“Where do you get your protein?!” This is the exasperated reaction I get 90 percent of the time someone finds out I’m a vegan. Often, this comes from people who have been taught to believe that protein and meat are two different words for the same thing. As any vegetarian will tell you, this is not true. However, there is genuine concern about maintaining a healthy plant-based diet while in college. Accessibility is perhaps the greatest detriment to a vegan diet in college, so I am going to provide some tips I have learned along the way. First of all, it is important to define what vegetarian and vegan diets are. Vegetarians are people who do not consume meat and tend to avoid gelatin, an ingredient found in a lot of gummy candy. Gelatin is made from skin, tendons, ligaments and bones from pigs or cows. Vegans are the same as vegetarians, but in addition to not eating meat, they do not consume dairy from animal sources. Most vegans do not eat honey. People decide to adopt a plant-based diet for a myriad of reasons, but the followin
g are the most common: ethics, religion, protecting the environment, and health.
Like any other college student, vegans can become complacent about their health in college. French fries, pizza, and (veggie) burgers provide convenience and comfort. Who wants to make dinner when you can simply order in? But for vegetarians, this issue is compounded by the fact that plant-based options at UMD are seriously lacking. Though I live off campus, I asked an on-campus vegan what it’s like having to eat in Dining Center. She said, “I pretty much have a salad every day … even the veggie
burgers aren’t vegan.” This is true for other areas on campus as well. There are typically one or two vegan things at any food stop on campus, and they are often unhealthy (fries) or boring (salad).
So what can conscious eaters do? For those living on campus, purchasing a student cookbook will be beneficial. I have PETA’S Vegan College Cookbook, which contains comfort food recipes that can all be made in a microwave. Off-campus students often have the luxury of an oven and stove, so any other veggie cookbook will do.
All students will have to purchase food from grocery stores. Luckily, Duluth provides many options for vegetarians and vegans alike. Meat and dairy alternatives are available at both Target and Cub, and no vegetarian food trip would be complete without a stop at Whole Foods. It is one of the few places in Duluth that carries Daiya cheese products (the best vegan dairy products on the market, in my humble opinion). If you find yourself shopping at one primary place, it’s not a bad idea to sign up for the rewards there. Every bit of saving counts!
In order to get the most bang for your buck, purchase primarily non-perishable and frozen items. Also, only buy things you know you will eat. Don’t buy kale when you would rather eat spinach. Perhaps the biggest money suck is buying fad items (chia seeds! kale! coconut water!), but then not eating them because the preparation is too difficult. Stick to the basics: peanut butter, apples, pears, spinach, raisins, almond milk, cereal, pasta, frozen veggies, etc.
Also, buy things that are easy to prepare. Wraps are one of my favorite lunch items because they are so easy to mix up (chick peas and avocados one day, hummus and peppers the next). They are also easy to prepare and transport. The same goes for simple sandwiches like PB&J (throw on a sliced banana for extra nutrients). Be sure to buy a lot of healthy snacks, such as apples and nuts. Having a bag of trail mix at hand will make it much easier to avoid buying chips from the vending machine.
Being mindful of nutrition is imperative for all college students, and the advice I have offered does not apply only to vegans. Eating a well-balanced diet will not only improve your body, it will also improve your mind. And that’s something we all want.
BY APRILL EMIG Emigx005@d.umn.edu
ILLUSTRATION BY JADE GOLEN.