A Guide to Being Vegetarian at University
(Because as much as we may want it to be, pasta is not a food group)
If you’re a puzzled vegetarian coming to university for the first time, or perhaps a second or third year who wants to switch to a plant based diet, then this guide is for you. Cutting out meat may seem daunting, especially in the face of assignment deadlines and subpar dormitory kitchens. However, it can be done. Being vegetarian includes a lot of health benefits, like being at a lower risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, it’s better for the planet and helps battle climate change, and if all that doesn’t appeal to you then just think about all the cute piglets you’ll be helping!
Scope out the Scene
You’d be surprised at how many vegetarian options your cafeteria or restaurants on campus may already offer. Dining out with friends is a treat, so don’t let anyone tell you that you have to bring a packed lunch with you everywhere you go! Vegetarians can enjoy a nice restaurant meal as well. And if your friends don’t want to compromise for you and eat at a place that has vegetarian options, it might be time to hit up some societies and start meeting new people. Maybe your university has a vegetarian society?
As a meat eater you may have been used to ordering take aways or eating BLT’s for most of your time at university, but as a herbivore that’s not going to cut it. It’s time to put on that apron and make Gordon Ramsay proud. It’s much easier to cook as a vegetarian than it is to eat out, because you know exactly what’s going into your food. Therefore, you don’t have to keep asking your friends to taste a bit of mystery ingredient in your meal that you’re paranoid might be meat.
If you’re lost for ideas on what to cook, check out Tasty Vegetarian’s page on Facebook- they have quick, easy and delicious recipes that will get you through your university years without a hitch! Try to make their vegan spaghetti carbonara if you’re feeling up for the challenge.
Read the Labels. Of, like, everything
Meat can sneak up on you in products where you would least expect it. Did you know that parmesan cheese is not vegetarian? This is because it’s made from animal rennet, and some beers and wines can contain ground up fish bladders (yum yum). Therefore, if these things bother you then get into the habit of checking the ingredients of every damn thing you buy. And get ready to Google every ingredient you see, because would you have known that hydrolyzed collagen protein means gelatin made from animals? Might be a good idea to get reading glasses because you’ll be squinting a lot.
Replace Rather than Remove
You might think that simply cutting out all meat from your diet will make you vegetarian. Well, it will, but it will make you the kind of vegetarian who’s always too sick to go down to the pub with their mates. If you want to be happy and healthy you need to add some extra nutrients to your diet to make up for the ones that are being lost.
If you’re not vegan, load up on eggs for protein. If you are, nut butters and meat substitutes are a great source of protein as well. Your meat-free diet may cause iron deficiency down the line, so make sure you don’t skimp on foods like spinach, tofu, and beans. And if worse comes to worst, you can always take supplements. Go to your nearest health center and do a blood test to see what your body is missing out on.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Being a vegetarian is a tough lifestyle, and everyone messes up occasionally. Maybe you didn’t check the label of something you were eating and accidentally consumed meat, or the last slice of pepperoni pizza was calling your name (and yours only) at a party. People make mistakes, but what’s important is to brush yourself off the next day and keep striving for what you believe in, rather than giving up because it’s too hard. Even just reducing the amount of meat you eat is good for you and the environment. Something is better than nothing!
What do you think is the hardest part of being vegetarian at university? Let us know in the comments!