College in Nashville is all about the food. When visiting schools, finding out about the on-campus dining and off-campus restaurants was one of my top priorities. Being a self-identified foodie, picking Vanderbilt was a new opportunity to discover food in a different part of the country. 

In this article, I'm sharing my best life hacks on how to enjoy southern cuisine with a healthy vegetarian/vegan diet. Even Paula Deen once said, "It's not all about the fried chicken and the biscuits."

1. Ditch the Fried Chicken

meat, chicken, vegetable, pork, beef, sauce, pepper, barbecue
McKel Hill

As a Chick-fil-A lover turned vegetarian, I still find myself daydreaming about a good chicken biscuit every once and a while (no shame). However, separating myself from this delicious and very unhealthy favorite of mine has led me to discover how many other options there are. 

For those who are fans of buffalo wings, a smart and slightly healthier alternative is buffalo-style cauliflower. In Nashville, Tavern and Grin's Vegetarian Café offer their cauliflower revamp of the southern classic.

Another fried chicken staple on menus under the Mason-Dixon line is chicken and waffles. Of course, one option for this is just waffles, but for those who enjoy a more savory breakfast, try getting a fried egg on your waffle.

2. You Can Still Enjoy Biscuits

bread, jam, sweet, dairy product, scone
Olivia Benjamin

Although biscuits don't technically have meat, most popular southern versions of them come with some type of gravy or sausage. For those looking for something more adventurous than plain vegetarian gravy recipes, I would recommend a more fun interpretation on biscuits.

Biscuits are basically a southern version of a bagel, the main difference, of course, being butter. The possibilities for sandwiches and fillings are endless when it comes to biscuits. In our dining halls you can try building your own biscuit sandwich with the scrambled eggs and other toppings. Off campus, Biscuit Love's biscuit French toast, is a must-have. 

3. Choose Veggie Barbecue

corn, cereal, pasture, hazelnut, vegetable, straw, meat, popcorn
Kassie McIntyre
Barbecue is a near sacred tradition in the South; some place in between SEC football and Sunday church. Some great veggie-based uses for barbecue sauce can be with sweet potatoes, corn, and chickpeas. All of our marts on campus sell vegetarian bbq sandwiches if you ever get the craving for a classic. Also, ordering some extra barbecue sauce from your favorite restaurant, from McDonald's to Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint, is a great staple to have in your fridge when dining hall food gets a little too bland.

4. Remember the Pros of Going Vegetarian

sweet potato, sweet, avocado, potato, salad
Gabrielle Levitt

As someone who has experienced and enjoyed many classic southern dishes, the loss of many on these diets has led to some surprisingly positive changes. Many dishes with meat are high in fat and unwanted calories, something I am happy to opt out of. However, there are still some perfect dishes on campus and around town when you need a little treat. Also, the absence of meat doesn't mean the absence of flavor; vegetarian food should be just as good, if not better then their counterparts. 

Although many would say Nashville has the best hot chicken and barbecue, I know that the food here is not limited to just those things. The creative chefs around town are starting to incorporate tofu and vegetables into these normally meat-based dishes. Restaurants like Avo and Graze prove that Nashville has high level and fulfilling foods for people of any diets.

For all of the Vanderbilt students who think being vegetarian in Nashville might be limiting, I would encourage you to try it out. There is a very exciting and growing world of southern-vegetarian and vegan cuisine.