The period in which you apply to, get accepted to and move to university can be one some of the most exciting and formative years of your life. There are big decisions to be made all round from education to social life to personal health, and one particular personal health choice that is becoming more and more popular with today’s student body is going vegetarian. This decision can stem from a health perspective, a financial perspective or indeed an ethical perspective, but the truth of the matter is that for any student planning on going veggie at college, there can often be a lack of choices and variety, particularly in catered halls and campus cafeterias.
Switching from a meat eating to a solely vegetarian diet definitely has its challenges, especially for students who are living busy lives and are tempted to grab some sort of junk food for dinner to save time. These junk food options are generally protein heavy with lots of frying involvedand generally very unhealthy if consumed too regularly. School cafeterias are guilty of serving these kinds of foods, so anybody who is planning on becoming a vegetarian during their student days is going to have to be proactive in their diet choices. Usually, this proactivity will manifest in making your own packed lunch everyday that includes snacks and ingredients that are going to be able to provide you with all of the calories and nutrition that you need to maintain a healthy, energised body whilst being a vegetarian. Many vegetarians and vegans tend to suffer from lower than average levels of calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B-12, iron and, of course, protein. In order to try to live as well and as healthily as possible whilst on a vegetarian diet at college, take heed of these five key tips and pieces of advice.
Unfortunately for vegetarians, protein is most abundantly found in animal flesh. Obviously, that isn’t going to work for your dietary preferences, but the good news is that protein can also be found in many different ingredients that are completely vegetarian friendly. Great plant based sources include seeds, nuts, peas, whole grains, tofu, beans and lentils, and eggs and other dairy products also make for excellent sources of protein if you are not practising veganism.
Vegetarians usually have no problem reaching their recommended levels of calcium by consuming all the different kinds of dairy products like cheese, milk and yogurt. However, if you are vegan or if dairy just doesn’t seem to agree with your body, then calcium can also be found in things like kale, spinach, bok choy and also foods like soy milk and calcium fortified cereals.
3. Vitamin D
Consuming various dairy products and also exposing yourself to natural sunlight are both great ways to get vitamin D in to your body, but that means students actually having to leave the comfort of their dorms! Again, if dairy isn’t something that you want to eat, then a pain free and simple way to get the vitamin D that you need is to consider taking daily supplements. They are harmless and have been proven to have the desired effects.
Again, iron is generally something that people get in their diet from meats, especially red meat. This is not the only option, however, as many different plant based foods can offer a substantial iron boost such as spinach, broccoli, pumpkin, dried fruits and sesame seeds, as well as things like cereals and fortified breads. Believe it or not, even cooking a vegetarian meal in a cast-iron pot or pan can actually make a difference! Also, easting foods that are rich in vitamin C will also encourage and help your body to absorb iron more readily.
5. Vitamin B-12
Vitamin B-12 is another vitamin that is mainly produced by animals, so vegetarians can get their fix by eating things like eggs and other dairy products. However, if you are a vegan then you can gain a slight benefit from using soy milk, but it is generally recommended that you take a vitamin B-12 supplement to help sustain your levels.
Alongside those five handy tips, here are a handful of vegetarian food suggestions that will ensure you maintain a balanced and tasty diet.
• Peanut and almond butter.
• Rice cakes
• Lentil and minestrone soup
• Fruit, both frozen and canned.
The key thing to remember whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian is that it is essential to maintain a balanced diet, to eat a wide selection of foods, and to make sure that your calorie intake never gets out of hand.