term used by people wishing to reduce their consumption of animal products for health or environmental reasons, but not necessarily eliminate animal products from their diet or life entirely.

When shopping for non-food gifts for a vegan, your safest bet is to buy things that are either labeled as vegan or “cruelty free” or clearly not derived from animals (e.g. made from glass or cloth). For example, while artificial leather is not made from animal skins, the glues used in shoes and sneakers often contain elements derived from livestock’s hooves. Mattresses contain wool, etc. Eyes shadow and other makeup products often get their color from crushed beetle wings. Depending on the person’s motivation for being vegan (improved health versus environment or animal welfare) they may have, or be working towards, completely avoiding these products. Fortunately there are more and more options in fashion, beauty care and household products that are clearly identified as vegan to choose from than there were just a few years ago.

We hope you found some useful information here to make shopping or preparing foods a little less confusing for your friend or loved one!