Photo of Kaley, the subject of the profile

Navigating College as a Vegan With FSU Student Kaley Smith

The topic of eating and food consumption as it relates to college students is highly nuanced. There is a lot that students must navigate when they are independent for the first time in their lives, especially when it comes to properly fueling their bodies. This is even more complex for students who have adapted to veganism. I sat with first-year Florida State University (FSU) student Kaley Smith to discuss the extent to which being vegan in college requires a resourceful attitude and a willingness to commit to ethical consumption.

Her Campus (HC): At what age did you choose to be vegan, and why did you make this decision?

Kaley Smith (KS): I was 15 and it was the summer between my sophomore and junior year. I saw this documentary called What the Health, which talks about the health benefits of a plant-based diet. That convinced me from a health standpoint. I was also in an environmental science class at the time and learning about my environmental impact and how your diet is the best way you can lower your carbon footprint. Animal rights came in for me later that summer when I watched this documentary called Dominion—I do not recommend watching it if you have a weak stomach because that was difficult for me to watch. Those are the three reasons that I had for wanting to go vegan that summer.

HC: How have these years of veganism prepared you for your food consumption in college?

KS: I decided to go vegan that summer but I wasn’t fully able to because my dad is a big-time carnivore. Being eased into it that way made it so that I could have a more balanced diet in college because I was able to just plan my breakfasts and lunches around a vegan diet. I was making sure I got all of my vitamins at the same time, which made grocery shopping and meal planning smoother in college.

Photo by Anna Pelzer from Unsplash

HC: What has your first year in college taught you about yourself and your veganism in terms of your personal choices?

KS: Being in college and trying to be vegan has taught me to be easier on myself about it because sometimes it can be difficult to make a decision that is in line with my values when it comes to having limited access to food. I don’t have a car, but if I could go to the grocery store every day, I would have more access to vegetables and the kinds of foods that I want to eat. But as long as my diet is overall in line with my values, especially if I have to eat animal products occasionally because I don’t have access to any other food, I don’t have to beat myself up over it. Being flexitarian on one day is better than having an entire diet that consists of animal products.

HC: What advice on budgeting for vegan products do you recommend to incoming college students?

KS: As far as budgeting goes, when people think of vegan eating, they think about all of those substitutes, like vegan chicken nuggets and vegan hamburger meat, which are expensive. It’s easier if you think about foods that are already vegan, to begin with. I eat a lot of beans and rice, and I figured out how to cook those in the dorm pretty easily. Substitutes are something that I buy as a treat sometimes. In terms of budgeting, as long as you go for staple items that were originally vegan, those are generally inexpensive, and you get your full dose of vitamins with those.

“assorted fruits on display in store” on unsplash Photo by Mehrad Vosoughi from Unsplash

HC: Are there any vegan products that you would recommend to incoming college freshmen?

KS: Impossible meat is awesome. It tastes just like a hamburger and I’m not a vegan who is grossed out by meat. I enjoyed the taste of it growing up. So, the impossible burgers are perfect. Also, the options at Publix for vegan cheese are great for grilled cheese, since vegan grilled cheese is my comfort snack. Definitely get the Daiya slices.

HC: Lastly, how do you approach the issue of accessibility of veganism for college students?

KS: The most important thing to remember when talking about going vegan as a college student is that we’re in a low-income bracket. Students have part-time jobs, or no job, or just the meal plan to get our food. Buying those staples, like I mentioned before, really keeps the cost down, but more than anything it takes planning. If you set your mind to it, you can plan and think about what you’re going to eat throughout the week when you go grocery shopping. Get those bargains, too! Being coupon-savvy really helps. Again, don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t eat vegan every day. Making small decisions feels a lot better than giving up entirely. Not beating yourself up because you don’t have access to certain things is really important for a sustained vegan journey.

Want to see more HCFSU? Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Youtube and Pinterest!