Hi, my name is Megan and I’m a second-year Biomedical Science student at Portsmouth. I’ve been vegan since 2019 (2 years), which doesn’t sound very long but feels like forever ago because of the pandemic.
What started off as my love for house plants developed into trying eco-friendly lifestyles like zero waste and minimalism. I then watched the documentary "Cowspiracy" on Netflix while on the way back from a family holiday. I was overwhelmed by the environmental impacts meat and dairy products had on the world and wanted to help change that.
Later, I learnt more about the suffering the animals in these industries experience and was shocked by how widely accepted it is in society. It is these two reasons why I and many others switched to a vegan diet.
Transitioning to a vegan student lifestyle
Transitioning from being vegan at home (my family are regular meat-eaters) to being a vegan student was surprisingly easy. I now have much more control of what meals I have and I’m able to try lots of new recipes. I mostly do all my own cooking, and it’s a lot easier than most people think.
The best way to start is by first taking your favourite dish and changing key ingredients to make it vegan. This could be by buying plant-based mince for a spaghetti bolognese, switching your pesto for a dairy-free one or trying vegan ice cream. Tesco and Asda are both amazing for vegan options. From vegan brands like "Plant Kitchen", "Wicked" and "Violife", to well-known brands coming out with plant-based products. There is an alternative for everything and some of my greatest findings include marshmallows, chicken nuggets and frozen gyoza.
Getting the right nutrients
Eating a vegan diet can be healthier for you if done properly and getting the right nutrients is important. I always take regular multivitamins, as well as buying fortified foods like oat milk and nutritional yeast. Knowing what foods contain which vitamins and minerals are essential. For example tofu and lentils (for protein), chia seeds (for omega-three), broccoli (for iron) and mushrooms (for vitamin B).
Finding affordable vegan options as a student
One assumption is that veganism is expensive, and in some cases, it can be. At coffee shops, alternative milk is at least 50p more and fake meats are more expensive compared to the real thing.
However, foods that make up a majority of your diet (pasta, rice, oats, vegetables, bread and beans) are really cheap. As a student it can be hard to balance studying, going out and eating well, especially on a budget. To make it easier I recommend cooking big batches of meals and freezing the rest for leftovers. It saves time when you’re in a rush, creates less waste and makes food go further.
The best vegan takeaways in Portsmouth
Living in a city means so many more takeaway options. For an Indian takeaway, I recommend the Akash as they state which specific dishes are vegan. Burgerz ‘n’ Brewz, and Meat and Barrel both have loads of great burger options (and Meat and Barrel burgers are half off on Tuesdays!). Gunwharf is a good place from Wagamama’s to Pho to Pizza Express.
The uni also makes it very easy. The café in the library is ideally located for long study sessions and sells vegan meal deals for £3.90. Next door to the union is café Coco. They have a tonne of options including soup and freshly baked potatoes with beans – amazing for cold days. Portsmouth even has its own vegan festival. I’ve never been but hope to next year.
I highly encourage anyone thinking of changing their diet to a more plant-based one to go for it. Portsmouth is a great place to start your journey and explore everything veganism has to offer, it’s also one of the top 10 most vegan-friendly universities.
Megan Cooper is studying BSc (Hons) Biomedical Science at the University of Portsmouth.