By Leah Negrin
It’s finally graduation season! If your favorite teenage vegetarian is headed to college to live in the dorms and experience what it's like to live on her own for the first time, she (or he) may be anxious about finding food—especially if she doesn't have access to a kitchen, like most first-year college students. Ease her worries by gifiting her with a graduation present that will help her make the transition to plant-powered eating on campus! Here are a few ideas:
1. A Mini-Blender
These petite appliances are just the right size for a dorm and can allow the student to make smoothies in the comfort of his or her own room. All your gift recipient needs to do is liberate a few ingredients like bananas, berries, milk (dairy/non), yogurt (dairy/non), peanut butter, and spinach from the dining hall (or keep a stash of less common ingredients like chia seeds and ground flax), and he or she has everything needed for a delicious and healthy blended snack or light meal. Check out the Magic Bullet Mini, which comes with a recipe book and mug, or the Epica Personal Blender that blends directly into a container you can take and drink on-the-go. If your graduate will have his or her own kitchen, a good one is the Ninja NJ100 Express Chop. Technically a chopper, it’s made for chopping things like garlic and onions—but it’s great for smoothies too (that’s what I often use it for!).
Giving a student the tools to make DIY smoothies has two advantages: She can stay healthy by being in control the ingredients she’s eating (no weird ingredients or unnecessary sugar), plus they’re a heck of a lot cheaper than smoothies you’ll buy on or off campus.
2. Bulk Nuts and Seeds
Some of the best snacks for those without access to a full kitchen or even a large refrigerator are nuts and seeds. I personally have cashews, walnuts, flax meal (from seeds) and pumpkin seeds all at my fingertips! These nuts and seeds will help your graduate not stress about finding a healthy vegetarian snack since nuts are so easy to just grab and go to class, plus they’ll make it easy to add a hit of plant-based protein to their day—necessary for all vegetarians, especially those who may not be eating in an especially veg-friendly cafeteria. To make it extra gift-y, find some pretty mason jars or other glass containers, fill with nuts, and label with chalkboard stickers like these.
3. Fruit-Infused Water Bottle
This applies to all college students, not just vegetarian ones—staying hydrated is key! Of course, it can be hard to drink enough water especially when it’s competing with energy drinks, sodas, coffee beverages and other sweet stuff (many college cafeterias have unlimited fountain sodas!). A fruit-infused water bottle like this one will help your graduate to spice up their water and stay away from sugary, energy-sapping beverages.
4. A Stash of Bars
A nutrition-packed bar that’s low in sugar yet a good source of protein and fiber can help any student survive a packed afternoon of classes. They’re especially useful for vegetarians and vegans who may have to settle for a low-protein dining hall meal and need something a little more satisfying to balance it out. There are so many bars on the market today, so it’s helpful to find out which one your graduate might like. Or, try some SmartGirlVeg favorites: The Nuts & Spices and Strong & Kind varieties of KIND bars are great choices; they’re mostly nuts which makes them a good source of protein and fiber with a moderate amount of sugar. We also like the simple ingredient lists on the Larabar products and are totally into these new GROW Sprouted Raw bars from Go Raw, that use watermelon seeds as their protein source and pack 12 grams per bar.
5. Gift Cards
Another great idea for your graduate would be to get a gift card for a nearby plant-based diet friendly grocery store like Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods—you can even do some research to see if there is a local college town health food store near that you can buy him or her a gift card to. Your graduate will appreciate being able to pick up foods they just don’t have at the dining hall like vegan coffee creamer and “ice cream”, and you’ll give him or her a fun excuse to get off campus and explore the new locale.
6. A Coffee Mug and a Cookbook
If your graduate will have a microwave in his or her dorm room (as many do) a great gift would be a coffee mug, maybe even one with their new school on it or their name on it, and a cookbook of meals they make just with the mug and a microwave. There are several of these books on the market; this one has a section specifically on meatless entrees!
While eating on campus for vegetarians has improved in recent years, many schools still need a lot of help when it comes to plant-powering students. Staying veg on campus can be a challenge, so your favorite college-bound vegetarian will undoubtedly appreciate a gift that will help her stick with it.
What other graduation gifts can you think of for a plant-strong soon-to-be college student?
SmartGirlVeg intern Leah Negrin has completed her degree in nutrition from Long Island University and is working towards her M.S. in Holistic Nutrition in order to help people heal their bodies with food. Check out her blog, Hot Green Life!