Tips for Eating Vegan in College

By Lucia
Rivera, VRG Intern

We
put together a guide with tips for eating vegan in college using information
from eight VRG interns attending college in the U.S.
and Europe. Whether you are vegan, vegetarian,
or exploring new diets, these recommendations can help you out!

Research and Using Resources

Many
universities provide their students with online dining hall menus or even apps
that students can use to find vegan options on a day-to-day basis. Once in the
dining hall, students can also pay attention to signs that often indicate what
is vegan, vegetarian, or not.

     “My school’s website has the menu for the
week, and you can filter out all the nonvegan items. If some days are better
vegan days than others, then I’ll know to eat elsewhere,” University of North
Carolina student Clare Broud said “Also, talking
to dining staff members is really helpful. Most staff are happy to
accommodate!  My school also offers
nutrition counseling for those concerned about eating right, and that is
another great resource.”

     During college applications is another
good time to conduct research about what different universities do to cater to
vegan students.

     “[Ask] upperclassmen at your particular
school about advice dealing with the meal coordinators at your college. Also
ask about any local vegan restaurants! Perhaps try to get a dorm room with a
small kitchenette or kitchen (if possible). Try to stay flexible and ready to
create meals for yourself,” Johns
Hopkins University
student Jacqueline Tang said.

Creativity is Key

Being
creative with vegan food options can look like many different things. For some
students it means cooking for themselves, but other students find working with
the dining hall staff helpful for creating specialized options.

     “On these days [when there are not substantial vegan options], I’ve learned to customize meals
with ingredients that I find from all over the dining hall. I’ve made salad
bowls with rice, and sometimes there is plain oatmeal that can be used as a
base for savory ingredients. I also think getting an instant cooker or crock
pot and learning to make an easy dish to take on campus can be helpful, so you
don’t have to worry about finding a place to eat,” Cornell student Adhi
Muthukumar said.

    
Additionally, Iowa State graduate Katie Nunemaker points out that
“breakfast doesn’t have to consist of cereal or tofu scramble or another
breakfast-y food. It can be anything that you want it to be, and whatever’s
available. The same goes for lunch and dinner.”

Plan Ahead and Be
Proactive

“To overcome this challenge [of not finding a vegan option],
it’s essential to think ahead. Pack a lunch box with vegan snacks in case you
get hungry and your dining center is out of food to accommodate you. It’s also
not a bad idea to grab lunch right when dining centers open on your way to your
first class, so you don’t have to worry about them being out. To avoid food
boredom, I recommend keeping satisfying snacks and side options in your dorm.
Also, keep sriracha or a sauce on hand to spice up a meal,” Katie Nunemaker
said.

     Students can make
sure to always have their own supply of vegan snacks and drinks when going out
for the day to avoid getting too hungry or eating the same foods every day.
Additionally, vegans can become advocates for their university to add more
vegan options for all students!

     “Be proactive, if there are no vegan
options, ask for them, create a vegan association, start creating the change
you want to see in the world,” Wageningen University student Odette Olivares
Sanchez suggested.

Benefits

Eating
vegan in college provides students with many benefits, despite any challenges
that arise, according to VRG intern college students.

     “By eating
healthier and cleaner, oftentimes you will actually feel like you have more
energy, which is especially important when in college,” Loyola University
student Katelynn Budzich said.

     Clare Broud added on with her experience:
“I used to feel embarrassed about asking for special treatment, but most people
are really nice about it and want you to be able to eat. It is also really easy
to eat unhealthy food in college. Between the tofu nuggets, French fries, and
late night snacking, it can be hard to resist all these foods. But, you will feel
so much better physically and mentally if you feed your body right. I have
learned to treat myself maybe once a week rather than once a day.

     Besides health benefits, Katie Nunemaker
and Odette Olivares Sanchez agree that it is a great way to engage socially
with other students and groups on campus.

To
read more about veganism in college check out these resources!

Thank you to
the following contributors to this piece:

Adhi
Muthukumar

Clare Broud

Gabriella
Walker

Jacqueline
Tang

Katelynn
Budzich

Katie Nunemaker

Kavitha
Shankar

Odette
Olivares Sanchez