How I maintain a balanced vegan diet at uni
When living on a plant-based diet, there may be a few extra challenges you’ll have to contend with.
As vegan options aren’t always readily available, it’s easy to get caught up snacking, or even skipping meals.
With deadlines, heavy workloads and busy schedules, it sometimes feels much easier to grab what you can from the shelves. In this mad rush, we can neglect the single most important thing - our health!
So how can you maintain a balanced diet while living a vegan lifestyle and fighting with the hectic nature of university? Here are some of my top tips.
Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition
Whatever your diet, it’s important to get a range of nutrients (as explained by the NHS). But that can seem harder when you’re vegan, as you may miss out on some of the nutrients meat-based foods are typically high in. Here are a few of the areas you’ll need to keep an eye on.
Vitamin B12 is used for the regulation of red blood cells, but as it only occurs naturally in meat and dairy it can be hard to get enough of it.
Having said that, some plant-based foods are fortified with the vitamin, such as cereal, non-dairy milks and nutritional yeast, but you’ll need to check the labels to be sure. If you’re worried you’re not getting enough, you can also buy B12 supplements to top up your levels.
Protein is important for your body’s ability to repair tissue and it’s easily accessible on a vegan diet, as long as you know where to find it. I’ve found beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, soy milk and oats to all be good sources.
Iron is an essential part of our diets. As vegans can’t get it from meat, it’s important to find alternatives. I normally turn to green vegetables, legumes, grains and nuts, which can easily be used to combat this problem.
Want more information on staying healthy on a vegan diet? Here’s some advice from the official NHS website.
Vegan cupboard essentials
Tinned beans and pulses
Beans and pulses are a best friend to vegans everywhere, as they are typically high in protein and fibre. These include (but are not limited to) kidney beans, broad beans, chickpeas and lentils.
The good news is that they’re readily available at almost every supermarket and are a versatile ingredient that you can use in countless recipes. They’re especially great for time and cash-short students as, in tinned form, they usually cost around 50p and don’t require much preparation.
Dried fruits and nuts
These are great for providing nourishment on the go and avoiding the expensive pitfall of vegan-specific snacks when out and about. This can be anything from raisins to peanuts to dried guava, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous. They can usually be picked up in supermarkets and pound shops, so you can stay both healthy whilst on a budget.
If you’re new to the plant-based diet, you may not have heard of this versatile little ingredient, but it’s a favourite for many and has a multitude of different uses.
This powdery substance can be used for anything, from adding a nutritional kick to smoothies, to substituting cheese on top of pasta dishes due to its similar flavour. It’s also a super easy way of getting vitamin B12 into your diet.
Recipe inspiration: Banging bean chilli
This quick and tasty dish takes less than 30 minutes to prepare, is budget friendly and is packed with essential nutrients. It’s ideal for meal prep too, as it can easily keep for several days in the fridge, This means less time cooking and more time smashing that study game or hanging out with friends.
- 1 can of tinned tomatoes
- 1 can of kidney beans
- 1 bell pepper
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 carrot (grated)
- 1 tablespoon of paprika
- 1 tablespoon of cumin
- 1 tablespoon of jalapeno peppers (or more if you can handle the spice)
- Cook the onion and garlic several minutes till glazed on a medium heat.
- Add the bell pepper and jalapenos and cook for a further 5-7 minutes.
- Chuck in the tinned tomatoes and kidney beans followed by a generous dash cumin and paprika.
- Simmer on a low heat for 15-20 minutes, checking regularly, stirring and adding water as needed.
- Serve with easy microwave rice, oven chips, green salad or anything else that you want to add. A side of vegan mayo is highly recommended for those a little shy of spice!