When I tell people I'm Vegan, the immediate response is, “How are you surviving?!” said with great concern plastered all over their face. I just laugh and say, “You'd be surprised how easy it is!”.

My philosophy is that you can really be vegan anywhere, you just have to know the ins and outs. These are my top tips I have gathered over the past month on how to succeed at being a vegan in college!

1. Take a loop around the dining hall first

Megan Waldron

First of all, in the dining hall vegans are not tied to the hip with the salad bar. We do love our big salads and colorful veggies, but in order to sustain a vegan diet you need bulk up your meals. Before making a plate take a full walk around the dining hall and see what the options are for the day. For example, being served alongside the chicken could be wild rice, and then there may be a potato bar with roasted sweet potatoes, and then if your lucky there may even be some roasted/steamed veggies served with the pasta station.

These are only a few examples, but my point is, is that the non-vegan sections of the dining hall have plenty of hearty vegan options! To make the ultimate plate, I usually first get some sort of grain (most of the time rice), I add some potato (preferably sweet potatoes, but regular potatoes always work too), then I hit up the salad bar and add lots of beans and chickpeas, and then with the leftover room on my plate, I make a big COLORFUL salad to get those #nutrients in for the day.

Don't be afraid to have a mountain of a plate! The great thing about being vegan is that you can eat higher volumes of food because your not getting the majority of your calories from meat!

How to leave the dining hall feeling full:

Healthy carbs: Whole grains, quinoa, potatoes, whole wheat bread, and vegetables.

Protein: Tofu, quinoa, lentils, beans (refried beans too!), and chickpeas.

Fat: Nuts and seeds, olive oil, nut butters, and avocado (if you are lucky).

2. The Spices Shelf (the hidden gem)

Megan Waldron

I put spices on everything. It can turn a bland salad, boring refried beans, or plain rice into something bursting in flavor. The classic salt and pepper always are a good add-on, but the true gems are Old Bay (Bae*), garlic powder, paprika, and siracha.

I discovered Old Bay about 3 weeks ago and now it goes on top of every salad I make and whatever else I have stacked on my plate. Seasoning food can be intimidating for some people, but just experiment and throw some spices on there, have a light hand at first and find the spices that make you want to devour every last ounce of the food on your plate.

3. Eat the RAINBOW

vegetable, tomato, cucumber, pasture
Kristine Mahan

When in doubt, eat as many colors as you can. Eat the literal RAINBOW. To avoid the freshman plague (or just delay it because it’s inevitable), you must keep your insides happy!

As a vegan it can be easy to load up on pasta, rice, potatoes, beans, etc, which are all delicious and should be consumed, but they won't necessarily give you all the micronutrients you need. Aim to have close to every color on your plate at most meals and your body will thank you!

4. Dorm cooking isn't all that bad!

Megan Waldron

The key to dorm cooking is having the right ingredients to make the tastiest dorm-friendly recipes. Although the dining hall is awesome for having lots of options and being social, sometimes when you wake up 45 minutes before class, all that sounds good is a bowl of oatmeal with a warm cup of coffee. Here is what my food bin and fridge are loaded up with:

● 1-minute quick cooking oats

● Bananas (I get them from the dining hall)

● Apples

● Cinnamon

● Sweet potatoes

● Rice cakes

● Peanut butter

● Hummus

● Carrots

● Almond milk

● Granola bars (my favorite are Lara bars!)

● Salsa

● Canned beans

● Cereal (I like the Kashi Cinnamon Harvest wheat squares)

● Sriracha

Quick dorm room meals!

For the best oatmeal ever combine oats, a RIPE banana, cinnamon, and almond milk in a bowl, then microwave for 2 minutes. Top with apple and peanut butter, and more cinnamon!

Megan Waldron

Sweet potatoes: cut the sweet potato in half, wrap each half with a wet paper towel and then microwave for 5-6 minutes. Cut the potato into strips and dip in sriracha, hummus, or salsa

As you can see, there are endless food combinations that you can explore in a college dining hall and in the dorm room! Being vegan in college really is easier than it may appear. Vegan or not, I hope this inspired you to explore the dining hall a little bit more to find ways to make the ultimate plate that has your friends saying, “Wow that looks amazing, where did you find all that!” And, maybe even go vegan for a day just to try it out!