Being Vegan in College (8 Awesome Tips)

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by Alena Schowalter
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Being vegan in college can be easy and fun! Find our top food suggestions, budgeting printables, easy recipes & lifestyle tips in this guide.

Congrats, you’ve made it to college! A lot of things will be easier now because you get to decide for yourself how you want to spend your day, your money and your energy.

There are many new things to explore now that you’re out of your parents’ house — perhaps, this makes being in college the perfect time to go vegan!

Veganism is definitely on the rise and it’s become a huge trend among college students. With our guide to being vegan in college, you will find out how to be vegan on a budget, where to find tasty vegan food, how to create lazy vegan meals and how to look for vegan-friendly colleges!

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There are numerous ways to optimize your vegan college experience and to help you follow a healthy plant-based diet to fuel your academic endeavors!

If you’re not on a plant-based diet yet, check out our super helpful guide on transitioning to a vegan diet and check out the best reasons why to go vegan in the first place.

8 tips for being vegan in college

Here are our top tips for anyone wanting to go or be vegan in college! Pick the ones that work best in your situation and let us know in the comments what we forgot to mention.

1. Check how vegan-friendly your college is

three stuffed avocado grilled cheese sandwiches wrapped in parchment paper

Did you know that peta2 came up with a ranking on how vegan-friendly all of the colleges in the US are?

That’s especially helpful if you haven’t already chosen where you will be taking your classes and have some time to take these possibilities into account.

There is also a good chance that your college will have a vegan club — with the rising number of vegans, it’s very likely there are a few more where you are. If that’s not the case, how about starting one yourself?

You don’t need to start a vegan activist club (but you sure could) but sharing tips and ideas, having some support is always helpful.

You can check out online groups too (try Facebook!) and go over to Happy Cow to find vegan-friendly places close to your college.

Many dining halls have a special section for students with food allergies – this is where you’ll find dairy-free options like soy milk or almond milk.

2. Get educated and prepared

Woman hand using trackpad of laptop with plate of strawberries and lemons next to her

Since you will need to explain the basics of veganism to a lot of people, brush up your knowledge and check out our favorite vegan comebacks when getting into arguments.

Learn what should and should not be in your food, how to eat a healthy vegan diet and what to tell people who ask one or 10 of the heard-it-all-before questions about veganism.

A great place to start is by watching some vegan documentaries or YouTube videos, listen to educational vegan podcasts, or grab a good vegan book!

Why not check your library for some good material?

Another good option is to go online and get some vegan flyers or booklets from organizations like Vegan Outreach that you can use as a blueprint and even hand out at your college.

If you don’t feel like giving a huge speech in front of a group of fellow students who ask about your lifestyle choice, tell those who are interested that you will be talking to them later in a private conversation.

Remember, college is about spending time with friends too, so don’t make it all about the food and enjoy their company rather than criticizing them for not being vegan.

Find more tips about living peacefully with non-vegans here.

3. Talk to the dining hall staff

Closeup of male chef with tattoos arranging green vegetables on a plate

Becoming friends with them might not be necessary, but being nice to the people who take care of all things food is a very good idea.

Now that you’ve educated yourself and learned about all the different foods that you can eat as a vegan, let the staff know about your specific needs — they are usually very keen to make sure every student gets their dietary needs met somehow.

You can also share some of your favorite vegan recipes or cookbooks so they know what you’re talking about or just come up with some ideas for inexpensive and easy-to-prepare vegan staple foods they could stock up on.

Easy vegan staples

  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Green Salads
  • Soups
  • Steamed Veggies
25 Essential Vegan Staple Foods

What you can also do is discussing your commitment to eating a healthy vegan diet with the director of your college’s dining services in order to seal the deal.

4. Choose the right meals & plans

Woman sitting cross-legged and holding vegan buddha bowl with greens, chickpeas and other vegetables

If you have the option, choose a flexible meal plan that allows you to use the leftover cash value to buy your own food from the store (below are some ideas on what to get there!)

Try to check every week’s menu online beforehand and ask for some individual components, like rice, veggies and salads, to be combined for you. This makes things very convenient for the staff!

The more you get the hang of navigating the dining hall, the more options you’ll find everywhere. Make sure to always fill up on whole plant foods whenever available!

This gives you great fuel and you don’t have to constantly rely on snack foods that are more expensive and usually not super healthy.

