By Erin Trauth
For all you vegans of the college-going kind, it’s back to school time. Beyond a hefty new textbook bill and a whole lot of new projects to take on all at once, you probably have one more fall season pressure in mind: the challenge of finding vegan-friendly lunch options on campus. While many college campuses are offering up vegan options (some schools like the University of North Texas have even opened full vegan cafeterias on campus), the pickings are still somewhat slim at many universities around the country. If you’re like me, while I love both my fruit smoothies and veggie sushi, I get a little tired of these lunch choices after several weeks in a row – let’s get some real meals in our system so our brains can function right, yes?
My advice – just as when traveling or on vacation, planning ahead of time is key. Since starving is obviously not an option, you can make the scant selection on most campuses into full-on delicious vegan lunches with a few helpful tricks.
The first step is to invest in some single-serving packaging and other to-go staples. I’d go with a few packages of salad dressing and some snack-size baggies. If you’re able, go with the brands made from recycled plastics. Minimal packing = more space for books and other class essentials.
So, back to campus. Most dining halls offer some sort of salad bar or salad option, but the toppings typically consist of a few soggy veggies and perhaps some grilled chicken. Dressings usually consist of watery ranch or French variations, which are both no-nos for vegan eaters. For you pre-planning vegans out there, bring along a small bag of whole almonds, some orange wedges, and a single-serving packet of vinaigrette dressing or olive oil. Order your salad sans the non-vegan stuff and top with your protein-packed nut goodness and yum-o dressing – this should keep you full until it’s time to head home for study time.
One other tried-and-true trick for vegan lunch variation on campus? Pack an avocado and some more olive oil! At the cafeteria, order some plain pasta. Cut open the avocado and squeeze it out onto the pasta. Add a splash of your single-serving oil, and you have yourself a delicious pasta dish full of good fats which will keep your mind sharp and your energy up all day long.
Another trick would be to channel your inner 3rd-grader and load up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Full of protein and ultra-filling, this sandwich will keep you alert through the long day of classes and will still keep your wallet full if you’re on a budget. Some days, I pack three of these bad boys to keep me going!
What are your favorite tricks for eating vegan on college campuses? Let us know in the comments, and happy studying!