Over the years there has been a growing trend of people going vegan during their college years due to the increasing awareness of benefits associated with this lifestyle.
According to a study done in 2016 by PETA’s youth division, there has been a skyrocketing demand in campus dining programs for plant-based meals. The number of schools offering at least one daily vegan option has more than doubled over the last two years to 62 percent compared to 45 percent in 2015 and 28 percent in 2014. This is definitely a great indicator that veganism is here to stay and that if you decide to go vegan in college, you will be able to do so with ease!
What Exactly Is A "Vegan"?
"A vegan is someone who does not consume meat, dairy products, eggs or any product derived from an animal."
A vegan diet that is nutritionally balanced and consists of fruits, vegetables, grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes can be one of the healthiest ways to live. People have many different reasons for choosing to be vegan but most of them have the same one in common for sticking with it: the amazing life-changing benefits they experience mentally, physically and spiritually. Going vegan can help you lose weight, achieve clear skin, mental clarity, ease stomach issues and much more.
If a vegan diet is nutritionally balanced, it is one of the healthiest ways to eat and live.
Contrary to popular belief, it doesn't have to be expensive or hard as people assume to eat vegan! It is a major misconception that vegans don’t have many food choices, vegans have an endless amount of different nutritional and great tasting foods to choose from. A healthy vegan diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, tofu, millet, quinoa, oats, grains, seeds, nuts, and legumes results in a wide variety of health benefits.
Most of these nutritious foods are easily accessible and inexpensive at many grocery stores. Sure, being vegan can be expensive but that’s if you are buying all high-end vegan snacks and packaged foods. If you are buying everything in a package that’s vegan, not only are you spending more money, you aren’t eating healthy. Balance is key, and incorporating packaged foods here and there while sticking mainly to whole foods that are vegan is healthy, easy and will not break the bank!
Tips On Going Vegan For The First Time
The beginning is often the hardest part as it is with most changes. One of the best ways to start when making the decision to go vegan is to be prepared and knowledgeable about what a vegan lifestyle is.
Knowledge of how to be vegan, what is vegan, what isn’t vegan and general advice from vegans who have been in your shoes before. Know that even though a vegan lifestyle may be new to you and the people around you, it has been around for awhile and there are experts that can make this transition a much more enjoyable one.
“How Not To Die” - Michael Greger MD
“Whole” - T. Colin Campbell
Keep It Vegan’s free Five Steps To Vegan eBook
"The Book of Veganish" - Kathy Freston
"Main Street Vegan" - Victoria Moran
Recommended Documentaries (Netflix)
Know that even if you do feel overwhelmed at first, one of the best ways to tackle vegan living is to form new habits and make new choices at a pace that feels comfortable for you.
By doing this, you won’t feel too overwhelmed and you won’t be tempted to give up being vegan. If you are ready to quit cold turkey everything that’s not vegan, great! If you aren’t ready to go all vegan, do it in steps and cut out animal products slowly.
Everyone is different and there is no set rules on how to switch to a vegan lifestyle. If you know it’s too much to dive all in at first, then don’t! You will be setting yourself up for failure. You will find that no matter the difficulties or challenges a vegan lifestyle may have at times, the perks and the benefits of being vegan make all of the sacrifices and changes worth it.
Know Your Food
In order to go vegan, you must know what isn’t vegan besides the obvious things like milk, cheese, butter, and meat. One of the first steps after you decide to go vegan is to begin to get in the habit of reading the labels of everything that you buy to make sure that it is vegan. At first, you may be surprised at how many products contain milk, eggs, butter and other animal products. There are also products that you would have never guessed are not vegan.
Below is list of food and general products that may surprisingly not always be vegan. The reasons vary based on the product and the brand, and it’s best to carefully read the labels on all of these products as some may be vegan, some may not be. This list does not include everything, but it’s a great starting point for those who are in college and new to a vegan lifestyle.
Even though going vegan is not as rare as it used to be, it can still be seen as radical to some people and you may face opposition, especially in the beginning.
After time, people will get used to you living a vegan lifestyle (and may even take interest in it!), it just may go through an adjustment period as with many changes in life.
Dealing With Social Pressure
Dealing with social pressure can be tough at first, and knowing how to handle it before it even comes your way can really help you work through any difficult encounters or situations. If people are judgemental and approach you about being vegan in a negative way, it’s best not to engage and to know that this may be an insecurity with themselves or just someone who doesn’t understand or respect your decision.
