Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo

Exploring the Dining Hall: Vegetarian Edition

 

When I told my parents a year ago that I was choosing to become a vegetarian, my mom was shocked because I would no longer request her lasagna, a moment à la “But you love Ladysmith Black Mambazo!” As meltingly wonderful as my mother’s lasagna is, I saw this lifestyle change as an opportunity for me to take responsibility for the food I put in my mouth, and put some of my environmental concerns into practice. Plus, being in college means being thousands of miles away from that one-of-a-kind lasagna and being freer to make my own food choices (yay college-level emancipation!).

Avoiding meat and fish while retaining the joy of buffet-style consumption can make you whiny. Eating most of your meals at a dining hall differs from, say, living in an apartment and making your own food: you walk in every day and are immediately bombarded with real-live, piping-hot trays of burgers, hot dogs, meat sauces, and meaty comfort food, no extra effort necessary on your part.

Here are some tips to help you discover the gloriously meatless niches of your dining hall (without blanketing everything you consume in cheese):

1. Explore the ethnic food options. With increasing international student populations, colleges have found it wise to offer more diverse dining options, something from which we can all benefit. The Mexican bar offers all the trappings for a vegetarian burrito: beans, flavored rice, salsa and shredded cheese (just avoid refried beans, since they’re fried in lard, which is unadulterated animal fat). Indian food offers its own yummy take, with Naan bread, a chickpea-based dish called Chana dal and basmati rice. Avoiding meat means you are able to step out of the traditional burger ‘n fries box and develop your taste buds in more seasoned directions.

2. Approach create-your-own bars with creativity. Most dining halls offer a version of the make-your-own bar for anything from omelets to Asian stir-fry to individual pizzas. My favorite: the salad bar. Grab the biggest plate you can find, pile it with lettuce or mixed greens, and load it with whatever side dish strikes your fancy that night. Add a drizzle of soy sauce or dressing and you’ve got one flavorful dinner. 

3. Make friends with veggie protein. Everyone wonders where vegetarians get their protein, but it couldn’t be simpler—you just have to eat a little smarter than your carnivorous counterparts. Remember that (1) beans and rice eaten together constitute a complete protein, (2) broccoli has more protein per calorie than red meat, and (3) peanut butter eaten with anything makes for a satisfying dessert or snack. If you’re not an aspiring bodybuilder, don’t worry about trying to eat like one!

The theme here is that surviving sans meat requires more intentionality on your part. Yes, you have to dig around a little more, but you’ll have a more expansive and satisfying dining experience because of it. And your friends won’t ridicule you for it; they chow down on buffalo wings while you devour your beans and rice, and all leave happy. Magical things can happen. After watching me revel in the wonder of steaming lentil stew atop wilted spinach for a semester, my Texan roommate decided to enact her own “meat-free 2013” campaign, with no verbal coaxing from me.

Many college dining halls are catching on to the fact that not every dish requires bacon crumbles on top, which means more meatless options for us down the road. Until then, pile those salads high and appreciate the beauty of PB&J. HaWhen I told my parents a year ago that I was choosing to become a vegetarian, my mom was shocked because I would no longer request her lasagna, a moment à la “But you love Ladysmith Black Mambazo!” As meltingly wonderful as my mother’s lasagna is, I saw this lifestyle change as an opportunity for me to take responsibility for the food I put in my mouth, and put some of my environmental concerns into practice. Plus, being in college means being thousands of miles away from that one-of-a-kind lasagna and being freer to make my own food choices (yay college-level emancipation!).

Avoiding meat and fish while retaining the joy of buffet-style consumption can make you whiny. Eating most of your meals at a dining hall differs from, say, living in an apartment and making your own food: you walk in every day and are immediately bombarded with real-live, piping-hot trays of burgers, hot dogs, meat sauces, and meaty comfort food, no extra effort necessary on your part.

Here are some tips to help you discover the gloriously meatless niches of your dining hall (without blanketing everything you consume in cheese):

1. Explore the ethnic food options. With increasing international student populations, colleges have found it wise to offer more diverse dining options, something from which we can all benefit. The Mexican bar offers all the trappings for a vegetarian burrito: beans, flavored rice, salsa and shredded cheese (just avoid refried beans, since they’re fried in lard, which is unadulterated animal fat). Indian food offers its own yummy take, with Naan bread, a chickpea-based dish called Chana dal and basmati rice. Avoiding meat means you are able to step out of the traditional burger ‘n fries box and develop your taste buds in more seasoned directions.

2. Approach create-your-own bars with creativity. Most dining halls offer a version of the make-your-own bar for anything from omelets to Asian stir-fry to individual pizzas. My favorite: the salad bar. Grab the biggest plate you can find, pile it with lettuce or mixed greens, and load it with whatever side dish strikes your fancy that night. Add a drizzle of soy sauce or dressing and you’ve got one flavorful dinner. 

3. Make friends with veggie protein. Everyone wonders where vegetarians get their protein, but it couldn’t be simpler—you just have to eat a little smarter than your carnivorous counterparts. Remember that (1) beans and rice eaten together constitute a complete protein, (2) broccoli has more protein per calorie than red meat, and (3) peanut butter eaten with anything makes for a satisfying dessert or snack. If you’re not an aspiring bodybuilder, don’t worry about trying to eat like one!

The theme here is that surviving sans meat requires more intentionality on your part. Yes, you have to dig around a little more, but you’ll have a more expansive and satisfying dining experience because of it. And your friends won’t ridicule you for it; they chow down on buffalo wings while you devour your beans and rice, and all leave happy. Magical things can happen. After watching me revel in the wonder of steaming lentil stew atop wilted spinach for a semester, my Texan roommate decided to enact her own “meat-free 2013” campaign, with no verbal coaxing from me.

Many college dining halls are catching on to the fact that not every dish requires bacon crumbles on top, which means more meatless options for us down the road. Until then, pile those salads high and appreciate the beauty of PB&J. Happy eating!  

Photo

Sharon Rose

Notre Dame '14

.
Similar Reads👯‍♀️