Being vegetarian in college can be difficult, but Jill Carle, 23, wouldnt know. She's the author of College Vegetarian Cooking but she's not vegetarian. She never has been -- but her sister and the books co-author Megan Carle, 25, is. Still, she knows quite a bit about the trials and tribulations of vegetarian living away from home.
"I have so many friends that are vegetarians that have such a hard time. Finding something healthy and veggie on campus is pretty difficult, she told The Daily Green in a recent phone interview from the campus of Arizona State University, where she's pursuing a graduate degree in political science.
Jill and Megans book aims to give vegetarians simple yet testy recipes that satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. We spoke to Jill about her book and what college vegetarians can do to stay healthy and happy while in school.
A lot of kids decide to go vegetarian in college. What should they know before they take the plunge?
I think one of the most important things is knowing whats out there. When my sister became vegetarian in high school one of her friends also did, and for the first two weeks, she only ate pasta and potato chips because she didnt know what else she could eat.
There are so many things out there for vegetarians, and it really is fun to try different things. So much of the time people think of vegetarianism as limiting your diet, but its really not it opens up your diet to more things that you otherwise would not try.
Because a lot of times kids are eating in the dining hall what should vegetarian students reach for and what should they avoid?
I know that most dining halls have salad bars and stuff like that, and for some, thats the extent of their vegetarian food. Most of the time you can get pasta and stuff like that and thats not such a bad option. The problem with dining halls, pasta is often the only grain they offer for vegetarians.
Another good tip: Remember the first three letters of vegetarian are v-e-g the same as vegetables. So remember to actually eat vegetables. So much of the time, its so easy to say, okay, I can eat French fries or cheese pizza. But you have to be more adventurous and that can be really hard, because we think we know what we like even if weve never tried it.
Whats the biggest mistake vegetarian college kids make?
I think its getting stuck in a rut of eating the same things every day. That makes being vegetarian harder because it limits your options. They think they can only eat salad and ramen and pizza -- and thats too hard. If you know whats out there, it can be pretty easy.
Any tips and tricks for eating well when living in the dorms?
In a lot of the newer dorms they have kitchens on each floor with a microwave and oven and people can make their own food -- though they can still be pretty hard to cook in. Get one basket that you can bring down to the kitchen.
As far as keeping snacks in your dormroom, have a limit on the number of bad-for-you snacks you can have. You can get stuck feeling like its so much easier to eat in my dorm room than in the dining hall. Have granola bars, yogurt -- things that are snacks that you might like but arent as bad as they could be.
Whats your absolute favorite go-to recipe in the book?
I just made the stuffed shells yesterday! Theres a great recipe for pasta primavera. One of my favorite things that I really liked was the sloppy joes made with textured vegetable protein. Sloppy Joes are my all-time favorite foods, and I was skeptical about using textured vegetable protein, but I really like them.
You have 15 minutes before class and youre starving what do you eat?
Im a big advocate of making stuff ahead of time and reheating it. Id reheat something Ive already made.
Any tips for beginning vegetarians?
Figure out what you like and dont worry about following a recipe exactly. Figure out what you want to make and how you like to make things. If theres something you dont like and another that you do, you can use that instead. Cook the way you like, instead of the way a recipe says.
Its especially good advice for vegetarians, who are used to adjusting recipes. Its the same thing for vegans. If theres something with cheese in it, make it without cheese or with soy cheese. Know that a recipe isnt a static thing. You can make whatever you really like without it being a big deal.
College Vegetarian Cooking is out now on Ten Speed Press.
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