College students eat plant-based on a budget


Emily Morris

There are plant-based options in OU’s dining areas and nearby campus.

In his book, “How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease,” Michael Greger puts it like this: “The best way to minimize your exposure to industrial toxins may be to eat as low as possible on the food chain, a plant-based diet.”

It can be frustrating for a hungry student who follows a plant-based diet, in-between classes to walk into the food court and view a menu full of things you haven’t eaten in years. Chick-Fil-A, Subway, Panda Express and the list continues. 

Most students who live on campus rely on campus dining to eat everyday with the use of their meal plans, and commuter students enjoy dining while on campus after classes as well. But what about the student that doesn’t eat meat and wants to maintain an environmentally healthier diet?

Oakland University’s dining halls have limited meat-alternative food options for students to choose from, which cause difficulty for many students embarking on a new journey towards making better health decisions. 

According to The New York Times, the term “plant-based” has become popular within the last year, going plant-based encourages people to choose a healthier dietary lifestyle. Many millennials and Generation Z students in particular support the idea of choosing plant-based foods instead of unhealthy animal products.

Kaitlin McQueen, Oakland University alumna, remembers her days on campus considering a plant based diet with focusing on maintaining a healthier lifestyle.  

“It was really difficult at first figuring out how to make changes to my diet,” McQueen said. “But I slowly started eliminating a lot of processed food products and started eating more salads and fruit at the OU dining halls, instead of choosing meat.”

According to Technomics 2017 College & University report, over 20% of college students follow a special diet nowadays, ranging from vegetarian to vegan. Many students are interested in food that supports a healthy environment and a clean diet. 

Plant-based foods can still allow students to enjoy meals with flavor, protein and a touch of color on their plates. If you have ever been told that you won’t get enough protein while maintaining a meat alternative diet in college, you’re not alone. 

Carlee Lewis, Oakland University exercise science major, started implementing different, healthier forms of protein into her diet while on a budget. 

“I’ve been told before that it would be really difficult to maintain a strict, healthier diet during college,” Lewis said. “Even though I’m still testing some things out, I’m also learning that meat isn’t the only protein you can choose quinoa, beans, tofu and nuts are all great sources of protein.” 

Living on campus or eating in college dining halls can become a bit of a challenge at times, but choosing to eat plant-based is becoming more common nowadays among college students.

Many Oakland University students believe that stocking up on nutritious vegan snacks is a great way to ensure you get all of your proper nutrients within every day. 

Cortney Heileman, OU Health & Wellness Coordinator, says it is very important to be intentional about taking care of our bodies and health. 

“There are significant benefits of following a plant-based eating routine,” Heileman said. “Benefits include improved heart health, reduced risk of diabetes, weight management and a smaller environmental footprint.” 

“The known drawbacks some people encounter with this style of eating may include access to plant-based food, depending on financial ability or geographical location. However, consuming plant-based foods is a great way to emphasize consuming fresh, natural ingredients while minimizing processed foods.” 

According to Wholesome Culture, investing in good food storage has been quite effective among college students who embrace a vegan lifestyle while in college. 

Having to grab a quick bite to eat can play a major part in busy college life. Investing in reusable eco-friendly glass jars and containers is one way to make things easier on a demanding schedule. Environmentally safe “stasher” bags make it possible to grab healthy food in a hurry. 

College students are known to be under stress when it comes to studying for finals, doing homework and balancing work with their everyday lives. Data from Wholesome Culture says, “Embracing non-perishable food items is a good way to keep your energy levels up and going through the day by consuming oatmeal bars, black beans, nut butters and even veggie soups.” 

Amanda Lynch, associate professor of interdisciplinary health sciences, explains why her views on plant-based diets and why it is environmentally friendly. 

“Plant-based foods have the potential to be environmentally friendly,” Lynch said. An organic, locally raised chicken clearly has less environmental impact than that of almond milk.” 

A plant-based lifestyle is an alternative lifestyle, which can be as cheap or as expensive, depending on individual choices. It can be relatively simple, buying fresh and whole food products for a good deal and nutritional content are the path that many young people are currently taking concerning their diets. 

Audrey Smith, Oakland University alumna, says there’s no need for any student to become broke in looking for ways to change their diet. 

“Students that want to eat healthier can start with Plum Market’s all natural vegetarian soups options and salads,” Smith said. “The important thing is to make eating healthy budget friendly, simple, convenient and a benefit to your personal health.”