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Our Favorite Tips for Eating Vegan in Your College Dining Hall

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So,  you’ve made the decision and you want to start eating more plant-based foods. That’s great! You’ve taken the first step to living a more compassionate and health-conscious life. But there’s a catch— you live on campus, and you eat most of your meals in your college dining hall, which seems to be made up of only salad and stale chicken nuggets.

Here are some simple tips to make your breakfast, lunch, and dinner less hectic and more enjoyable when transitioning to a vegan diet in your college dining hall.


1. Breakfast

You wake up after a long night of studying, and now it’s time to refuel your brain for the exam you have today. Let’s start with breakfast! Instead of having cream cheese on your bagel, opt for peanut butter instead. You could even slice up a piece of fruit, like a banana or apple, and put it on the bagel to make it a little more filling.

If cereal is more your thing, then that shouldn’t be a problem either. Most college dining halls now offer soy or almond milk (if you don’t see any be sure to ask), so switch to one of those instead of using cow’s milk. Popular cereals like Rice Krispies, Corn Flakes, and Cinnamon Life are vegan! You could also try oatmeal, and put some nuts, seeds, or fruit in it to make it more filling. Try adding peanut butter, jelly, or maple syrup for more variety.

2. Lunch

Lunch doesn’t have to be difficult either. You could always go for a simple salad, but chances are there will be other options to choose from. Does your dining hall have a sandwich station? How about a salad bar? Take some vegetables from the salad station and make your own sandwich or wrap using mustard or hummus! If you do have hummus available in your dining hall, make room for a new best friend because hummus will always save the day. You can use it as a spread on sandwiches, mix it with water or olive oil to make a vegan dressing for salad, or just eat it straight with carrots and broccoli from the salad bar as a snack.

If your dining hall has a pasta station, choose tomato sauce (ask to make sure there is no cheese in it) or olive oil to top your pasta, and make it more interesting by adding a bunch of veggies from the salad bar. If you want to get really fancy, feel free to bring your own bag of nutritional yeast (“nooch”) to take your lunch to the next level. Sprinkle this cheesy and nutty magical dust on salads, pasta, and sandwiches. You can find nutritional yeast for only $2.99 at the vegan mecca, Trader Joes.

3. Dinner

You’ve gone to class and finished your exams, and now it’s finally time for dinner. Dinner is usually the busiest time in college dining halls since everyone is done with class and grabbing some grub. Just because it is busy, doesn’t mean there won’t be options for you. Actually, there will probably be a larger variety of foods offered compared to breakfast and lunch. This will be no sweat! Many college dining halls offer grains like rice, which you can get extra creative with.

If there is rice available, grab some vegetables from the salad bar and make your own version of vegetable rice. If there is a stir fry station, you could have an employee fry it for you on a pan and add soy or teriyaki sauce to make it more flavorful. Also, if you see that there are burgers being offered, ask an employee if there are veggie burgers available. Even if they don’t have any this time, they may be more likely to get some for another time if they see there is a demand for them. Many college campuses also have a sushi station, so ask if you could have a roll made with vegetables like carrots and cucumbers. If they have avocado you have hit the jackpot! Also, look for items like; beans, lentils, quinoa, and potatoes, all of which are vegan, filling, and popular in college dining halls.

If you follow these tips and you still don’t see much vegan fare that is available, make sure you ask! If the foods are not labeled with specific ingredients, (for example, if you are wondering if the steamed vegetables contain butter) ask an employee so you know for sure. You are paying for a meal plan and your school needs to accommodate you. Get to know the staff in your dining hall and let them know your dietary needs. The more straightforward you are with the dining staff, the easier it will be for them to provide you with more options. Make sure you always have a snack with you too, in case you are hungry between classes. Keep your Dorm Pantry Stocked With These Simple, Energizing Plant-Based Staples for when you are in a pinch!

We hope these tips help you make more conscious choices in your dining hall to help the animals, the environment, and your own health! If you are still having trouble or don’t feel like leaving your dorm, check out this awesome article about How to Make Delicious, Nutritious Dorm Food without a Stove!

For more advice on creating delicious vegan meals, we highly recommend downloading the Food Monster App. For those that don’t have it, it’s an awesome food app available for both Android and iPhone. It has over 8,000 vegan recipes, with 10 more added every day. Check it out!

For more information about being vegan in college, check out the articles below by downloading the Food Monster App. The app is available for both Android and iPhone and has free and paid versions. It’s loaded with thousands of allergy-friendly recipes and cooking tips, and has hundreds of search filters and features like bookmarking, meal plans and more!

Lead image source: Katherine Carroll

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