The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Surviving college on a plant-based diet

For many vegetarians and vegans, the option to cook at home is vital to ensuring that all dietary needs are met. 

From B vitamins to iron and protein, many components of a healthy diet are more difficult to find in readily available plant-based meals than the standard meat options.

Unfortunately, the college lifestyle sometimes limits everyone’s ability to try new recipes and ensure the completeness of their diets — but this is especially true for students with plant-based diets.

From University dining halls to restaurants across campus, vegans and vegetarians have some nutritious and relatively cost-effective options across the Champaign-Urbana area.

For students living in the dorms or just those who might have limited time to prepare healthy meals for themselves, it is important to know the nutritious, convenient and affordable options that plant-based pupils have at their disposal.

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Dining halls

A meal plan at the University provides students with access to all four traditional cafeteria-style dining facilities and five convenience-store-style locations. 

For those wishing to pay special attention to their dietary needs, there is a nutritional breakdown of every dish served at the dining halls available on the Illinois app. 

These descriptions include ingredients, caloric value, macro- and micronutrients, allergens and — of course — vegetarian or vegan designation.

Using the information available on the Illinois app, a vegan or vegetarian student can decide which dining hall on campus is serving the most nutritionally viable choice — or plan an extra protein bar at some point in their day.

The retail dining locations can be an asset in this process. As a vegetarian freshman, affordable access to Amy’s frozen dinners can be a godsend when the dining hall serves pasta dish after pasta dish. 

Additionally, these retail locations often have vegetarian salads, sushi and even made-to-order black bean burgers.

The dining halls always serve at least one vegan and one vegetarian option for each meal time. If the option doesn’t compel you, most dining halls also offer pizza, pasta and salads every day.


Cooking at home is absolutely the most cost effective and healthy option for most plant-based students. Still, there are occasions when it makes sense to indulge in a meal cooked to order — whether it be out of necessity or a craving.

Some of the most vegan and vegetarian friendly establishments on campus are:

  • Chipotle: You are in control of what goes into your food. They have a soy-based protein option but also the choice to build a veggie bowl without it.
  • Taco Bell: The cheapest vegetarian option by far. You can substitute black or refried beans for any protein, get almost anything fresco style — no sour cream, no cheese — and your meal will likely never even graze the $10 mark.
  • Mia Za’s: Build your own meal. You are in control of your own destiny.
  • Spoon House: Several vegan and vegetarian options ranging from veggie bibimbap to fried tofu to Korean burritos to noodles.
  • Subway: Like Chipotle, you are in control of what goes into your food. The Veggie Delite sandwich is fantastic.
  • Bangkok Thai: Virtually any dish on this menu can be made vegetarian or vegan. Yellow curry, pad see ew, pad woon sen — the list goes on. 
  • Burrito King: Exquisite veggie burrito.
  • Oozu Ramen: Two veggie ramen soup options. One is vegan, the other is vegetarian. Both are good. 
  • Forage Kitchen: Although some of the bowls are pricey, you can build your own for $7. This is a good hearty option when you want to feel like you’re doing something good for your body but you don’t have time to cook.
  • Ambar India: Decent and reasonably priced Indian food on campus. Not anything to write home about, but it’s close to the North Quad and they have plentiful plant-based options.
  • Shawarma Joint: One of the most satisfying meals on campus is one third of a falafel bowl from here and a lentil soup on the side. One visit to Shawarma Joint can be about two and a half meals.
  • DP Dough: By far not the most nutritious option, but it’s pretty good. Open late.
  • Dubai Grill: Similar in concept to Shawarma Joint, but more expensive and slightly better falafel.

Grocery shopping

People are not exaggerating when they say that grocery shopping is by far the healthiest and most budget-friendly option to feed oneself. 

For example, this chickpea tikka masala recipe from The Simple Veganista can cost less than $1.50 per serving to cook at home. Compared to an almost $12 bowl from Signature Grill with the same ingredients, this is a no-brainer. 

If you are able to drive to do your grocery shopping or hitch a ride with a friend, the most cost effective grocery store varies depending on dietary habits. For many students on a budget, the grocery store of choice is Aldi, which has three locations across the Champaign-Urbana area. 

If you are not able to drive somewhere to complete your grocery shopping, you can either rely uponCounty Market on Springfield Avenue and the Target on Green Street or order your groceries through a delivery app like Instacart. 

Although delivery services add a convenience fee to your order, they eliminate the need to take long walks across campus with flimsy, break-prone bags in tow. Even with the added costs, ordering groceries is considerably cheaper than buying meals from a restaurant — just please make sure to tip your driver.


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About the Contributor
Lisa Chasanov, Managing Editor for Reporting
Howdy! My name is Lisa, my game is delivering quality news to your phone screen, coffee table and recycling bin. Since fall 2022, I have had the honor of writing, editing and often-unsuccessfully pitching content for The Daily Illini. During my time at the 152-year-old news source, I have served as a reporter at our news desk, summer editor and assistant news editor. Most recently, after a rewarding year of bringing you hard-hitting stories such as “Uncut: Dissecting Circumcision” and “‘Surf’s Up’ could be the film of the summer,” I have taken over as managing editor for reporting. In my free time, you can find me performing open heart surgery in dark alleys, communicating telepathically with small woodland creatures and engaging in otherwise dubious activities. If you would like to summon me for any reason, you can find me at [email protected]. Good Yard. Stay tuned for more.
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