The beginning of 2017 was when I fully committed to eating a plant-based diet. Leading up to that point, I’d switched on and off for periods of time. This new year was when I finally decided to go for it. I can honestly say I’ve never felt better! I know how hard it is to eat balanced meals while being a college student and living in a dorm with 40 other girls, especially when RAs have sundae making stations and mac & cheese nights in the hall lounge or girls next door make popcorn and offer you cookies. The added temptations are not so helpful when trying to stick to a lifestyle that requires balance, at least for the first few weeks until the cravings subside.
So I’ve compiled a list of tips for vegans in college. It’s not the easiest thing in the world, but it’s definitely not the hardest either. There are plenty of ways to get in your plant-based goodies and be part of the fun with friends!
1. Collect fruit wherever/whenever you can
At my tiny little private college, there’s one main dining hall with two smaller ones where you need to pay actual money. At the main dining hall, I try to steal bananas whenever I can (usually not more than two at a time because one time someone was stopped for trying to leave with too many bananas). Most people eat them right in the dining hall, but they always put them out when they’re not ripe enough, so I usually take the bananas back to my dorm to ripen for a day or so. That’s why I’m so stocked up :)
Other than bananas I love bringing back pears, oranges, and apples from the dining hall. Sometimes, if I remember before leaving after breakfast, I’ll fill a cup of berries or melon (they only set out strawberries, blueberries, grapes, watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew melon at breakfast but it’s only three kinds of fruit per day). I can’t get dates from the dining hall and they’re one of my favorite fruits to nibble on when I’m craving something sweet, so I just buy a big package at the store every two weeks or so. They’re great to put in oatmeal, dip in nut butters, or eat plain!
2. Be innovative
Whether it’s in the dining hall or even in your room, you have to be creative with your food! It’s the easiest way to keep things interesting and you don’t even necessarily need a kitchen. I don’t have one in my dorm. All I have is a microwave and mini fridge in my room. Sometimes I’ll make oatmeal with my microwave and top it with bananas and peanut butter that I have. When I go to the dining hall, I usually get oatmeal and top it with whatever fruit they have that day. It’s also fun to decorate toast with different kinds of toppings (strawberry with blueberries and sliced pear). Our dining hall also has peanut butter and Earth Balance butter near the toasting station, so those are other options!
3. Keep snacks on hand
A lot of the time when you’re rushing from class to class it’s hard to have a full, sit down meal. Be sure to keep some kind of protein powder or snack on hand to hold you over until you have a break in classes and can eat a proper meal. The last thing you want to do is skip a meal or be insanely hungry during class. Thinking about food may distract you from what you’re supposed to be learning, so (even if it’s a piece of fruit or something small) grab a little snack before you rush off to classes. My favorite combination at the moment is water, a little bit of almond milk, and a scoop of Vega’s berry protein powder.
I also keep Dr. McDougall prepared foods in my room in case I ever don’t feel like walking all the way to the dining hall. I know that sounds incredibly lazy, especially when the dining hall is less than a five minute walk, but trust me when it’s torrentially down-pouring freezing cold rain you’ll want to stay in the comfort of your own room. They’re not entirely satiating so I’ll sometimes eat two soup packages, depending on how hungry I am.
4. Order from websites
Prices for lots of things like protein powders, vitamins, and many other health items can be really expensive. As a college student on a budget, it’s not always easy to get products not offered by the dining hall. Parents also don’t want to be paying for much else since they’re already paying for a meal plan (at least that’s the way it is for my parents). So my new favorite website is Jet. They have amazing deals and a huge range of products! It’s kind of like Thrive Market except you don’t need a membership and the prices are lower.
