Going to university as an overseas student can be both thrilling and overwhelming. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you may have concerns about maintaining your dietary preferences while living and studying in a new country.
However, with some planning and preparation, you can easily maintain a balanced and healthy plant-based diet while studying in Australia.
This blog provides tips and advice to help vegetarian and vegan international students can thrive academically and nutritionally while learning in Australia.
Explore the different types of vegetarian diets, where to find vegan and vegetarian food options, and how to ensure you get the necessary nutrients.
1. What Is A Vegetarian Diet?
A vegetarian diet does not include seafood (fish, shellfish. etc.), meat, poultry, and any by-products that need animal slaughter. The diet prioritizes the inclusion of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, grains, and seeds.
However, the diet comes with various variations, i.e., some people who follow this diet may eat dairy foods and eggs, while others may avoid them.
Vegetarian diets offer plenty of health benefits. What you eat in this diet comprises all the essential minerals and vitamins for a long and healthy life. However, you must eat the right way and in the right amounts to get maximum benefits.
2. What Are The Different Types Of Vegetarian Diets?
Though 'vegetarian' typically implies a 'plant-based' diet, there are a few variations in a vegetarian diet. These variations are based on several things, such as health, ethical, environmental, religious, or economic reasons.
Below are the main types of a vegetarian diet:
Includes – dairy foods, eggs, and plant foods.
Excludes – meat, poultry, and seafood.
Includes - dairy foods (milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter) and plant foods.
Excludes - meat, seafood, fish, poultry, and eggs.
Includes - Eggs and plant foods.
Excludes - Meat, seafood, poultry, and dairy foods.
Include – Plant sources and fish. Dairy, eggs, vegetables, grains, pasta, seafood, and fish are primary protein sources for people who follow this diet.
Excludes – All meat except for fish.
Include – Only Plant foods.
Exclude - All animal foods and products such as meat, seafood, dairy, and eggs. Sometimes it also avoids bi-products such as carmine, honey, and gelatine/collagen.
It is a variation of a vegan diet wherein people include edible insects for environmental and nutritional reasons.
3. Is The Vegetarian Diet Suitable For Everyone?
Yes. Vegetarian and vegan diets are healthy, nutritionally suitable, and appropriate for people of all ages. Vegetarians and vegans are less prone to chronic disease risks and have lower death rates from a few degenerative diseases.
However, children and lactating mothers on a vegetarian diet require special care to get all the nutrients needed for healthy development.
Growing children need adequate nutrients to assist them in growing and developing. Parents of children following a vegetarian diet should consider taking supplements or fortified foods for omega three, vitamin B12, calcium, and iron to some extent.
It will help ensure that their children get enough nutrition to thrive.
4. What Are The Benefits Of A Vegetarian Diet?
A well-balanced and varied wholefood vegetarian diet supplies all the nutrients for good health. You can choose from vegetarian items such as vegetables, legumes, fruits, and whole grains to meet your recommended dietary guidelines.
Eating such a diet can benefit your health and help you live a longer and healthier life. It can lessen your risk of affecting by chronic diseases that most Australians face today, such as:
Overweight and Obesity
Coronary heart disease
Type 2 Diabetes
Hypertension (high blood pressure) and many types of cancer
5. What Nutrients Do I Need To Pay Attention To?
You need to attend to the following nutrients when following a vegetarian diet:
Crucial for blood production and oxygen transportation across the body.
Iron Sources- Legumes, nuts and seeds, tofu, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and iron-fortified breakfast cereals.
You may take vitamin C and iron-rich plant-based foods to stimulate iron absorption.
It is another essential nutrient vegetarians and vegans must focus on. It helps in growth and development, vitamin A metabolism, reproduction, hormone interactions, appetite, a robust immune system, healthy skin, and wound healing.
Certain vegetarian foods, such as unrefined grains, nuts and seeds, and legumes, contain Phytic acid and oxalates that lessen zinc absorption in the body.
Besides including zinc-rich foods such as avocado, poached eggs, sprouts, dairy, eggs, legumes, and whole grains (bread and cereal), follow a few tips to enhance the absorption rate of zinc in the body:
Soak legumes prior to cooking.
Eat legumes in pasta or canned form.
Eat sprouted grains, beans, and seeds.
Avoid coffee and tea one hour before and after meals.
Vitamin B 12 is an essential nutrient your body needs for red blood cell formation and nerve function. Unluckily, a vegetarian diet has few food sources to meet the daily dietary requirement of this nutrient.
Few sources include animal products such as eggs and dairy and fermented foods such sauerkraut, kimchi, and miso.
To ensure adequate Vitamin B12, take a B12 supplement or Vitamin B-12 fortified plant-based milk and nutritional yeast and meat alternatives.
Omega-3 fats are vital for promoting general health and warding off various diseases. Fish and seafood are good sources of the long-chain form of omega-3 readily used by the body.
Plant foods, such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds, provide short-chain omega-3 fats. However, our body can make a small amount of long-chain omega-3 fats using short-chain omega-3 fats. Therefore, it is necessary to procure it from dietary sources.
If you don't eat animal products, you can take a vegan omega-3 supplement to ensure you get enough long-chain omega-3 fats. Pregnant women and young children on a vegetarian diet should consume a vegan omega-3 supplement to ensure a balanced diet.
Vitamin D ensures a healthy immune system and optimal bone health.
Not many sources of vitamin D are available in a vegetarian diet. The only way to obtain this vital mineral is by staying in sunlight for 15 minutes or taking a vegan-friendly D3 supplement and vitamin D-fortified plant-based milk and margarine.
