What to Eat as a Pescatarian on Campus

For starters, yes, recently I have decided to jump on the bandwagon and try a vegetarian diet. Well, not quite — a pescatarian diet. I love me some fish and because of that, seafood is a central and healthy source of protein in my diet. At first, my plan was to go vegan cold-turkey (pun intended), but that soon proved to be much too difficult of a feat for me, especially considering I am smack dab in the heart of "dairyland". I decided to go pescatarian for both health and ethical reasons, and so far it is going much better than I anticipated! I honestly do not miss meat that much, but it has been a slight challenge for me to find good substitutes for my old diet that ensure I get enough nutrients to remain strong and healthy. However, through trial and error, I’m starting to figure out staple foods to eat at UW-Madison. And they’re more delicious than I would’ve thought. 

So, let’s start with an option I eat practically everyday: subs. These are a great option for pescatarians, vegetarians and vegans because of the versatility and variety. You can build a sub that not only tastes delicious, but also fits your specific dietary plan. Pre-pescatarian, I used to build an Italian sub with salami and provolone, but now, I simply take off the salami and build it the same way. I add a lot of veggies like tomatoes, spinach, green peppers and cucumbers, which gives it a very fresh taste and enables me to get a good serving of vegetables through something other than just a plain salad. I also slap on some guacamole (a good source of fiber, several vitamins and healthy fats) and hummus (protein, yes please!). Subs are delicious, easy and filling, which makes them a perfect meal option for us pescatarians and other plant-based dieters on campus. 

Another option I gravitate towards frequently is the stir fry at the dining halls. For me, stir fry is like gold when it comes to my meals. You self-serve yourself a bowl of vegetables from 12+ options like baby corn, edamame, mushrooms, bamboo shoots, etc., which I love since I can give myself exactly the proportions of each option I want. Then, you have a choice of protein between beef, chicken and tofu. Nowadays, I opt for tofu as it has really grown on me — it's now one of the main ways I get enough protein at school. I used to HATE tofu but that was because I ate it raw (what was I thinking? Ick) but now when it’s on the stove or baked I think it is incredible! Finally, you can choose between noodles, brown rice and white rice for your grain. I like brown rice, but any are good options for a pescatarian! If you have not had the stir fry as a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan, I highly recommend. I don’t get tired of it and I know I’m getting good nutrients all while avoiding meat. 

Drum roll please...the fish option! What makes us pescatarians, pescatarians! In my opinion, the fish at the dining halls is rather dry and I am not a big fan. Occasionally, if there is cod or salmon, I’ll go for it. But it is...underwhelming. However, not to fear, because several restaurants in Madison offer the most amazing fish entrees on their menus! My friends and I love the Old Fashioned which is located right next to the Capitol, so not exactly on State Street but very close. They have fresh, battered cod served with tartar sauce and it is to die for. While your there, please, please get an order of cheese curds because they are the best cheese curds I have ever tried. And keep in mind, as a Wisconsin dweller, I have tried more cheese curds than I care to admit. Another place that has great fish is Cooper’s Tavern. I highly recommend, even if it’s just for a treat with friends every now and then, because yeah, we’re college students and eating out all the time just isn’t always feasible. 

That brings me to my last recommendation, and it’s a gosh darn good one: vegan chicken nuggets. Now, the dining hall offers wings, which are oh-so-delicious and oh-so-dangerous. My roommate and I are super cute and have Wing Wednesday every week, and at first I thought my wing days were over when I went pescatarian. Are they really over though? Yes… and no. While I can’t eat the traditional chicken wings, the dining hall offers vegan chicken nuggets, which are not advertised at all but are there. You just have to ask the cashier and they let a cook know, and they make them fresh for you! I’ve told people about these and it amazes me how so many people on campus don’t even know these exist — it’s so sad! I was skeptical at first, but dang, they are absolutely scrumptious. They look a little wack compared to the regular chicken wings, but they taste great and I’m glad I tried them because now I get them every single week. Sometimes, I get a pound, and yes, I eat them all. A true hidden gem. 

There you have it, my fellow plant-based dieters (and fish lovers). While at first it seemed like I didn’t have many food options on campus once I changed my diet, that couldn’t have been further from the truth. All it took was some exploration, adjustments and an open-mind. I recommend trying a plant-based diet because it is totally do-able and has so many benefits. The best part about it is you can modify it in any way you wish because it’s your food choices. There’s no right or wrong. Just know, if you are or become a pescatarian or another type of vegetarian, you will not starve on campus. It might take more work than it does for your meat-eating peers, but you have definitely have delicious, nutritious options here.