Whether you’ve been an omnivore your whole life and want to go vegetarian, you’re just looking to eat more plant-based meals, you want to quit all animal products cold turkey (or cold tofu) or you’re hoping to continue your current lifestyle, I’m here to let you know it’s possible to be vegan in college. Take some of these tips to help make your transition to being plant-based in college a little bit easier.
Know the lingo and do your research
Unfortunately, you don’t usually get an all-encompassing handbook when you decide to go vegan (unless you’re close with someone who’s already vegan and willing to help you out). That means, you have to take the time to do some research and study up. Blogs, videos, movies and books can be incredibly helpful — luckily, there’s plenty of resources available online to help you learn the difference between vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, fruitarian and the list goes on. Check out how other people cut animal products out of their diet to help you find your path (although this shouldn’t be taken as a substitute for medical advice should you feel you need it).
Read the signs (and ingredients)
Tofu and tempeh and seitan, oh my! Reading menus as a new vegan can make your head spin. While this vegan language gets easier to decipher over time, it can be difficult at first. As a little hack, go straight to the bottom of the ingredients and look for the bolded “contains” text. If it says the product contains any non-vegan ingredients, you can put it back and save yourself some time. If it doesn’t, then you can scan the list and see if there’s any other ingredients you don’t want to consume. Oftentimes, animal products might have different or confusing names like carmine, whey or casein, which can be hard to spot in an ingredients list. Fortunately, this usually gets less daunting over time, and pretty soon you’ll be able to spot an animal product in the ingredients with ease.
Plan your meals
I know this can be difficult while in college, but hear me out. If you know you’ll be out of your room or apartment all day and hopping between classes, work and extracurriculars, pack a healthy vegan meal (and snacks) to eat on the go. It can be easy to break and eat some non-vegan food when you’re pressed for time and limited on options, especially when you’re just starting out. While NSU tends to offer some satisfying plant-based options, sometimes you’re just not feeling what’s on the menu. Rather than turning to a non-vegan option, turn to your lunchbox. Consider packing your food the night before so you don’t have another thing to rush in the morning.
Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes
Going vegan shouldn’t be a major stressor. It can be a difficult change and it’s easy to accidentally slip up or consume an animal product without realizing it, especially while you’re in college. If you make a few mistakes when you’re first transitioning, don’t beat yourself up over it. Personally, I was vegetarian for years before I decided to go vegan, which took me a few months. Try taking it slow by setting smaller goals, like eating two plant-based meals a day or only eating non-vegan on the weekends. Even cutting out animal products just a few days a week while you’re working on your transition can help make a difference.
Here’s an extra tip: search “vegan” on The Current’s website, nsucurrent.nova.edu, to check out some other articles we’ve written on this subject!