What Do Vegetarian College Students Do for Food?
I don’t think a bowl of cereal and mashed potatoes is a nutritious dinner. Vegetarian college food is hard to find.
My daughter attends McMurry University in Abilene, TX. When she was interviewing at the school, they assured her it would be no problem for her to eat at the school. We are required to pay $1500/semester since she is in the dorm.
I wouldn’t mind that except her choices have been mixed pasta with pepperoni and sausage, chicken thighs, white rice, always mashed potatoes. She is always hungry and has to heat up veggie burgers before bed. She lost 15 pounds just last semester which puts her about 115 lb at 5’4″.
We have talked to the president of the University, to the Dean of Students and to the cafeteria manager. Nothing is changing. What do vegetarian college students do? I don’t think a bowl of cereal and mashed potatoes is a nutritous dinner. She has been vegetarian all her life – J.M.
>Savvy Vegetarian Advice:
This is a familiar problem on college campuses these days. An estimated 5% of the US population are vegetarian or vegan, and while I have no statistics at hand, it’s a safe bet that a high percentage of those are college students.
College administrators are slow to adapt, but there are more colleges every year offering vegetarian (not so much vegan) options in their cafeterias. Some are doing better than others, and some, like your daughter’s school, are all talk and no action.
Perhaps your daughter might consider transferring to a more veg-friendly college for the rest of her college education. Peta lists 10 universities in the US which have adapted to the veggie trend (picked from 30 contenders):
If that’s not an option, she could be active in changing things at the college where she is now. And in finding creative ways around the system. I recently wrote a short article with 10 tips for vegan college students, some of which could be helpful. Here they are:
1. Don’t waste time and energy on anger or self pity – just think about what you can DO.
2. Vegetarians & vegans are a significant, rapidly growing minority on campus. Organize, agitate, make change happen. Here’s an article from PCRM which has some good ideas. And this one, from Peta.
3. Study vegan nutrition. I recommend the books ‘Becoming Vegetarian‘ and ‘Becoming Vegan’ by Melina & Davis.
4. Choose the most nutritious food in the cafeteria. Eat ALL the veggies, beans, anything whole grain (like oatmeal).
5. Accept that you have to feed yourself, then get creative and push the dorm food rules hard.
6. Make your food $$ count: fill in the nutritional gaps with fruit & veg, nuts & seeds, whole grains – get your vitamins and minerals.
7. Pick the most unprocessed food you can find – think granola, trail mix, apples instead of cocoa puffs, oreos and fruit pops.
8. Take a high quality nutritional supplement including B12, Vit D and omega 3.
9. Exercise, get out in the sun, get enough sleep – just as important as what you eat.
10. Take it easy! You wouldn’t expect to become a concert violinist overnight, and you won’t go from junk food addict to healthy vegan overnight either.
Would it be possible for your daughter to live off campus, in a shared apartment or other situation where she can cook for herself?
At some point, she will have to take charge of her diet, and learn how to eat a healthy vegetarian or vegan diet under challenging conditions – which is the case for most vegetarians living in the real (non-veg) world. Going to college is a good place to start.
Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian