I like to think that college is the time you find yourself. You’re away from home/your parents and have the independence to try new things on your own. My first year of college, I was a vegetarian. This year, I’m a fully plant-based vegan and have never felt better. But with that comes a lot of changes. I’m creating a guide to hopefully help out some of you who are in college and just beginning your vegan journey.
Navigating the Meal Plan
You obviously have a whole lot of freedom to cook once you live off campus that you won’t have as a freshman or even a sophomore. Many colleges in the U.S. now require all underclassmen to live on-campus/purchase a meal plan. So how do you make it all work?
Salad bar is your friend. You will be eating lots of vegetables. Lots of cold, raw vegetables. Better get used to it. That being said, there’s no reason why you can’t experiment and create lush salads comparable to those on instagram! Lots of schools have things like nuts, raisins, sunflower seeds, tortilla strips, etc to top your salad, and you can get creative and mix in some fruit, or add canned beans/legumes in your room. My personal favorite college salad bar combo is spinach, cucumber, broccoli, olives, chickpeas, edamame, and grapes topped with balsamic vinegar.
If you have an all-you-can-eat dining hall, take all of the fruit you can back with you. Seriously. I’m able to eat raw breakfasts and save a shit-ton of money because I’m not ashamed to walk home with 12+ bananas in my bag.
Contact the chefs in your dining hall. I know at some locations on my campus, if you let the chef know your restrictions far enough in advance, they can usually cook something up for you. It doesn’t hurt to request products (such as milk alternatives at cafes or dairy/gluten-free bread for the sandwich station), either. My campus dining services even hold yearly focus groups for students with special dietary needs in order to develop better menus!
Eat breakfast in your room.In my experience, breakfast is the worst time to find a good vegan meal in a dining hall (one cannot live on bagels alone), and you rarely have time to go anywhere anyways. I like being able to spend time each morning whipping up some oats in my microwave or making raw banana cereal, or even eating a huge bowl of coconut yogurt. I recommend having a Magic Bullet for smoothies, too. You end up eating the same stuff for lunch and dinner so often that it’s almost relieving to be able to experiment with breakfasts.
Navigating Social Situations
The social aspect of college changes a bit when you commit to living cruelty free. I’ll leave you some tips as my friends are still adjusting to the change.
Don’t be ashamed of sharing your beliefs with your friends/peers. I find that when people ask me about my veganism, it’s not to tease/mock/judge me; people are genuinely interested/curious! This gives you an excuse to respectfully explain why consuming/exploiting animals is bad.
Be adaptable. Sometimes your friends will want to go to Bdubs. You will have to order a side salad with no dressing, and it will suck. But seriously, don’t turn down opportunities to socialize just because you can’t find anything to eat - just go with the flow, and occasionally suggest trips to cool veg-friendly restaurants that you think your friends will enjoy!
Know your alcohol. There are several varieties of alcohol that aren’t vegan (hate to burst your bubble). You can find a list of vegan beer/wine/liquor here.
Look into special-interest clubs. You may be surprised, but some schools actually have a vegan club. If not, you can either start one or join something animal rights or yoga related (if that tickles your fancy). I’ve found that generally, the veg-types congregate in these kind of clubs, and they’re great places to meet some friends who share your beliefs!
You may have figured out that a lot of common products aren’t vegan or even cruelty-free. Technically, a full-on vegan uses vegan health/beauty products - if you’re interested, here are some resources.
Peta has a list of companies who test products onanimals. I would suggest avoiding these companies if possible. You can’t always find/afford vegan products, but it’s helpful to at least support cruelty-free companies.
You can find vegan-friendly products in common stores. I totally get that you can’t always afford the good stuff from Lush. Target and Walmart both have “natural” health/beauty sections and carry products such as the “Yes To….” brand (many products are vegan; all are cruelty-free) among others. The Body Shop, Ulta, and Sephora all carry vegan health/beauty products if you can afford it.
Coconut oil! Coconut oil is seriously the miracle product. You can get it at Target, Trader Joe’s, etc for around $5-$6, and you can use it for EVERYTHING. Makeup remover, face wash, hair mask, balm for dry skin spots, etc. Not to mention you can eat it/cook with it.
Other Helpful Sites/Resources
Endless ways to spice up your oats
The simplest/cheapest cookies ever (will impress even your non-vegan friends)
Happy Cow (restaurants)
some of my favorite Vegan tumblrs to follow:
floraliris / www.superfoodsiobhan.com
This is just a brief guide. I hope it helps, and I’ll add to it if I think of anything else!
This is a great guide for plant-based eating in college put together by OhioVegan! So happy I was included :)