We all looked for different things when we applied to colleges as juniors and seniors in high school. Some of us looked for clubs that we could get involved with or sports we could play. Others looked at academics or course variety, and still others looked at class size and diversity of student demographics. One thing that freshmen may forget to look at is probably one of the most vital resources and services at the school: food.
Entering my first semester of college at Pace University in New York City, I had just become a vegetarian, and I realized quickly that my college cafeteria options weren’t what I had in mind. Granted, there were some veg options, but variety is key to a healthy diet, and cafeterias don’t always mix things up weekly or even biweekly. Vegetarianism can be difficult to practice without a kitchen in the residence hall or decent options in the dining hall — particularly healthy veg options. Every vegetarian could eat pizza and fries every day, but I certainly wasn’t looking to gain the freshman fifteen — being in Manhattan, that was easy to do with a myriad of options (but only if you had a thick wallet).
Since transferring to Drexel a few years ago, I have developed some tips and suggestions for freshmen. It’s easier to feed yourself when you know going into the cafeteria that you can mix things up and feel nourished. For instance, one of the easiest breakfast items you can make is peanut butter and banana on a bagel. Most cafeterias have all of the above, and you basically toast two halves of a bagel, spread peanut butter on the tops, and slice a banana in quarter-size bites and place them on top of the peanut butter. Now you’re eating a fruit, a decent amount of protein, and some carbohydrates to start off your day — not to mention that this is normally a very inexpensive meal. Some cafeterias have oatmeal, and you can also slice up bananas and apples or just use raisins to make another healthy meal.
Lunch and dinner are easier than breakfast. If you don’t want a veggie burger every day, try getting creative at the salad bar. Even though vegetarians are stereotyped as “only” eating salad, the fact is that a well-made salad can be the best thing for our diets. Add some kidney beans, chickpeas, black beans, onions, peppers and other vegetables to introduce some new flavors. For dressing, use olive oil and vinegar, or if your dining hall offers it, some other flavored vinaigrette. If you want to really bulk up your salad, order a veggie burger with no bread from the grill and slice the burger into strips to put in your salad.
I enjoyed eating Asian food in the cafeteria at dinner, and I found that I could add a lot of foods to a dish to make it flavorful and fun to eat. Some cafeterias have noodle dishes that are stir-fried with vegetables and occasionally even tofu. I would order a noodle dish with every vegetable they offered and then go to a section where they had some packaged fruit and regular fruit to add pineapple slices and orange slices to my meal. If there wasn’t a noodle option that day, I would order a veggie wrap, go to the salad bar and add beans to make a quasi bean burrito.
Now, with the support of the Animal Welfare Association and the Drexel Sierra Club in conjunction with the dining staff and Sodexo, the Handschumacher Dining Center and the new restaurant Vegetate boast an enormous variety of vegan and vegetarian options! Everyone from strict vegans to omnivores can enjoy delicious meals from the cafeteria and Vegetate that are well priced and super healthy. Even if you feel like you can’t enjoy those meals (and I don’t know how you couldn’t), you can still use what vegetables, fruits and grains they have to make your own meal in the cafeteria. As long as you get the calorie intake your body requires, all those fruits and veggies will give you the nutrients you need. Plus, you’ll be saving animals from future suffering as well helping yourself and the planet.
Benjamin Sylvester is the president of the Drexel Animal Welfare Association. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Moo Over This” publishes biweekly.