The thought of being a vegan student can seem daunting at first. How will I afford it? What will I do at social gatherings? Will I manage to maintain a balanced diet? These are thoughts that many students might have and let me tell you one thing directly – being a vegan student is actually pretty easy, especially if you follow certain tips. In honour of veganuary I am going to address some issues and share my tips for being a vegan student. Most of my tips are very simple, in fact so simple that it feels strange to list them but I know that the easiest tips can be the most effective and honestly, it took me a while to get the hang of cooking, meal planning and sensible grocery shopping (that goes beyond just buying a jar of tomato sauce and pasta, I bet you feel me).
Let’s talk about grocery shopping first. Many people think that veganism is linked with high expenses which is actually not true at all. Unless you live in a country where broccoli costs 5 pounds, you should be able to save money on a plant-based diet. In the UK veggies are even cheaper than in my home country – who can complain about 40p for broccoli? Anyway, a vegan diet only becomes expensive if you invest into substitutes such as vegan meat or into vegan pesto or other pre-made products. My biggest advice would be to make things from scratch. Yes, I know it’s tempting to get that basil pesto but you can easily make it yourself by throwing some basil leaves, lemon, nutritional yeast and spinach together. The only things I really spend money on are non-dairy milk and vegan nutella (sorry not sorry). If you really want to save up you can get soy milk for very little money – at first I thought that only pricey vegan drinks are fortified with B12 but looking at the ingredients of the 80p soy milk at tesco taught me I was wrong about that. Anyway, as a vegan there are some staples that will make your life easier including nutritional yeast (which also has a delicious cheesy flavour), veggie stock (which you can basically use for making any sauce), maple syrup (as a sweetener), walnuts/nuts (which make any meal better and are a good source of calcium), dates, sun-dried tomatoes, hummus, tinned veggies such as kidney beans, chickpeas or veggie soup and juice. Or if you’re more motivated than me, you could just produce your own juice or smoothie. A food blender definitely comes in handy, especially for juices and for making pesto or hummus. Another tip for grocery shopping that isn’t explicitly related to veganism would be finding out when shops reduce prices for food that expires soon – you can save a lot of money that way. My favourite grocery store for buying vegan products is Tesco, they have a really good free-from range and even sell vegan cream cheese and vegan pesto (you know, the thing I just advised you to make yourself). But other supermarkets like Sainsbury’s or Morrison’s have a pretty good vegan selection as well.
But what about the lunch break at uni? What will I eat? First of all, I was surprised to find that my uni offers vegan meals every single day but even if you want to get a take-away there are some really good options. Even though I haven’t tried it myself, I know that Pret have a vegan sandwich and then there is Wasabi – you can never go wrong with avocado sushi, can you? You can either find vegan meals or just veganise meals at most places but I usually bring my own food anyway to save myself a couple of pounds. You can find plenty of delicious lunch ideas on YouTube but my go-to-meals are pasta salad, pasta with pesto, fried rice or couscous salad. All of them are really easy to make and you can just make a bigger portion of them in the evening and save the rest for lunch for the next day. I also make sure to take snacks such as granola bars to uni in case I get hungry. Now that I’ve given some tips about food, I’ll briefly address the issue of maintaining a balanced diet. First of all, I think it’s misconception to assume that only the vegan diet can lead to malnutrition. Any ‘diet’ can lead to deficiencies if done wrong and of course, the vegan diet is no exception to that. My two tips would be making sure to get enough calcium through nuts, seeds and grains and iron through leafy and green veggies such a broccoli or kale. Other than that, I would recommend supplementing B12 – you can obtain small amounts through fortified milk or nutritional yeast but as a student I don’t want to have to worry about getting a sufficient amount every day. If you’re transitioning to a vegan diet, there are plenty of helpful sites on the internet providing nutritional information.
My biggest worry about being a vegan student was the social aspect. I remember that I went home to have dinner before our Christmas party in case I wouldn’t find anything to eat – only to find most of the food to be vegan at that party. 10 points to my uni for that. The best thing you can is talk to your friends, plan the food together and if you’re feeling unsure, just bring food. Not only will you have a great meal but that pasta salad might be the start of a great friendship. I wish I was joking but food is probably the best way to impress me. Oh well. Something else I can recommend is joining a vegan society if your uni has one – it is amazing to meet people with similar mindsets and interests and you can do a lot of fun activities together.
I feel like this post wouldn’t be complete without a list of delicious and simple vegan meals that you can easily make as a student. And I promise, these are actually simple – we all know at least one cookbook that claims to be full of quick and easy meals that in reality take 60 minutes.
- pasta salad (just combine pasta, onion, spinach, pepper and sun-dried tomatoes)
- avocado pasta
- sweet potato fries
- bean pasta (make a delicious sauce with kidney beans, chickpeas, courgette, onion, chopped tomatoes and veggie stock)
- creamy mushroom pasta (for the sauce, combine onion, courgette, mushrooms, (parsley,) almond milk & veggie stock)
- vegan panini
- vegan burgers (I usually get pre-made patties)
- potato wedges and roasted veggies (such as pepper, onion and courgette)
- Mexican bowl (combine rice, black beans, guacamole and tortilla chips)
- vegan fried rice (combine rice with onion, garlic, peas, carrot and anything else you like)
- pasta and vegan pesto (check out this recipe)
- garlic jacket potatoes (check out this recipe)
- fried potatoes (simply fry potatoes with red onion and coriander, vegan sour cream tastes great with that)
- dates in puff pastry (the easiest and most delicious desert EVER, just roll some dates in puff pastry and pop it in the oven for about 10 minutes)
Whether your are vegan, are thinking about making the switch or simply want to eat healthier, these recipes could make your life a lot easier. I hope I could give you some inspiration, answer some questions and possibly resolve some doubts about the plant-based diet. If you have any other tips, please share them!
Are you doing Veganuary?