Cooking while Vegan in College

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This is a guest post written by Tyler Burgese! Tyler is a 21 year old vegan writer living in Philadelphia. He manages a vegan restaurant, studies sociology, and designs greeting cards. You can follow Tyler's life on his Instagram, @tburgese

The college vegans are definitely the unsung heroes of our little plant-based world. Not only do they have their minds made up about healthy and ethical consumption at a relatively young age, but they also do so within the confines of an academic lifestyle.

I personally decided to go vegan the day that I moved to California for college. Being originally from New Jersey, this was a complete overhaul for me in many ways: new coast, new school, new people, new lifestyle. And my diet was something that I had been meaning to make more intentional for a while. What better time to add another switch to the mix?

So, as soon as I got off the plane, I swore off all animal products in an effort to improve my health and my conscious awareness of the world around me. I had, of course, done loads of research during that summer leading up to this change, but, as with any new path, I had a lot to learn. For starters, I had only a basic understanding of how to cook and had never before needed to grocery shop and prepare each meal entirely on my own. While in college, I lived in an apartment with 3 other vegan roommates and a full kitchen, so I at least had plenty of tools at my disposal.

  • Take full advantage of online resources

If I was born a few decades earlier, I’m honestly not sure how I would have gotten by, but thanks to these gloriously modern times, we have a wealth of resources right at our fingertips. The Internet is the savior of the vegan college student, because above all, it offers the promise that you are not alone. There are so many people in the same situation on the Internet, sharing their experiences and supporting each other. This was definitely my #1 resource throughout college, especially YouTube. Some helpful things to search for are dorm-friendly recipes, dining hall guides, and microwaveable meals.

  • Invest in two things- a high-speed blender and an Instant Pot.

Bonus tip: Bento boxes are great for taking food on the go!

Bonus tip: Bento boxes are great for taking food on the go!

These are the two biggest investments you should make in college (aside from your education itself). I can’t even tell you how much time these two items have saved me throughout the years. With my blender I make smoothies, sauces, dressings, soups, ice cream, you name it. And an Instant Pot is literally magic when it comes to pressure-cooking grains and legumes, and can even be used to sauté things. I love having bulk-prepared items on hand to use as the base of any bowl.

  •  Produce will become one of your best friends

Especially fruit! I always made sure to have some on hand for snacking, and my favorite combo quickly became Medjool dates stuffed with peanut butter and cacao nibs. Another easy meal is overnight oats. This was literally my breakfast every day and was great for keeping me full until lunch. And the best part- no cooking required! Just combine oats & plant milk in a jar or bowl in the refrigerator- about 1 part oats to 2 parts milk, and combine with your favorite trail mix or nut butter!  

  • Don’t be afraid of the dining hall!

I know that dining halls may not have the best reputation, but hear me out. They can be incredibly vegan-friendly if you put in some effort and work with what you have! The first and most obvious tip to accomplish this would be to get friendly with the dining hall employees. If there aren’t already, ask around and see if there is anything vegan that the chefs can prepare for you!

And even if not, you know how the saying goes, “Salad bars are a girl’s best friend” …or something like that. Load up on veggies at the salad bar to keep your diet balanced and your mind clear. A well-constructed salad is like a work of art and can go a long way when it comes to helping you perform at your best!

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I would like to end with a reminder that college may be the most challenging time to be vegan, depending on where you go, but those who are able to are more than deserving of praise. Making veganism work as a college student is a true sign of dedication and unwavering beliefs.

Thank you for reading and please feel free to comment any other tips for vegan college students that you may have!