Like many students, I started university with no idea how to cook, anticipating three years of takeaways and toast. Two years later, and I love cooking and making new recipes; learning to cook plant-based meals has meant I spend way less money on food than I used to, enjoy cooking more, and feel healthier and happier because of it. In fact, cooking has become a huge part of my uni experience, and I would even go as far as to say that a plant-based diet is not only accessible to students, but an ideal diet for students. Now to try and prove it…
‘But isn’t it expensive?’
The rise in veganism amongst young people is breaking the myth that it is an inaccessible and expensive diet, and proving it’s very student-friendly. It has been heavily documented that vegan diets are on the rise, and a Guardian article found it’s young people leading the way - close to half of all vegans are aged 15-34! Students interviewed in the article gave a variety of reasons for being vegan: Netflix documentaries like Cowspiracy being one, vegan celebrities and athletes like Venus Williams being another, as well as the influence of social media, in raising awareness of the environmental and ethical benefits, and as a place for sharing easy recipes. But one point that repeatedly came up was money - so there’s the first myth busted: ‘veganism is expensive’. I blame the free-from aisle for perpetuating this myth, and the annoying idea that as soon as you label something ‘vegan’ you can charge twice as much. But think about the cheapest things in the supermarket – tins, whole foods, grains – and the most expensive items – meat and dairy – it seems obvious that healthy plant-based meals can be cheaper. In fact, so many meals can be based on cheap tins, frozen veg, and grains from the whole food aisle. Additionally, dairy-free and meat-free products often have a much longer shelf-life, so even they can work out cheaper!
‘But I can’t cook!’
Obviously, being able to cook is a big barrier here - I went to university with only one dish I could make, and after having bean chilli for a solid month, I realised that I needed to learn a few more recipes. Luckily, Pinterest and Instagram are your best friend here – me, and many students I know, share their cooking and food-inspo on Instagram accounts. A quick google can solve all your problems too - for example The Vegan Society has come up with 10 meals where the vegan version is even cheaper than, and just as easy as, the non-vegan version.
‘Doesn’t it take ages to cook?’
Cooking from scratch takes ages, right? Not necessarily. I don’t have the patience for, well, anything, and if it takes longer than thirty minutes then I’m not cooking it. Trust me, I had a Linda McCartney pie in the freezer for the whole of second year because I wasn’t willing to wait 40 minutes for my tea. I find cooking plant-based can be so much quicker, plus you rarely have to worry about giving yourself food poisoning! Stir-fries, roast veg, soups, are all so fast and easy to make from scratch. Deliciously Ella always notes how quick her recipes are, so if the queen of plant-based says cooking can be super-quick, then it must be. And, for the days when you really can’t be bothered cooking, cereal and beans on toast will still be there for you.
As well as being economic both in terms of money and time, learning about food and cooking has turned into a (cheap) hobby as well. So, whether you go the full vegan-way, or just eat more plant-based where you can, I stand by my case that it’s a very student-friendly diet.
Photo credit: @anotherveganstudent
Heather is a final year English student at Leeds university who loves to write just as much as she loves coffee – as well as her studies, she is a faculty wellbeing representative, a member of the uni yoga committee, and a lover of cooking colourful vegan food and keeping fit 😊
Our weight does not determine our health. Weight shamming language, judgement and pressure to change our bodies quick will cause more harm than good. Our diet isn’t the sole contributor to our weight, and it is important to remember not everyone is in the position or has the resources to make a change. Of course we want to support people to reach their health goals and to feel their best, however we need to consider taking an approach which will be more suited to individual needs and circumstances.