Before coming to college, I had only been vegan a couple months and was nervous about how to maintain this lifestyle while living on the school’s campus, eating off their meal plan, and not even having a kitchen. Little did I know, being vegan in college turned out to be just as easy as being back at my house. Of course, everyone’s school is different, but here are the tips that make veganism a breeze for me while living at school
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the dining hall. This is my number one tip because I automatically assume foods are not vegan until proven otherwise. For example, I went the first couple months of school asking for the same dressing on my salad before finally finding out that the school uses a certain brand and EVERY dressing at the salad bar is vegan! If I had asked sooner, perhaps I wouldn’t be tired of balsamic vinaigrette by now ;)
- Make yourself known. I also recommend finding out who is in charge of campus dining and contacting them to let them know you are vegan. I discovered the head of the dining program at my school was having a meeting open to any students who wanted to discuss the food on campus. I took the initiative of attending and bringing a couple other people I knew were vegan so that the staff was aware of our existence. The school is not going to go out of their way to provide vegan options if they don’t know any vegans on campus. Even if you are just one person, find their phone number or e-mail and just let them know you are here! They will often be eager to help you and interested in what you have to recommend. Have some easy suggestions for them such as not putting butter on the vegetables or providing alternatives to dairy milk.
- Have easy staples/ snacks on hand. It’s never a bad idea to keep some food in your room for those days when you just don’t feel like eating at the cafeteria. If you’re like me though, the only cooking method you have access to is a microwave. My lazy ideas might be bagels or toast and peanut butter, canned soups, fresh fruits, cereal and almond milk, microwaved sweet potatoes, and oatmeal. I also suggest keeping an apple or granola bar in your bag in case you need a quick snack between classes.
- Find your go-to places in the dining hall. While there are plenty of options for vegans to eat on campus, I like to have a couple places I know I can eat something at any time of day and I have my order ready. This way, if I am in a rush or just don’t feel like searching for options elsewhere, I have a go-to. My personal favorite is my school’s salad bar. The bases and toppings are different from day-to-day, but I always know I am able to get something healthy and satisfying. Another of my basic places is a smoothie joint. Unfortunately, not a lot of their smoothie options are vegan because they throw in whey- protein powder, yogurt, or ice cream, so I typically ask to create my own and always specify non-dairy milk!
- Keep it simple. If you are not on a meal plan or eating in a dining hall, make sure you are filling your kitchen will meal ideas that are quick and easy. Chances are, college will keep you stressed out and busy. Therefore, you are not going to feel motivated to spend a ton of time cooking extravagant food. Stock up on staples such as potatoes, oatmeal, fruits, or any foods you enjoy that can be made with little effort. While some of those may not seem like the most exciting foods, they can taste delicious with the right seasonings and condiments! A favorite easy meal of mine is rice, beans, and vegetables all mixed together with sriracha and/or Annie’s organic ketchup. Sometimes all your food needs is a bit of extra flavor. I also love to search “easy vegan recipes” on Pinterest when I want to try something new and interesting that can still be quick too!
- Do not isolate yourself. The worst thing you can do is avoid events and get-togethers for fear of feeling left out due to your food choices. This will just lead to you feeling isolated and others will think that vegans miss out on all the fun. Chances are, most events will have at least one item you can eat, but I recommend just bringing your own food and delicious snacks just in case! If it is possible to get in touch with the organization hosting the event, perhaps you can recommend that one of their dishes be vegan. I have done this before and it has worked! Either way, go to every event you want to and have tons of fun so your peers can see vegans are not held back in social settings.
- Inspire others. I won’t lie, there are times that being surrounded by non-vegans can get exhausting. Still, it is important to present yourself in a calm and collected matter because vegans already have a bad reputation for being “preachy”. Even when answering the question “But, like, where do you get your protein?” for the thousandth time, try to respond with a smile and inform them. I find that most people are genuinely curious about the lifestyle, and by giving them knowledge in a non-preachy manner, you may just inspire them to make some simple changes! I have found that non-vegan friends and open to trying vegan recipes and going out to vegan restaurants once they see how well veganism has treated me. Moreover, people will be inspired by you when they see how well you are thriving on this lifestyle, so try to be the best you you can be! College can be a busy time, but do not neglect your health by skipping meals or eating a package of Oreos every day for breakfast (yes, Oreos in the US are vegan!). Fuel your body by getting the proper nutrients and eating enough food so your body and mind can perform their best.
Overall, don’t let college scare you away from being vegan! It might take a couple days, or maybe a couple weeks, to get it mastered, but I promise it is easy. Feel free to experiment and see what works best for you! College is actually the BEST time to be vegan because you will have so much extra energy to keep you moving through your busy schedule. If you are not vegan yet, I challenge you to try it for one week and see how great you can feel!
Until next time,
Until next time,
Love Karlee <3