Whether you’ve been a vegetarian since birth and have never tasted a burger or you’re just fed up with the weird boiled chicken that seems to be the protein staple of college dining halls, I’m here to help you navigate campus dining with a fresh perspective. If you’re crafty, dining halls have more options than you probably think.

1. Don’t Confine Yourself to Just the Vegan Section

salsa, corn, salad, tacos, avocado
Klaire Gubler

While the vegan section is truly a holy Mecca for our type, the salad bar, pasta station, and sandwich station are all fair game as well.

2. Know Where you Shouldn’t Go

espresso, bread, dairy product, cappuccino, pudding, sweet, soup, milk, coffee, cream
Devon Bortz

Almost all soups in dining halls have a chicken broth base, even if the soup itself appears to have solely vegetables in it. Also, re-fried beans are generally a no-go due to their use of lard. (The same lard popularly recited within the line “Tina you fat lard, come get some dinner” from the 2004 hit film Napoleon Dynamite.)

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Special Treatment

bread, pork, vegetable, steak, tomato, meat, salad
Deborah Kornblut

Honestly, people already probably assume you’re obnoxious because you’re a vegetarian, so just channel your best “arrogant vegan” when asking them to put tofu on your sandwich instead of lunch meat. People will probably get annoyed, but just think of all that virtual water you’re saving.

4. Make Good, Healthy Choices

watercress, cress, vegetable, herb
Grace Becker

Select foods high in protein and vitamins. It’s easy to get carried away eating only bread and pasta. As someone whose favorite food is bread, let me tell you, I get it, but the resulting anemia and fatigue from a lack of protein is truly awful. Reach for kale and spinach over romaine, and baked sweet potatoes over fries to maximize vitamins. Ditch the pasta for complex grains like barley and wheat berries. B-12 is an essential vitamin found naturally in animal products such as milk and eggs, so make sure to incorporate those into your diet regularly. Also don’t forget beans, nuts, and tofu for added protein.  

5. Lastly, Be Inventive

coffee, herb, chocolate, tea
Grace Becker

Just because the food is served in the dining hall doesn’t necessarily mean you have to eat it there. Take some bananas home and freeze them for a morning smoothie or grab some spinach from the salad bar and sauté it up for a snack that’s high in iron and fiber. Much to the embarrassment of my friends, I’ve even been known to grab a few boiled eggs in the morning to save for a midday protein boost.

Grace Becker

If becoming a vegetarian has always been your #goals or if you’re finding it difficult to navigate the hangry world of being a vegetarian in college and want to do more than just “eat the FOOD”, then just keep these handy tips in mind.