How to Survive College with an Alternative Eating Lifestyle

It’s hard enough stomaching on-campus meal options as a typical college student. However, when you’re a vegan, vegetarian, or have a gluten allergy, eating on campus can create an even bigger conflict.

Four college students shared their input and experience related to eating on-campus, and they also provided advice for students with alternative eating lifestyles.

  • Hannah Jurik, a sophomore commuter student who has been a vegan for three years and a vegetarian two years before that.
  • Courtney Lauber, a sophomore who is allergic to gluten and soy and lives on campus.
  • Zoeliz Santos, a sophomore who has lived on campus and been a vegetarian for about four years.
  • Miguel Purgimon, an international freshman student from El Salvador who commutes to and from college and has been a vegetarian his entire life.

What do you eat when you’re on campus?

“I would like to go to see what kind of stuff (they have), but I don’t know (if I can eat anything from the dining hall). If there were options, I would eat (there) a lot more.” –Jurik

“They have Kind bars (on campus), and those are gluten-free. As far as soy stuff goes, that’s really hard to avoid. (One of the dining hall chefs) makes the gluten-free bread that is awesome. I really like the salad bar. They offer a lot of toppings.  If they didn’t have bread to make sandwiches, having the only options being salad and vegetables would get a little boring. There’s limited options, but I get creative.” –Lauber

“It’s hard because there’s only a few selections I actually like that aren’t saturated in grease. All I eat is a grilled cheese or garden burger. They focus more on meat-eaters, so (I usually eat) vegetables, salads or sometimes, they’ll have something really good, like when they have their stir fry. In the beginning, I would eat in my room a lot. My mom would send me food in the mail. I’m really far from home, about 16,000 miles, so it’s really expensive, and basically all I ate were dried fruits.” –Santos

“I think the salads are very good. The soups are okay. You have the pizza and grilled cheese. There’s also the garden burger and black bean burger, but it’s mostly junk food that’s available.” –Purgimon

Do you have any advice for anyone on campus who is vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, or is thinking about converting to any of those lifestyles?

“Since I’m a vegetarian, I have to eat eggs because if I didn’t eat eggs, I wouldn’t be able to eat some good food (at college), or the more decent food.

Maybe instead of becoming a strict vegetarian, become an ovo-vegetarian, which is a vegetarian who doesn’t eat any fish, red meat, or anything. They only eat eggs and vegetables and stuff like that.

Maybe don’t come (to college) with a really strict diet, or be aware that there aren’t as many options as there are back home. There’s more to a vegetarian diet than tofu and vegetables. There’s so much you can do with soy.

Just branch out a bit. I don’t want to have tofu in every one of my meals. I like tofu, but tofu in every meal is kind of boring.” –Santos

“You have to be smart. You’ve just gotta pair things up. Asking (for available options) is nice too.” -Lauber

“It’s not impossible. Watch out for vegetarian junk food. Just because you’re on a vegetarian diet doesn’t mean you’re eating healthy. There (are) always options available. I like (salad bars) because there’s all sorts of vegetables. It’s definitely possible. There’s gonna be less options, but it’s definitely a doable diet on campus.” -Purgimon

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Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts

Britni Roberts is a senior at North Central College in Naperville, Illinois pursuing a degree in English Writing. She has been an Editor for the North Central Kindling humor magazine, Assistant News and Arts Editor for the North Central Chronicle newspaper, as well as a DJ and Rock News Reporter for WONC-FM 89.1, her college’s radio station. She enjoys listening to music and spending time with her friends, boyfriend, and his cat Willow.