Meat consumption and in general, animal product consumption continue to increase around the world. However, as the rest of the world's appetite for animal products increases, my inclination to be vegan also increases, which is why I recently became vegan. Veganism is amazing for the environment as well as your health. With a vegan diet, among other benefits, your saturated fat and cholesterol intake will go down and your immune system will get stronger. However, before you try your hand at maintaining a plant-based diet in college, there are a few facts you need to be aware of regarding nutrition, finance, and availability. During my journey to a plant-based lifestyle, I discovered solutions to common concerns in the process. This article will show you many ways that college students, like myself, can follow affordable vegan lifestyles while obtaining adequate nutrients.


tofu, chicken, stir-fry, broccoli
Ellie Haun

If you've ever been told that you won't get enough protein from maintaining a plant based diet in college, you're not alone. I've been lectured many a-time on how "little" protein I eat. I'm gonna let you in on a little secret—meat is not the only protein. 

For example, tofu has 8 g of protein per 100 g serving, compared to chicken with 12 g of protein per 100 g serving. Although chicken has a higher protein content than tofu, the average American today consumes more than twice the recommended dietary allowance of protein (46-56 g per day for adults), so the protein content difference between chicken and tofu should not be a deciding factor in becoming vegan.

For many people, tofu is not the most satisfying or tasty source of protein. Not to worry, because there's a vast variety of plant-based proteins. Some examples include nuts and seeds, beans, greens, and quinoa, as well as packaged meat alternatives like chick'n, tempeh, seitan, and many more. Some of the most affordable and easily obtainable vegan proteins you can buy for your mini fridge include products by Gardein like chick'n strips, beefless ground beef, toona, meatless meatballs, and more. Additionally, Beyond Meat offers a large variety of meatless meats which are offered at many grocery stores as well as many restaurants. Less commonly found in the US is Upton's Naturals whose products include various types of prepared seitan, jackfruit, burgers, and more.

Fats & (non)Dairy

avocado seed, avocado pit, avocado
Jocelyn Hsu

Many people think that with their lack of dairy, vegans wouldn't be able to consume adequate fats to maintain a healthy lifestyle. However, vegan fats are easy to find: Avocados, nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, coconut oil, and chia seeds are some of the healthiest fats you can include in your diet. Also, luckily for us, there are several companies out there who make vegan dairy products, like GO VEGGIE, daiya, and Kite Hill. Kite Hill offers vegan yogurts, milks, cream cheeses, and recipes. GO VEGGIE offers various vegan dips and spreads. Last but not least, daiya offers sauces, desserts, yogurts, and many more. There are also other vegan-friendly, nondairy products (like dairy-free ice cream!) and companies out there, but these three brands are most commonly found in grocery stores.

Not only will these dairy-free alternatives provide you with the healthy fats you need, but they'll also help lower your LDL cholesterol—the bad cholesterol that causes heart attacks.

Vitamins & Minerals

Healthy, homemade, Vegan, kale, Thai, salad
Nicole Burnett

Vitamins and minerals are found in many different plant-based foods. For example, calcium is in more foods than just dairy—you can consume a more than adequate amount of calcium through soy, leafy greens, tofu, and dried figs.

B12 is one of the more difficult vitamins to obtain adequate amounts of through a vegan diet because B12 is only naturally found in animals products like poultry and milk, which vegans don't consume. Foods like nutritional yeast and some fortified nondairy milks will provide small amounts of B12, but your doctor may recommend that you also take a B12 supplement.

Iron is especially important for vegans to pay attention to because insufficient intake of this mineral could lead to anemia, which can make you feel weak and tired. Heme iron is found in meats and poultry and tends to be over-consumed because the body is more sensitive to heme iron than of non-heme iron. Luckily, non-heme iron is easy to find for vegans because it is the plant-based form of iron. Non-heme iron is found in foods like kale, spinach, lentils, tofu, dark chocolate, oats, fruits, and many more.

The only natural source of vitamin D for a plant-based diet is mushrooms, but if you're one of those people who can't stand the texture of fungi, you can also find vitamin D in various fortified foods.

Finally, zinc is an important mineral to keep a close eye on because it regulates your immune system and happens to be most abundant in poultry and seafood. However, this mineral is also found in vegan-friendly foods like nuts, tofu, lentils, oats, plant based yogurts, and other fortified foods.  

The Vegan Verdict

Living in a dorm, or eating at college dining halls can be a bit challenging, but veganism is becoming more common, so campus cafeterias often offer more vegan options that aren't just fruits and veggies. Stocking up on nutritious plant-based snacks is also a good way to make sure you get all your nutrients in each day. Hopefully this article has taught you that maintaining a plant-based diet in college isn't as hard as you once thought it might be; it's mostly planning ahead and adaptation to what is available.