Recently I ordered three huge packages of Bob’s Red Mill Old Country Style Muesli because it’s so easy to whip together for breakfast before class. I’ll slice up some ripe bananas from the dining hall and pop it in a bowl with some muesli, topping it off with almond milk. The almond milk I get is from right down the street at CVS. It’s become really easy to find, but if you can’t get it within walking distance you can order it online. The best part is that it won’t spoil quickly because it doesn’t need to be refrigerated. I also keep different kinds of oatmeal (without added sugar) around to switch it up if I’m in the mood for something warmer on a cold day.
My favorite thing to have on hand for tea or coffee is stevia liquid extract. My friend’s nutritionist told her that the liquid is better because she wasn’t sure how they get it into the powdered form. I haven’t done any research on it, but the logic makes sense. I’m currently using the SweetLeaf Vanilla Creme but at home I have the 360 liquid stevia and absolutely love that. It may seem pricey, but I promise a drop goes a long way and it lasts a long time.
5. Don’t eat unless you’re actually hungry
This is a BIG thing. A lot of the time I find myself eating when I’m bored because you have lots of free time in between classes and other activities. It’s really important to listen to what your body is saying. What helps me a lot in deciphering whether I’m actually hungry or not is drinking water or some kind of tea. My mom sent me up a bunch of teas in a care package, so I’ll heat up water in our single brew Keurig or even just the microwave and pop in a tea bag. Sometimes I’ll even steep in cold water for a longer period of time.
6. Keep the processed foods to a minimum
It’s so easy to indulge in college. There’s junk food around at a constant and with more and more foods becoming vegan, it’s getting harder to abstain from eating it. I find that I enjoy having it around so if I ever have a craving, it’s there to snack on. However, when I was first starting out I didn’t keep many processed foods around because the cravings were much more frequent. Although I love salty and sweet foods on occasion, it’s important to keep track of what kind of foods you eat in order to maintain a balanced diet and feel good.
**MAKE SURE YOUR SNACKS DO NOT CONTAIN PALM OIL**
If you’re unaware of the devastating effects the palm oil industry has on our planet’s environment, watch Before the Flood, Years of Living Dangerously: Indonesia Haze and Deforestation, or read up on it. The World Wide Fund for Nature has some great information on it and you can do more research. It’s in so many of the products we use today yet most people remain unaware of its huge environmental impact.
7. Beware of nut butters
Now I love nut butters just as much as the next girl, but there are a few things you should know before indulging in the delicious snack. Going off of my last point, maintaining a balanced diet is extremely important. While eating plant-based you can eat more, but you have to keep in mind that that doesn’t mean you can eat your weight in healthy fats or processed food. Your body still metabolizes it as fat, whether it’s from an avocado, nut, seed, or not. I’ve also realized that while I absolutely LOVE peanut butter, eating spoonfuls of it everyday doesn’t make me feel my best. Keep listening to your body and eat what makes you feel good. If you feel great eating tons of nut butters, go for it!
A less fatty option is PB2 or PBfit which is a powder consistency. Just mix it with a bit of water and you’re good to go. You can mix it into your favorite smoothies, protein shakes, whatever you want!
8. The internet is your best friend
If you’re ever going out with your family or friends and aren’t sure what to get at the restaurant, go online. Reputable sites like PETA have some great resources, including a list of what to get at chain restaurants ranging from Burger King to Olive Garden. New plant-based options are popping up everyday and it’s easier than ever to be a vegan! Don’t let the fear of what to order at a restaurant stop you from leading the life you want. Here are some more sites that may help:
- Vegan Fast Food is Here! Try These Options on the Go
- 20 Meatless and All-Vegan Options You Can Find at Popular Fast Food Chains
- 10 Tips for Eating Out as a Vegan
- How to Eat Vegan at Any Restaurant
- Accidentally Vegan Food List
- 35 Junk Foods That Are Actually Vegan
- 25 Things You May Have Thought Were Vegan
- Vegan Candy List – The Ultimate Guide
- All Vegan Cereals List
I hope this list has helped even a little bit! Let me know if you want more posts like this or if you have any recommendations for other tips I can give.
– Corinne xx