If you’ve followed Vegan Outreach for very long, then you’re aware that our main focus is passing out leaflets about veganism and factory farming, primarily to college students. This is a great demographic to leaflet to, because often they are in a stage where they are open to new ideas and information. Our How Do You Vegan? series is designed to show you how you can go vegan after you’ve learned why you should go vegan. Ahnika Leroy shares her insights as a college student who went vegan while living in the dorms, and how you can too! Thank you, Ahnika!
By Ahnika Leroy, Vegan College Student
Deciding to become vegan may initially seem like a difficult transition, especially if you are a student living in the dorms. I am a sophomore studying at the University of Colorado–Boulder, and I have been vegan for about a year. After I came to college, I realized that I had control over what type of person I wanted to be. In high school, I was an on-again, off-again vegetarian. I didn’t think being vegan could ever work for me because I was under the false impression that vegans couldn’t eat anything. That changed after one of my friends became vegan and shared his experiences with me. After that, I knew it could be done.
I decided to look further into the meat, dairy, and egg industries, and after learning the truth about what goes on, I concluded that becoming vegan was the best thing I could do. It is one of the best decisions I have ever made. I feel happy, healthy, and full of energy. Before, my meals made me feel sluggish and bloated–my body needed a change for both the sake of my education, and the sake of my heart.
When I decided to make the transition, I was living in the dorms. My roommates were skeptical that I’d be able to find food on campus and frankly so was I. To our surprise there were many vegan options in the dining halls and ways to make almost every food vegan. My transition was gradual. I didn’t see it as if I were cutting things out, I saw it as upgrading my diet with better and healthier alternatives. It was pretty easy because I didn’t limit my diet, I expanded it. After the transition was complete, I felt fantastic! My skin cleared up, my stomach hurt less, and I felt cleaner and lighter.
I still live in the dorms, and it is a beautiful environment with an incredible community. There is a community kitchen, and I sometimes cook for special events and dinner. One of my favorite vegan recipes is this Vegan Mac n’ Cheese [pictured below]. It is easy and fast and everyone that tries it loves it! It is a wonderful way to help spread awareness and change any misconceptions about vegan food. There is also a club at my school to help spread awareness about being vegan. I am so lucky to have friends within the Vegan Justice League here at CU. They host various outreach events as well as promote local and national animal liberation movements, and these are often a great opportunity to get together and cook as well as be part of a community of like-minded people.
Sometimes it isn’t always rainbows and sunshine–one of the hardest parts of being vegan for me is not always being able to eat at special events in the dorms or even outings with friends. Sometimes I feel excluded because food is such a huge part of any culture, and not being able to connect with people during a dinner or a BBQ can sometimes be discouraging.
However, there are ways to help bring vegan options to light. During barbecues or potlucks, I bring vegan options (yummier options!) to share. For events held in our dorm, I talk to whoever is in charge and ask if there will be plant-based options. If there are none, I offer suggestions because most people don’t know where to start when planning for a vegan option, and that’s okay! It’s a great opportunity for me to teach others about vegan food.
A common misconception about a vegan diet is that it only consists of salad and hummus. This couldn’t be any further from the truth. To be honest we eat like normal people, we just have cruelty-free substitutes.
In an average week, more than 2/3rds of my meals come from our dining halls. Here are some examples of what I’ll eat on any given day.
Tofu scramble with extra veggies and hash browns
Fruit and granola with soy or almond milk and toast smothered in jam
Lunch or Dinner
Veggie burger with fries and a salad
Vegan burrito with extra guacamole and veggies
Hummus, tomato, and spinach panini sandwich
Saffron rice, tomato cucumber salad with hearty greens
Asian vegetable stir-fry with brown rice
Pasta and vegetable stir-fry with a quinoa and baby kale salad
On the weekends I tend to eat out. My favorite local vegan-friendly spots in Boulder are Native Foods, Lyfe Kitchen, and Leaf. Don’t let those names fool you, there are more than salads and juices being served. My favorite item from Native Foods is their Chick’n Bacon Avocado Club. Lyfe Kitchen has a wonderful black bean veggie burger, and Leaf has a chocolate peanut butter cheesecake to die for!
Overall, my experience living in the dorms and being vegan is and has been wonderful. The trick is to eat smarter, not harder. Many things are already vegan, or can be altered to be vegan. I urge anyone who is thinking about becoming vegan but is unsure if they can because they are in the dorms, to go for it! The habits we create now will impact us for the rest of our lives. What type of person do you want to be?