The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
Is going vegan worth it? Despite the obvious benefits for your conscience and the planet, it can be extremely difficult and inconvenient to maintain a healthy vegan diet at university. Common issues on campus are the accessibility of vegan meals with a sustainable amount of essential nutrients, the excessive price of organic groceries, and the judgements reserved by our peers.
Our generation of students has shown itself to be six-times more likely to want to be vegan than our parents, prompting the food industry to accommodate us with alternatives for their most popular products, or risk alienating part of their audience. Even with this shift though, it can be very difficult to navigate around the stereotypical student diet of chicken nuggets, pesto pasta, and ice cream. Even when they do ‘cater to vegans’, it is hard to find restaurants and pubs that offer more than one option, which can make meals out with your friends repetitive; there are only so many chickpea curries we can eat! The same issue can occur in catered-halls. In my first year the vegan option was almost always the same dish everyday: something that did not have enough nutrients and certainly wasn’t the equivalent in price or energy as what my hall-mates were offered.
The alternative therefore is to cook for yourself. Still though, the price of organic groceries is ridiculous because the ‘trend’ of veganism has created a captive market. Even if you avoid the overpriced imitation meat, you have to source substitutes for base items such as eggs and butter. These little ingredients which seem to be in everything mean that you have to change your cooking habits entirely, in order to cook vegan meals from scratch. This also makes you even more of an inconvenient guest at other people’s houses; even if friends and family want to cater to your dietary requirements, they may not have substitutes for these foundation items.
Indeed, being an inconvenient guest because you are vegan must be frustrating for hosts; refusing something cooked for you can come across very rude. However, there’s a common misconception than vegans are aloof and see themselves as martyrs, or even judge those who choose not to be vegan. Perhaps this is because ethical vegans can remind meat-eaters who claim to love animals of their cognitive dissonance demonstrated by ignoring the planet’s suffering – failing to realise that there are so many reasons why someone could support animal welfare but not be able to commit to veganism, for example health concerns or exemptions.
If you choose to be vegan, you have to make a conscious effort to consume enough nutrients in your diet. It is particularly hard as a student to supplement calcium, B12 vitamins, and omega 3 into your meal prep, and without these nutrients you can suffer muscle loss, weakness, and hormone disruption. To compensate therefore, vegan students often fall into the trap of binge eating sugary or fatty foods like crisps, chips, and sweets, because they are easily accessible and remove the complications of cooking a vegan meal from scratch. Even if you originally went vegan to eat healthier, the student lifestyle of takeaways and microwave meals is often just substituted by constant snacking, which feels like a step back.
Veganuary was a great way for people to ease into the lifestyle change and realise the financial and mental sacrifices veganism requires, especially within a student budget. There should be no shame attached to trying something new and ultimately deciding that it does not suit your way of life. If you can cope with the resilience and compromise that the diet requires that’s brilliant, but please do not sacrifice your health when you can support the cause through material consumption not just food!