Published: Oct. 4, 2023 By

An image of vegan and lacto-ove food labels in the C4C dining center on campusAre you curious about incorporating more plant-based meals and snacks into your diet? Eating less meat and dairy can benefit the environment and your health. Whether you live on or off campus, you can find ways to transition your food routine to include more plant-based options. 

Tips to transition to a plant-based diet 

Any changes in your daily food intake can impact your nutrition. As a student, you are busy and need fuel to maintain your energy levels, immune system and overall health.  

CU Boulder has a Campus Dining Services dietitian who can provide nutritional consultations in person and online, including for vegan and vegetarian diets.  

Here are tips to help you transition to putting plants first. 

  • People who eat a lot of meat may need to transition slowly by substituting meat dishes once or twice a week and adding more plant-based meals as desired. 
  • Add plant-based foods high in protein, like tofu, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, soy products and seeds. 
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, especially orange, red and dark green vegetables. Colorful vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. 
  • Enjoy whole plant-based healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and olives. Healthy fats help with mood stabilization, mental health, cardiovascular health, reduced inflammation, increased immunity and feeling full.   

Dining center food hacks for plant-based eating 

The campus dining centers make it easy to put plants first.  

Here are a few dining center hacks. 

  • At the C4C, ask for a vegetarian breakfast burrito and add chorizo tofu or pinto beans for protein. Skip the meat and cheese at the deli bar and add hummus and veggies like cucumbers and bell peppers to a sandwich. After your meal, enjoy a vegan dessert like a Boulder almond cookie or acia berry sorbet. 
  • At Sewell, Village Center and C4C, ask for a tofu scramble with vegetables at the breakfast scramble bar. Depending on the day, you can also enjoy a selection of vegan pastries, like coconut bread or apple strudel. 
  • The dining centers on campus label food items for the top nine allergens and gluten, as well as for various food preferences. Vegan foods have a V label, and lacto-ovo vegetarian foods have a LO label. 
  • C4C and Village Center dining centers offer plant-based protein stations to help you easily add extra protein to your meal. 
  • Libby on the Run, CU on the Run and the Alley at Farrand carry many vegan entrees, sides and snacks. They also offer vegan soups, salads and wraps to go. 
  • Use the menus and the vegetarian and vegan filter functions in Nutrislice to plan your meals. 

Benefits of a plant-based diet 

Consuming fewer animal products offers many benefits.  

  • Reduce carbon emissions. The animal-based food industry produces one-quarter of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • Expand the global food supply. If we reduced the consumption of animal products and increased plant-based food production, the global food supply could increase by up to 49% without expanding the amount of land used for production. 
  • Reduce water usage. Producing animal-based food products uses more water than plant-based foods. Consuming fewer animal products could reduce water usage for food production by 50%. 
  • Decrease the amount of pollution in waterways, streams and oceans. Animal-based food production uses more packaging and produces more waste, which contaminates natural water supplies. 
  • Improve health outcomes and lower the risk of diseases. A plant-based diet promotes many health benefits and can lead to a longer and healthier life. 
  • Save money on food costs. Meat and dairy products typically cost more than whole plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and legumes. 

Moderation with plant-based eating 

Eating fewer animal products doesn’t mean you must adopt a vegan lifestyle. Everyone can decide for themselves how they prefer to eat. Maybe you want to start participating in Meatless Mondays or try not eating meat or dairy at lunch each day. There is no right or wrong way to explore plant-based eating.  

When changing your food habits, consider how those changes may affect your energy levels and nutrition. Start slow with the transition and monitor how you feel. Also, remember that you should not feel stress or shame about your food choices. What you eat is personal, and you can decide what works best for you. 

Learn more about food systems and making sustainable choices with the Global Food System journey on the  AWorld app. This app has recommended daily actions to reduce our carbon footprints and connects you to CU Boulder's sustainability efforts. Schedule an appointment with the campus dining dietitian if you want to learn more about the nutritional benefits of a plant-based diet or need support transitioning to a plant-based diet.