Opinion: How to be vegan in college

Eating an animal-free diet can be difficult as a college student, but there are many ways to maintain veganism during these years.


Photo illustration

Katina Zentz, Creative Director

As a vegan college student, I’m well acquainted with the challenges that come with my dietary choices. Once a Buffalo Wild Wings enthusiast, my peers and family members constantly questioned my reasoning behind becoming a dairy-free macaroni and cheese advocate. 

For the last two years as a vegetarian, and in the last year as a vegan, I’ve dealt with discussions regarding whether I am getting correct nutrients in my system, how I deal with the high cost of meat and dairy alternatives, and how to actually cook a tasty meal. Through all these discussions and debates, one point remains true: It is entirely possible to be vegan as a college student without spending a lot of time and money on the food. 

In all honesty, I faced many complexities as I pinpointed a proper way to go vegan. This idea stemmed from an environmental-science lecture in which my class discussed the detrimental ecological and ethical consequences of meat consumption. As someone who cares about the planet and someone who struggled with proper dieting tactics growing up, I thought the switch to a plant-based diet would be simple. I told myself the change would happen all at once. This was not the case.

Through personal experimentation with different foods, brands, and recipes, I realized the process of being a vegan college student is entirely doable. It just takes a little time to adjust. It’s all about taking the right steps, and starting as a vegetarian can be one of the easier, better kick-starters in the transition to a fully vegan diet. College students confront a whirlwind of problems throughout their educational career, but being vegan is easier than one might think.

The act of cutting out meat may feel like an impossible journey — especially in a place such as Iowa — but other dietary changes seem like small obstacles by comparison. Beginning with easier and more well-known meat replacements such as veggie burgers is an accessible and cost-effective way to get the ball rolling. 

College students confront a whirlwind of problems throughout their educational career, but being vegan is easier than one might think.”

I also started buying boxes of black-bean patties at places such as Hy-Vee and Natural Grocers, located a short drive from campus. I tried making my own homemade versions as well. Gardein, a veggie-based brand, provides food with delicious meat alternatives such as chicken nuggets, taco meat, and meatballs. So fear not, aspiring vegans — most meals containing meat have a delicious vegan counterpart.

Cutting down dairy intake was the next transition. Although the thought of decreasing the deliciousness of cheeses and milk can seem like another big obstacle, the process is actually quite simple. One of the tactics I pursued began with the switch from cow milk to a dairy-free option, such as almond, rice, or soy products. Substituting dairy-free milk in dishes such as a simple cereal bowl or in lattes creates an easier path to the dairy-free lifestyle. Brands such as GoVeggie and Daiya provide tasty and realistic shredded and sliced cheese replacements. These substitutions can be used on sandwiches, sprinkled on salads or pasta, or put on pizza. These foods are completely accessible, cost-efficient, and delicious.

While college life brings plenty of challenges, being vegan doesn’t have to be one of them. The road to a plant-based lifestyle may seem daunting, but not impossible. So take a bite of that vegan burger, kick back, relax, and bon appétit.

Columns reflect the opinions of the authors and are not necessarily those of the Editorial Board, The Daily Iowan, or other organizations in which the author may be involved.

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