In college you experience a new level of freedom and independence, adopting your own life-style is now easier. You also meet new people, lots of new people! While in high school, you wouldn’t know many vegetarians or vegans, here the probability of finding someone that shares your beliefs and points of view is much higher. So, it can be quite easy to maintain or adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet in this new chapter of your life, you just have to follow some basic steps and then adopt your own routine and life-style.
College students have to consider two main scenarios: in and outside campus.
Inside campus you have bars and canteens. In these spaces you can find vegetarian or vegan food, even if they are not in the menu or exposed. When going to the bar, as a consumer, you have the right to ask for something more specific, for example: bread and butter using vegetable butter or margarine, or a sandwich of lettuce and tomato (two very common vegetables, once they are used in burgers). In the canteen, some schools already include vegetarian/macrobiotic options, so even if most part of your friends is not going to have that option do not be ashamed and have it, it might happen that in the future some of them will follow your decision. If vegetarian options are not available just ask not to serve you the meat or fish, or go somewhere else.
With time you will learn the alternatives, and, therefore, you can plan your meals so you won’t miss any important nutrient. You can also choose to bring your own food from home, this way there are less chances of missing important nutrients.
You can also adopt a more active role. Look up for a vegetarian group, or start one yourself, and propose your college to include some or more vegan and vegetarian options in the menus, it can be a little hard, but it is possible!
Here the challenge lies in shopping and time. Students often have a low budget, but smart choices and knowledge save you money. First study the places around you where you’re buying from, compare prices and quality. Then, always make a list before shopping; it helps controlling how much you’re wasting, and saves you time. Planning your meals is very important too, not only to your economics but also to your health. Get information about food and recipes, and when you have time make some experiences.
We all know that many times, at the end of the day, one doesn’t feel like cooking, right? Well, there are on the market fast vegetarian meals, but with those you have to be careful: look at the price and always read the labels – know what you’re eating. Pre-cooked meals have high levels of sugars and preservatives; that’s why they shouldn’t be consumed on a regular basis. So, my advice is, to save your time and your money, instead of buying those fast pre-cooked meals, during weekends, when having a little extra-time, using soy, lentil or bean make an amount of burgers, croquettes or patties, and freeze them. This way you’re week will be much easier.
Eating out can also be a little of a headache to “non-meat-eaters”. But here, once again, as a costumer you have the right to ask for something a little different from the menu. Soup is an important start, have a salad as or with the main dish, and for desert it becomes easier: most part of them already is, at least, vegetarian.
Now, about food itself; when shopping, these are basics.
For both vegetarians and vegans:
*Legumes (peas, lentils, beans, chickpea, soybean);
*Cereals (breakfast cereals, pasta, rice);
*Milk (animal or vegetable – soy, rice…);
* Eggs – biologic eggs are better in taste and nutrition (not to mention the chickens), they cost a little more, but it pays off.
There are other products that are important and very useful, but not essential. I’m talking about tofu, seitan and similar food, considered as alternatives to meat. The truth is, if you consume products of the list above they are not essential. Nevertheless, they make delicious dishes and are easy to cook (if you know how to), healthy and becoming easier to find.
Being a college student is not easy, but being a vegetarian or vegan does not make it (much) harder. Just remember: information, smart choices and planning.