The vegan lifestyle, though more widely accepted nowadays, often gets a bad rep for being too restrictive, too difficult, or unnecessary. But more often than not, people just need help understanding what it is and what it takes to make the switch to a plant-based diet. College life can be extra challenging when trying to become vegan, but it’s entirely doable, and you'll be proud of yourself once you do it. Here are 13 things to do and know before going vegan, while dealing with the struggles of college. 

Netflix and Chill (with some documentaries)

pizza, cake, beer
Leilani Gaugin-Rosenthal

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. Docs like "What the Health?," "Food Inc," "Vegucated," "Cowspiracy," and "Earthlings" are good for starters because they really hash out the main reasons behind veganism.

Let Go of Stereotypes

salsa, wheat, bread
Andrea Leelike

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. Give it a try and encourage your friends to do so before making any judgements. 

Take Baby Steps

meat, pork, bacon, ham
Jocelyn Hsu

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 a vegetarian. Eventually cut down on your dairy consumption, and pretty soon, you’ll be a full-blown vegan. See, that wasn't so bad. 

Try Vegan Replacements

Leilani Gaugin-Rosenthal

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.

acorn squash, squash, pumpkin, vegetable, sweet, rice
Kendra Valkema

Surf the interwebs for cool, new recipes to get you pumped about being vegan. The internet pretty much has it all (just take a look a Spoon!) — 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

vegetable, hummus, bread
Lindsey Zimmer

Dorm-friendly snacks include carrots and hummus, flax crackers, nut butters, apples and bananas, tea, bread and chia pudding, just 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. Also, there could be hidden animal products in that long list. 

Don’t Forget Your Protein

salad, couscous
Leilani Gaugin-Rosenthal

Protein is important to your health. Vegans get plenty of protein from grains, beans, nuts, and veggies, tofu and tempeh. If you’re an athlete concerned about building muscle and endurance, you may want to consider a raw, vegan protein powder.

Know That The Salad Bar Is Your Friend

lettuce, carrot, fork, napkin, balsamic, vinegar, Dressing, cheese, rice, salad
Julia Gilman

Salads don't 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 peanut butter for a Thai-inspired twist.

Utilize Vitamin B12

milk, gelatin, chocolate, sweet, candy
Alyssa Modos

Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin and is mostly found naturally in meat. But that doesn’t mean vegans can't get their needed vitamins — just take a daily supplement and you’re good to go.

Don’t Forget to Have Dessert

pastry, chocolate chip cake, cream, dough, cake, cookie, chocolate
Becky Hughes

Brownies, cookies, cakes, pies, chocolate, doughnuts — any dessert you could possibly think of, 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, you might as well try this epic vegan banana bread recipe.

Find Vegan-Friendly Restaurants Near You

Leilani Gaugin-Rosenthal

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 to Non-Vegan Places

bacon, syrup, caramel
Leilani Gaugin Rosenthal

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.

Don’t Get Discouraged, It Takes Time

rice, parsley
Leilani Gaugin-Rosenthal

You will encounter bumps in the road. Like 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 animal-product stuff. Just remember that, for whatever reason you decide (or decided) to go vegan, it’ll be well worth the effort.