By not fighting back, you can help people who stereotype vegans see that you are choosing a lifestyle based on compassion, integrity, and respect and it shows in your actions all around.
One of the best things you can do is find like-minded people who share your beliefs and are vegans and/or respect veganism.
Like attracts like, and even though it may take some time, you will be led to people who are also vegan.
Try and seek out restaurants the serve vegan food or stores that have vegan sections. Look around for any vegan events in the area, not only will you learn a lot, you are bound to start meeting other vegans too.
Get Started In Vegan Activism & Outreach
If you are someone who loves to engage and promote something you believe in, consider getting started in vegan activism and outreach.
You can find plenty of information here for free to pass out. This is a great way to both spread the word and meet people who believe in what you believe in.
Get Experimental In The Kitchen!
One thing that can make going vegan fun, easy and even seamless is getting experimental in the kitchen.
Most likely there is a lot to learn when going vegan and even if you aren’t a self-proclaimed chef, cooking vegan is probably way easier than you imagine! When starting out, choose recipes that aren’t that long and that include ingredients that you have access to. There are so many blogs, books and websites out there dedicated to veganism where you can find a huge range of vegan recipes.
Sometimes when transitioning to veganism, people are worried about missing the taste and texture of meat. Seitan, tofu, and tempeh will be the perfect substitutes as they all mimic meat closely and taste great. Tempeh is a brownish and more textured soy product that is made by fermenting cooked soybeans. Tempeh tastes sweet, nutty, and can be stir-fried, baked, breaded, or grilled.
Tofu is made soybeans, cooks easily and can soak up lots of flavor. Seitan is made from wheat gluten, so it's not for you if you're on a gluten-free diet. It's brown in color, has a chewy texture, and just like tofu and tempeh, can take on whatever flavor you add to it. They are all versatile choices that are easy to cook, carried in most stores and can be added to stir-fry, salads, and many other meals.
As for good tasting desserts, vegans certainly do not miss out! There is a wide variety of sweets to choose from, almost every grocery store now carries vegan ice cream and it’s becoming popular to carry vegan options at bakeries.
If you are looking to make vegan desserts yourself, cacao is an essential! Cacao, the unprocessed bean that comes in a variety of forms is what chocolate is made from. There is a wide variety of cacao based desserts that taste chocolatey and are even good for you. In addition, you can find dark chocolate bars in stores made from cacao that are vegan.
Another option for vegans that is widely available is fresh-pressed juices and smoothies. They are both smart, nutritious and tasty ways to get a lot of servings of vegetables and fruits. Since vegans don’t eat animal protein, adding vegan protein powder to a smoothie is a great way to get the daily amount needed.
If possible, a blender or a juicer is a great investment for a vegan in college to make because of the unlimited amount of options you can make.
Stock Up On Vegan Snacks
When it comes to being vegan, being prepared all around is essential to staying on track. During the transition, it’s best to stock up on vegan snacks and become familiar with easy to make vegan recipes as there may be moments when you are faced with only non-vegan choices and need to eat what you have.
Over time you will start to become familiar with where to go for vegan food and get a sense of how to live this lifestyle. Here is a list of healthy snacks to have on hand and quick and easy recipes to have in mind:
Healthy Snack Recipes
Unbuttered popcorn (Salt optional)
Not-As-Healthy Store-Bought Snacks
Fruit by the Foot
Lay’s potato chips - Confirmed vegan flavors are: Classic, BBQ, Deli Style, Lay’s Wavy Potato Chips
Fritos - Fritos Bar-B-Q Flavored Corn Chips, Fritos Brand The Original Corn Chips, Frito-Lay Sabritones
Keebler Animal Crackers
Lance Sugar Wafers (Vanilla Creme and Strawberry Creme)
Big League Chew Bubble Gum
Oreos - Believe it or not, they are vegan.
Going vegan is a major decision and it is one that can be life changing in the best kind of way.
People feel better about their health and their conscious choice to be a voice for animals who don’t have one. Every year in the United States, more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food.
By adopting a vegan diet and eating less meat means fewer industrial farms and fewer animals subjected to harsh treatment.
Numbers vary but between land animals and fish a vegan diet helps save over 400 animals per year!
No matter what the reasons are behind choosing to live a vegan lifestyle, it is evident that the benefits are extensive for your health, the environment, and the animals. It is a win-win!
A vegan diet is a healthy and compassionate way to live and is one of the most powerful and easiest ways to prevent certain diseases and illnesses.