A Guide to Surviving College as a Vegetarian Newbie

A few months ago, I waved goodbye to my inner meat-lover and began slowly adopting a vegetarian lifestyle. While my reasons for doing so are a whole different story that I’ll have to save for another day, this pretty major dietary change didn’t magically manifest overnight. Apart from the initial slip-ups , there are a couple of tips and tricks that have made my transition a lot smoother and even dare I say, exciting?  

The idea of implementing some form of restriction into a diet seems like a headache that no college student would willingly want to endure. As a self-proclaimed procrastinator yet perpetually “busy” individual, I couldn’t agree more. That’s why I’ve tried my best to navigate through my own personal experience so that in the event that you decide to try eating a vegetarian diet and see what the hype is all about, I’ve got you covered(ish).

Part 1: Dining Hall Woes

So technically, the struggle of eating on-campus 24/7 isn’t limited to the vegetarian kids. In a perfect world, college dining halls would satisfy our every craving without tempting us to grease our insides with endless pizza and chicken tenders (or in my case, tofu tenders? Brb, I’m going to check if those are a thing).

Luckily, Sacred Heart’s dining options are far from satisfactory (in a good way!) I guess I’ve only really started to notice since actually becoming a vegetarian but our on-campus dining locations have a great variety of vegan/vegetarian food items. When in doubt, you can even look up the Dine on Campus website/mobile app to see which menu items meet your dietary needs and restrictions.

Granted, you’d rather eat pancakes instead of a fruit cup on a lazy Sunday, but it’s nice to know that when those healthy vibes kick in, you can always hit up the smoothie bar, order a salad or get a veggie burger right on campus.

Part 2: Grocery Shopping 101

It’s easy for a quick Target run to turn into a shopping spree for things you generally have no real need for. The same goes for groceries. Instead of piling up the cart with packaged snacks that while vegetarian-friendly, aren’t necessarily the healthiest, focus on buying local and in-season produce that will fuel you in a much better way. As for staples like grains, nuts, canned goods, beans etc., consider buying these in bulk – they’ll last longer and your bill will work out to relatively cheaper in the long run.

Part 3: Catch me on MasterChef ;)

This one is slightly more challenging as it involves the prerequisite of being able to cook (apart from boxed mac-and-cheese and eggs, obviously). Also, living in an apartment/suite-style housing does have its advantages over being confined to the use of a mini microwave in a dorm room. Nevertheless, I’ve found this part of adapting to a vegetarian lifestyle the most interesting and rewarding. Cooking for yourself is a skill that is not only helpful for when you begin “adulting” but once you get past your first couple of kitchen disasters, it also becomes a de-stressing activity that can do a pretty decent job at taking your mind off the ton of stuff you have to get done. With a never-ending stream of inspiration from platforms like Pinterest, you’re basically only a few hours and some dirty dishes away from developing some serious skills in the kitchen.

While a vegetarian lifestyle may seem like something way out of your comfort zone, a little bit of experimentation never hurts. If you do end up giving it a shot, good luck! It’s really not as terrifying and impossible as it may seem, even amidst the daily pains of surviving college.