College Vegan Thrive Guide
Updated: Jun 27
College is a time for exploring—filled with trial and error—both new relationships and the endless opportunities on campus. Two years ago, my freshman fall semester was the peak of my college experience thus far. I realize now it’s probably because everything was so new and I got to explore every opportunity that came my way!
If I could give incoming freshman one piece of advice, I would say “Take unique courses that expand you.” Not only will you be learning interesting topics, but also making connections with people who share similar beliefs (or challenge your beliefs). “Plants, Health, and Spirituality” was that class for me. Open-minded students of all ages and backgrounds coupled with an empowering bad-ass Brazilian woman guiding the course resulted in deep conversations and new friendships.
A giant leap forward #myveganstory: A girl (Sam runs her own company now) stood up the third week of class recruiting interns for a local vegan medicinal soup company. With no business management experience I jumped at the opportunity and landed the internship. I learned all about the vast health benefits of our ingredients as the founders shared their basic philosophy in Hippocrates quote “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” I went vegan all at once. In my mind there was no reason or desire to eat animal products after educating myself on the amazing benefits of a whole food plant-based diet. #WFPB. I felt amazing in my body and for contributing to a higher purpose: animal welfare and environmental sustainability. I knew adults who were vegan and admired them, but never thought I could do it myself...look how far I've come!
Since September 2017 I have been vegan, a lifestyle that aligns with my beliefs and body type. Honestly, I think being vegan or vegetarian can be easier in college when you keep it simple. Plant-based options, like beans, quinoa, and almond milk have a longer shelf-life and cooking/refrigeration is less of an issue compared to animal products, therefore ideal for dorm living. I joined a sorority, which provides lunch and dinner that generally aren’t plant-based, but this past year they heard our pleas and provided more plant based options. #grateful
BUT WAIT!! Don’t think that you need a sorority or campus meal plan to sustain yourself for the next four years or so ;) Here are some tips and meal ideas to help you stay or transition to a vegan lifestyle in college:
1. Plant Power Mindset:
Educate yourself on why eating vegan is beneficial for you and the planet. Reading facts from doctors who research the subject is a way for you to feel confident in your decision and give evidence to those who question you about this lifestyle choice (because you already know your friends are going to ask “Where do you get your protein?”). When you’re having a bad day and feel like just giving up take the time to breathe, reflect on your choices. Watching uplifting videos on veganism, reading informative books, and following social media accounts that support the cause help as weekly reminders and support.
Fav Podcast: https://plantproof.com/category/podcast/
2. Intuitive Eating
Figuring out your preferred ingredients, textures, and temperatures is an important part of the process for you to feel fulfilled. I am constantly trying new things, such as currently playing with sweet potatoes and chickpeas. Trial and error promotes greater mind-body connection because you have to remain mindful in order to realize if your meal was satisfying. It is essential to expand your palette to incorporate a wide variety of plant foods to ensure you receive all the essential minerals and nutrients! #listentoyourbody
Play around with toppings! Some add-ons to consider:
Avocados, Nuts, Seeds: extra fat to satisfy hunger for longer
Turmeric, Paprika, Cayenne: add a spicy kick
Lemon, Limes: squeeze for sour flavor (mash with avocado for salad dressing)
Raw Carrots, Broccoli, Edamame: crunchy texture
Cucumber, Tomatoes: cool, refreshing, juicy
Fruit: natural sweeteners (my current obsession is with Honey Mangos— I’ve been adding them to all meals of the day!)
3. Ballin on a Budget
Healthy vegan meals can be cheap and require very little cooking ability! Vegan companies are much more prevalent now so you can find and create alternatives for all those childhood comfort foods. I mostly stick to whole foods, meaning I don’t buy packaged vegan meals. However, there are plenty of tasty companies out there you can try! Just be on the lookout for filler ingredients, sugar, and sodium content. I will break down examples of meals that are tasty, nutritious, and you can make when living in the dorm (with only stovetop hot plates, a microwave, and a toaster oven).
*you should eat breakfast within 90 mins of waking up to regulate your blood sugar, help curb cravings (SUGAR!) throughout the day*
Smoothie Bowl: Blend Frozen Bananas, Spinach or Kale, Almond Milk. Option to Blend or Top with Nut Butter, Oats/Granola, Coconut Flakes, Hemp Seeds, more Fruits.
Oatmeal: Microwave Rolled Oats, Water, Cinnamon. Top with anything your heart desires.. Peanut butter, Bananas, Dried Fruit, Agave/Maple Syrup **Overnight Oats are one of my go-to breakfasts when I want to work out and have class after it’s easy to make the day before or the morning of! Use an old peanut butter jar or whatever container to mix oats, nuts/seeds, cinnamon, nut butter, special extras: protein powder, cacao powder, ground flax, pour just enough almond milk for the oats to absorb but not enough to turn it into cereal rather than oatmeal
Avocado Toast: Bread (I use Ezekiel; it’s sprouted grains and typically has more protein/fiber), Avocados, Cherry Tomatoes, Spices (turmeric/black pepper, curry, paprika), Nutritional Yeast, Ground Flax or Sunflower Seeds. If you need extra power in the morning simply add some delicious Tofu Scramble!
Lunch: I usually eat leftovers, a wrap, or salad.
Leftovers are foods you can reheat and add some fresh toppings as mentioned earlier. Wraps and salads are similar in my mind; it just depends on what you have to work with and how hungry you are. A tortilla will be more filling, but you can make salads just as satisfying!
Decorate your salad bowl or wrap it up!?
Base: Tortilla, Naan Bread, Leafy Greens (spinach, lettuce, kale)
Spreads: Hummus, Salsa, Avocado
Veg: Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Carrots, Broccoli, Cucumber, Sprouts, Leafy Greens
Protein: Black Beans, Chickpeas, Edamame, Sunflower Seeds, Pepitas, Nuts
Make it more hearty with: Brown Rice, Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Tofu/Tempeh
Sauce it up: My favorite addition is a cup of “aha” soup @ahapurefoods
Need an extra kick? Squeeze lime, drizzle balsamic vinaigrette, or sprinkle those spices!
Dinner: My goal is to maximize study/social time and minimize the cost… doesn’t always end up that way, but I’m trying! I love making simple nourishing bowls with ingredients that can be made in bulk and eaten for a few meals (lunch or dinner) throughout the week.
Carb: Brown Rice, Quinoa, Sweet Potato, Pasta (I buy gluten free brands like Banza, Tinkyada, Explore Cuisine)
Protein: Tofu/Tempeh, Chickpeas, Black Beans, Lentils in Curry
Veg: Spinach, Kale, Bell Peppers, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Zucchini
Sauce & Spice & Everything Nice: Coconut Aminos (currently obsessed and put it on everything), Nutritional Yeast (it’s not a scary fungus… it’s filled with B vitamins and tastes cheesy), Coconut flakes, Nuts/Seeds, Fruit
4. Find your people!
Join Facebook pages, go to local events, and school clubs to meet people that share your passions. Empowerment is contagious. Vegan friends can relate to you, share knowledge on dank local restaurants, and are kind, compassionate beings. A like-minded tribe will help you thrive;) #wisefood #wisetribe @wisetribe @coreuf @ufsurf
Whether you decide to call yourself a vegan is not the point. My message for you is to incorporate as many plants into your meals as possible and sometimes that means stepping out of your comfort zone to try new recipes! Treat your body like you’re a first round draft pick athlete because you are the star of your own life. What fuel you put in will affect all aspects of college life. Trust me you want all the brain power and energy you can get to win big in the game of life!
Join me weekly on the path to “Live Dirty, Eat Clean and Green”,