The vegan lifestyle, though more widely accepted nowadays, often gets a bad rep for being too restrictive, too difficult, or unnecessary. But it’s not, and more often than not, people just need help understanding what it is and what it takes to make the switch. If that brownie doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. College life can be extra challenging when trying to become vegan, but it’s entirely doable and you may thank yourself later. Here are some tips to help you go vegan in college:
Netflix and chill with documentaries
Cozy up on the couch and get ready for an eye-opening experience. Netflix has many different food documentaries with different approaches: environmental, health, animal cruelty, etc. Food Inc, Vegucated, Cowspiracy, and Earthlings are good for starters because they really hash out the main reasons behind veganism.
Let go of stereotypes
Vegans are weird. Vegans are hippies. Vegans don’t eat mindblowingly delicious food. Vegans can’t get six packs. Vegans don’t get enough protein. Vegans are missing out on the only thing in life that matters which is bacon. Vegan is boring. If you didn’t already know, being vegan is actually really fun and exciting and allows you to explore new and creative foods.
Take baby steps
Not everyone can become vegan overnight, and honestly, I didn’t either. It can be a tough transition, so take it slow. Start by cutting out red meat and then try becoming vegetarian. Eventually cut down on your dairy consumption and pretty soon you’ll be a full-blown vegan.
Try vegan replacements
While it’s ideal from a health standpoint to stick to natural ingredients, there are tons of relatively healthy vegan replacements, from butter to chicken to cheese. Tempeh and tofu are great sources of protein and are super versatile ingredients, and plant-based milks are definitely a staple. Oh, and yes, vegan bacon is a thing.
Find fun recipes
Surf the interwebs for cool, new recipes to get you pumped about being vegan. The internet pretty much has it all, from chocolate candy bars and crazy cupcakes to loaded “burgers” and delicious veggie bowls. The best part is that once you get comfortable with your vegan cooking skills, you can improvise and invent your own recipes.
Stock up on healthy snacks
Dorm-friendly snacks include carrots and hummus, flax crackers, nut butters, apples and bananas, tea, bread and chia pudding to name a few. Just make sure to check the ingredients before you buy things. A good rule of thumb: the longer the list of ingredients, the more likely the product is heavily processed, which is not ideal.
Don’t forget your protein
There is technically no such thing as protein deficiency. That being said, protein is still important to your health. Vegans get plenty of protein from grains, beans, nuts and veggies. Tofu and tempeh are also good sources of protein. If you’re an athlete concerned about building muscle and endurance you may consider a raw, vegan protein powder.
Know the salad bar is your friend
But that doesn’t mean your salads have to be boring. Pile on the toppings, the more the merrier. Add a kickass dressing or, if your dining hall doesn’t have vegan dressing, get creative and make your own using olive oil, vinegar, and Sriracha, or even peanut butter for a Thai-inspired twist.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin and is mostly found naturally in meat. But that doesn’t mean you can’t be vegan — just take a daily supplement and you’re good to go.
Don’t forget to treat yo’ self
Brownies, cookies, cakes, pies, chocolate, donuts, any dessert you could possibly think of, we vegans have it. And they taste amazing. Also, have a secret stash of vegan dark chocolate or ice cream in your dorm room for those late nights and that raging sweet tooth. And while you’re at it, might as well try this epic vegan banana bread recipe.
Find Vegan-friendly restaurants near you
These will become your go-to places to eat. They’ll be so good, you’ll want to take your friends, family, dates, basically everyone and give them a taste of what it’s really like to be vegan – totally NOT boring.
Don’t be afraid to go out to dinner
If it’s a potluck, bring your own vegan dish for everyone to try. If you go out to a restaurant, check with the waiter to figure out if there are any vegan options. You can also eat before, but if you don’t want to seem rude, you can always make an exception. Being vegan is not about being perfect; you can bend the rules sometimes.
You can even have a gooey Chocolate Fudge Brownie with melt-in-your-mouth vanilla ice cream, smoky caramel sauce, and crispy coconut bacon. And it’s amazing. The best part? It’s an entirely vegan explosion of rich flavor.
Don’t get discouraged, it takes time
You will encounter bumps in the road. You probably won’t be used to eating so many fruits and vegetables so your taste buds will have to adjust. This could take a few weeks to months to get used to. You may also get mad cravings at first, but they will eventually go away and you won’t actually miss any of that stuff. Just remember that, for whatever reason you decide to go vegan, it’ll be well worth the effort.