Still, it’s important to keep some snacks on hand like food bars, trail mix, or fruit (which you can get for free in the dining hall!)

5. Smart & budget-friendly shopping

Woman in supermarket reaching for a bell pepper

Whenever you’re on a tight budget, make sure you only purchase what you need by planning ahead of time. Write down a shopping list and stick to it (free printable grocery list here) but remain flexible when you see special offers at the store.

When you get the chance, buy your food in bulk and get seasonal produce. Be sure to grab our free download for eating a healthy vegan diet on a budget below!

If you’re looking for some special vegan items that you can’t find in any stores around you, consider ordering them online at shops like:

Best Vegan Subscription Boxes

These shops carry everything from vegan cookies or sausages to cosmetics and much more.

Not all plant-based items at the store are labeled vegan, by the way! So, if you want to make a bargain internalize (or just print!) this list of accidentally vegan foods which includes crackers, bread, sauces, cookies, dips and much more.

Be sure to double-check the ingredient list before purchasing!

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6. Utilize the dorm kitchen

Dorm kitchens do exist and they are almost always free since pretty much no one uses them! This means you can prepare easy and tasty vegan meals in bulk.

If you’re new to cooking for yourself, find our vegan meal planning tips for beginners here or get into plant-based meal prepping!

Don’t forget to browse these delicious vegan meal prep recipes and pick 2-3 to try and then repeatedly make them over the next few weeks. This frees up a lot of brain space!

Use the dorm kitchen to your advantage and carve out some time to cook staple foods like rice, potatoes or vegetables which you can enjoy throughout the week. Combine them with some canned legumes, tasty spices and sauces — and you just created a simple and healthy plant-based dinner!

7. Equip your room

Point number one: stock up on healthy non-perishables. Definitely get some the aforementioned canned beans as well as nuts, trail mix, canned soup and granola.

If you can get your own mini-fridge if you can because this will be a game-changer! It can enable you to store lots of fresh items like fruits and veggies but also frozen produce or pizza as well as the foods you’ve prepared in bulk.

Foods to keep in your room

  • Nutritional yeast
  • Bread
  • Fruit
  • Dried Fruit
  • Peanut Butter
  • Larabars
  • Clif Bars
  • Wheat Thins
  • Shredded Wheat
  • Soy Milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Tomato Soup
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Tofu
  • Canned Chili
  • Canned Beans
  • Guacamole
  • Avocado
  • Hummus
  • Crackers
  • Dark chocolate

All of these work well even if you don’t have any kitchen tools in your room.

Speaking of which: think about investing in some. Maybe a microwave, rice cooker, blender or toaster oven. Find some ideas below!

Ultimate Guide to Kitchen Tools
Male hand using the pressure valve of an  Instant Pot to release steam

Having a few essential tools on your hand vastly increases your options and you can make delicious goodness like these:

You can really save a lot of money by cooking your own simple meals, following the recipes above.

Check out our guide on how to make a great vegan breakfast for an awesome start into the day and read our list of vegan fast food options at common restaurants.

One last option would be to consider moving off-campus or into an on-campus apartment with a full kitchen, which would basically give you the same (if not more) benefits.

8. Be in it for the long run

This means a lot of things from learning what critical nutrients to focus on when following a vegan diet long-term or how to supplement with B12.

But also finding your crowd of people where you don’t need to explain yourself anymore, learning how to cook and budget your money, forgetting about being perfect all the time and much more!

You’ll feel comfortable asking for vegan options wherever you eat, find the best spots that have plant-based food and once you are able to get your own place, everything will be so much easier.

Being vegan in college is possible!

Overall, being vegan in college is a great experience and is totally manageable! You are very likely to save some money and be well-energized for all the studying and going out with friends.

Whatever you decide to do and however you want to tackle this, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy this wonderful time.

More vegan articles

Do you want to stick to a vegan lifestyle as a college student? Let us know in the comments if we forgot to mention any good tips and how you manage to eat great plant-based food while going to college. Be sure to Pin this article here or share it with your friends!

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Hi, I'm Alena Schowalter — a Certified Vegan Nutritionist who has been a vegetarian since childhood and vegan since 2012. Together with my husband, I founded nutriciously in 2015 and have been guiding thousands of people through different transition stages toward a healthy plant-based diet. I enjoy discussions around vegan ethics, walks through nature, and creating new recipes. Read more about us here.

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