On Campus Vegetarian: Going Vegetarian in College

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This is a guest blog post submitted by Michelle McAllister, sophomore at University of North Texas in Denton, Texas.

Are you a vegetarian? Do you have little access to a full kitchen? Are you a college student with little means to prepare a healthy vegetarian meal?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I can relate to you one hundred percent. Throughout various stages of my life, I have wavered back and forth between being a vegetarian and continuing to eat meat. After my freshman year of college, I finally decided make the change permanent. College cafeterias don’t exactly prepare meat in a healthy or appetizing way. There is also a lack of variety in vegetarian options that have enough protein to sustain a healthy and balanced diet.

This semester, I now prepare meals in my dorm, which has a kitchen area without a stove. I have all of the basic dorm-friendly appliance: a microwave, toaster over, and a refrigerator with a small frozen compartment. To ensure I am eating a well-balanced vegetarian diet, there are several staple items I recommend and have in my mini-fridge at all times. These items include:

  • Vegetables and fruits – Carrots, celery, bananas and pre-bagged apple slices so I am ready to add fruit and vegetables into my meals
  • Portable protein – Recently I have discovered that grocery stores have begun selling packaged hard-boiled eggs in packs of two and four. These have become something I like to have around because eggs cooked in any way are one of my favorite foods.
  • Go-to dairy – I am always sure to have plain, Greek non-fat yogurt on-hand along with protein shakes, soymilk, cheese slices, jelly and hummus in various flavors.

Greek yogurt is a great, versatile vegetarian option. It is high in protein and calcium, and I can mix it up in a number of ways. I enjoy mixing it with mashed avocado and using it as a dip for vegetables and crackers. For a sweeter taste, I mix Greek yogurt and honey which is great with a mashed-up granola bar in the morning for a quick breakfast before my first class.

Soy milk and raisin bran cereal are another one of my favorite breakfast options and I especially enjoy this with a cut up banana. On mornings when I am in a rush to walk all the way across campus, I grab a protein nutrition shake from my fridge and drink it on the way or when I get to class. I also like to keep an energy bar of some sort or a package of mixed nuts or trail mix in my backpack. This is really convenient as I snack during my day when I don’t have a chance to make it back to my dorm between classes.

For lunch, I usually have a peanut butter sandwich with jelly or sliced bananas.  I also use my toaster oven to make a ‘grilled cheese’ sandwich. I usually have carrots and a variation of Greek yogurt dip along with my sandwich. Hummus and pita bread are also one of my favorite lunch options and if I have planned ahead, I like to add pre-chopped peppers to this sandwich.

I often eat many of these same meals for dinner since I have never been one to be picky about what kinds of foods I eat at certain times of day. In my small freezer compartment I usually fit two frozen bean and cheese burritos and a package of black bean veggie burgers.  Cans of black, pinto and red beans are always kept in my cabinet along with packages of microwave brown rice which I mix together with salsa. Every evening I wind down with a cup of soymilk and a textbook in hand reading for the next day’s class.

I encourage you to try these options and adapt them to your own taste. Next time your cafeteria is serving mystery meat casserole and oil-covered vegetables, perhaps you will choose to just return to your dorm room to have a vegetarian meal that is fresh and made with all of the right ingredients that will keep you energized and healthy.

Dietitian’s Note: In effort to find ways to encourage you to eat right, your way every day, consider having healthy dorm foods on-hand to incorporate into your daily routine. Great options include apples, grapes, oranges, nuts, raisins, dried cranberries or cherries, grape tomatoes, sliced celery, broccoli , sugar-snap peas, edamames, pico de gallo, whole wheat or nut crackers, cans of tuna and bean soups, and individual cheese slices to grab and go!

For more ideas on healthy eating, check out The Cooper Clinic Solution to the Diet Revolution: Step Up to the Plate (2009). My guidebook of tips makes healthy eating more enjoyable and more manageable. Connect with me online at @GeorgiaKostas and Facebook/Georgia KostasNutrition and visit:http://www.georgiakostas.com.

This nutrition information does not address individual health conditions. Please consult with your physician or registered dietitian to meet specific health and dietary needs.

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