While pizza deliveries, sleepless nights, and tight budgets are hallmarks of college, it’s also an ideal opportunity to build healthy habits for life. This four-year incubation period is a time to focus on becoming the best version of yourself. Despite restricted dining options or roommates who seem to live off instant beef ramen and microwave mac and cheese, going vegan on campus is totally doable. Become your best self not only through the higher education you pay for, but also through your lifestyle. Here are five proven steps to help you go vegan easily on (and off) campus.
1 Do your research
Before you throw away your stash of animal-based prepared foods, it’s crucial to find your reason. Most people who go vegan just because it’s “in” aren’t able to stick to the lifestyle. There are many reasons to go vegan. Taking the time to research the benefits will allow you to learn more about the culture and ensure that you make the change for good. While there are an abundance of resources to motivate your trip, we highly recommend starting with documentaries.
Marine suction and Cowspiracy explain in detail the environmental impacts of animal agriculture. To add The Game Changers, What is Health, and Vegetated to your queue for insight into the health benefits of eating plant-based. “101 Reasons to Go Vegan,” a video presentation from the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, is another resource to help you on your journey. VegMovies, dubbed the vegan Netflix, is a go-to resource for finding vegan-aligned movies.
Wherever you start, all of these resources use science-backed facts to promote the concept of veganism. We promise you, this is all way more entertaining than reading another manual. College kids have had enough.
2 Take baby steps
Going vegan can be a long transition, not an instant transformation. Don’t be discouraged if you encounter bumps in the road during your journey. College is a time full of distractions and temptations; if you drop the ball one night and indulge in non-vegan diner cookies, don’t worry. If it takes your entire first year to commit, that’s fine.
When you face a setback, remember why and lean into it. Every progression is different, and that’s normal. Pro tip: Next time you’re staring at those lunch room cookies, pick up a box of Oreos at your school’s convenience store instead. Also check out these accidentally vegan snacks and cookies so you can refuel!
3 Get creative in the dining room
Gone are the days of mysterious meat-filled cafeterias. In 2017, 70% of colleges offered at least one vegan option per day.
If your school is in this minority percentile, you may need to get a little creative. A typical vegan night at the dining room might include spinach and edamame from the salad bar, rice and beans from the Mexican station, and cooked vegetables from the hot food section. Of course, these flavors may not precisely complement each other, but let’s be real here; you’re eating college cafeteria food – omnivorous or otherwise, it’s time to lower the bar.
4 Do you offer off-campus food
Vegan or not, we all need a break from the monotony of dining out. These days, most urban sprawls offer delicious vegan options, and most towns have at least a few vegan restaurants.
To track down your new favorite takeout order, check out HappyCow and Yelp for reviews and little-known vegan options. These tools are invaluable for college towns or suburban areas. You may have never discovered this café that serves vegan cupcakes while living in your bubble on campus! Another option is to search for hashtags on Instagram. Type #vegan(yourtown) for local hidden gems. For example, for all of you at University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, check out the pastries behind the #veganchapelhill hashtag!
Pro tip: Browse our VegNews city, food, and restaurant guides to find even more vegan options near you. Or, if you have access to a kitchen and prefer to roll up your sleeves, our milk, cheese, and even beer and wine guides make buying plant-based groceries easy. Also check out our vegan recipes for some #cookinginspo.
5 Stay responsible
Entering college, making new friends seems daunting. Do not be afraid ! The vegan niche can actually speed up the process. It’s easy to meet other vegans at food clubs, vegan restaurants, or even in the dining room. Food is one of the easiest topics to talk about, because who wouldn’t want a bite to eat after a long day of class?
Having vegan friends to hold you accountable and make it fun is key to the longevity of your new plant-based lifestyle. While working on those best friends forever bonds, stay accountable by creating an Instagram based on food (or go the ethical fashion way — you’ll have a savvy, locked-in audience right away). Dedicating a public space to sharing your culinary creations, edible adventures, or vegan leather thrift store jacket can help boost your vegan confidence.
Not bogged down with homework? Take it to the next level and create a vegan YouTube channel or blog with easy-to-use site building tools. Whether an Instagram account, website, or YouTube channel is your creative alley, expressing your vegan passions with others is a surefire way to stay accountable.
If you’re commuting from home, check out these easy meals for vegan beginners that you can master in no time. If you’re lucky, maybe your parents will find some money for groceries, and you can veganize them at the same time!
Caroline Hughes is an honors student at Texas Christian University where he earned a degree in Strategic Communications with a minor in Business.