8 top tips to staying healthy as a veggie or vegan student
1 December 2020
Whatever your reasons for it, vegetarian and vegan diets are becoming more popular than ever among students. Here are 8 tips to help you to stay healthy on a veggie/vegan diet.
A healthy diet without meat (and dairy) sometimes takes a little extra planning, but put in the little extra thought required and your body and wallet will thank you! Here are some ways that I found helped me to stay healthy on a plant-based diet on a student budget:
1. Do your research
Doing your research is vital to thriving on a plant-based diet. Vitamin deficiencies are common in all diets, not just plant-based diets and can really affect your energy levels and performance. With a little research, there are easy ways to make sure you are getting all the essential vitamins and nutrients you need to be on form!
Tip: The main ones to keep an eye on are iron, B12, calcium, and Omega 3. And remember to include Vitamin C rich foods to help your body absorb the iron in your meals. For more info check out The Vegan Society.
2. Speak to your GP
Although you have done your research - it is important to ensure that your GP or General Practitioner (which is the term used for a doctor in the UK) is aware of your diet and that you take any tests to ensure that you have no deficiencies that would hinder your health and your studies! Your GP can then advise you on any supplements that you may need to be taking.
3. Plan your meals & invest in a little advance prep
Beans on toast is possibly the easiest student vegan meal you can make – but you don’t want to be eating it every time you come home from a long day of lectures and have zero inspiration to cook! Planning what you are going to eat for the week and preparing your lunches the night before, are going to make the difference between you merely surviving and you thriving on a plant-based diet.
Tip: Try getting into the habit of prepping a large veggie curry/ bake on a Sunday which will last you for a few days.
Bring nuts/seeds/fruit with you to uni to help balance your blood sugar levels throughout the day and avoid those afternoon energy drops. Some of my personal favourites are protein energy bars, dried fruit, nuts, almond butter, and apple slices or Hummus and carrot sticks.
5. Your freezer is your friend
Particularly when you are cooking for one! Make big meals and freeze half of it in single portions. Trust me – when it comes to writing essays/revision period, you will thank your earlier less stressed self! If you have been doing this over a few months you will be able to pull out a different meal each day before you head to the library and it will be defrosted and ready to heat up when you return!
(Tip: if you are short on freezer space try using zip lock freezer bags – lay flat and stack once frozen. Be sure to write the contents on the bag!)
6. Smoothies, smoothies, smoothies
Smoothies are a great way to pack in a lot of nutrients with both protein and fruit/veggies and will get you through those mornings when you have back to back lectures. There are some great student budget-friendly options on the market.
(Tip: To save precious morning time prepare your smoothies and store in the freezer in separate zip lock bags. Add your preferred milk in the morning and any nut butter/protein powder and voila your iced smoothie is ready to go)
A big part of staying healthy as a veggie or vegan is about thinking outside of the box and trying to find healthy homemade versions of your old favourites. Removing meat/dairy from your diet gives you the space to experiment and introduce lots of new healthy things. I had never heard of quinoa, kale, chia seeds, okra, chard, tempeh, miso, seitan etc. and now these are staples of my diet.
Luckily unless you are constantly splashing out on Seitan, veggie/vegan shopping lists are very student-friendly as they are generally MUCH cheaper as we generally eat beans, rice, pasta, fruits and vegetables – the cheapest ingredients on earth!
8. Get exploring!
Luckily these days, we're are spoiled for choice when it comes to veggie options and vegan cafes are popping up everywhere. If you are studying on campus, London is full of great places to eat there are lots of online resources such as HappyCow (and the app!) which have already done a lot of the work for you! If you're studying remotely away from London, have a search online for your nearest veggie and vegan restaurants - there's bound to be one near you.
Many people thrive on a plant-based diet, however be sure to listen to your body and always do what is best for you! These are just some of the ways you can stay healthy as a veggie/vegan at UCL but if you want to know more, check out the UCLU Vegan and Vegetarian society!
By Nichola Carroll , UCL alumna, BA Modern Languages