If your diet allows eggs, you can include them as they are a good source of vitamin D.
6. What Are The Nutritious Food Choices For Vegetarians?
As a Vegetarian, you can incorporate a range of nutritious food choices, such as:
Fruit and vegetables
Whole grains, including brown rice, oats, buckwheat, freekeh, quinoa, and food items made from wholegrains such as pasta and bread
Eggs, lentils, and dried or canned legumes such as beans or chickpeas
Nuts and seeds such as flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, etc.
Dairy foods or calcium-fortified plant-based foods
Healthy fats include extra virgin olive oil, an omega-3 supplement / fortified food, etc.
Vitamin B12-enriched foods if you exclude dairy and eggs.
7. What Are The Risks Of Consuming A Vegan Diet?
A wholefood vegan diet typically offers plenty of essential fibre, vitamins and minerals, phytonutrients, and micronutrients better than other diets.
However, you must put more thought into a few nutrients, such as vitamin B12, Omega 3, and to some extent, iron. Supplements, fortified foods, and injections are ways to obtain them in the required amounts.
8. What Are The Plant-Based Meat Alternatives In A Vegetarian and Vegan Diet?
You can easily find various plant-based meat alternatives, including burgers and sausages. They are protein-rich and fortified with minerals and vitamins such as iron, B12, and zinc. Such alternatives offer variety, nutrition, convenience, and enjoyment.
However, you need to be selective while choosing a plant-based meat alternative. It is good to read the nutritional composition and ensure that it is low in salt and saturated fat and has a higher Health Star Rating.
9. How Many People In Australia Are Vegan Or Vegetarian?
Do you wonder what percentage of Australia is vegetarian? According to research, 1.7 million Australians were vegan or vegetarian in 2012. Australia has 2.5 million vegans and vegetarians, equating to 6% of the total Aussie population.
Here are a few facts worth noting:
The country has the 3rd highest percentage of vegans per capita worldwide.
In the last decade, the number of people following plant-based diets has increased by around 50%
The maximum number of vegans are present in the east of Australia.
Vegetarian and Vegan numbers in NSW and Victoria reported 26% and 28%, respectively, while South Australians came in at 15%.
Veganism and vegetarianism achieved one-digit figures amongst Generation X and boomers. While veganism comes between 10% - 12% among the youth, vegetarianism comes in at 16% among millennials.
Based on a survey conducted in 2021, 79% of Australians consider themselves omnivores, with 2% and 5% of Australians considering themselves vegan and vegetarian, respectively. The remaining percentage of Australians identify themselves as pescatarians.
The credit for the increase in the vegan population goes to several Australian vegan celebrities, particularly celebrity chefs, that have played a key role in bringing plant-based lifestyles into the conventional dining and food culture.
Also, social media platforms play a significant role in promoting veganism, with several influencers sharing their vegetarian journeys and advocating for a plant-based lifestyle.
10. What Percentage Of Students Are Vegan?
According to a survey by Roy Morgan in 2020, approx. 11.2% of Australians aged 14 and above identify as vegetarian, while 2.1% identify as vegan.
However, this data may change based on the location, specific student population, and other demographic factors.
11. Is It Easy To Be Vegan In Australia?
Yes. The country's large and diverse population and easy availability of plant-based options in supermarkets, grocery stores, markets, restaurants, and cafes throughout the country make it easy to access vegan foods in Australia.
12. Should Everyone Become Vegan?
Yes. A vegan diet provides you with adequate nutrients that you would require to live a healthy life. As it does not require consuming animal products, people with access to adequate vegan foods should become vegan.
Considering most Australians buy their food from supermarkets and have easy access to a variety of nutritious and inexpensive plant foods, becoming a vegan requires little effort.
13. Why Is Veganism Popular In Australia?
Several reasons contributing to the rise of veganism in Australia;
A well-planned vegan diet helps lower the chances of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and specific types of cancers.
People are also turning to a vegan lifestyle for animal welfare. Being vegan is a way to avoid contributing to the mistreatment of animals to obtain animal-based foods and other products.
Limiting the intake of all animal products helps lessen your carbon footprint and promote sustainability.
The increasing awareness about the effect of animal agriculture on the environment is making people adopt veganism.
Australia has various specialty vegan supermarkets. The major supermarket chains, such as Aldi, Coles, IGA, Foodland, and Woolworths, stock their branded vegan meals, plant-based foodstuffs, and meat and dairy alternatives.
For the above reasons, the veganism statistics in Australia show a growing adoption of this lifestyle. It is expected that plant-based diets will be here to stay for many years to come.
14. What Food Options Are Available On Campus For Vegan And Vegetarian Students?
The availability of vegan and vegetarian food options in university cafeterias and food outlets varies depending on the university and location; however, most Australian universities offer various options for students with dietary limitations.
Salad Bars: Students can prepare salads from fresh vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Sandwiches and Wraps: You can choose sandwiches and wraps filled with vegetarian and vegan fillings, such as falafel, tofu, hummus, and vegetables.
Vegetarian and Vegan Hot Meals: Some university food outlets offer a 100 per cent plant-based menu 24/7. Opt for vegan and vegetarian dishes such as vegetable stir-fry, lentil curry, and vegan pasta.
Smoothie Bars: Smoothie bars are another great option on university campuses. You can find an array of vegan and vegetarian smoothies made from vegetables, plant-based milk, and fruits.
Vegetarian and Vegan Snacks: For light snacking between meals, universities offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian snacks, including nuts, fruit, veggie chips, and hummus.
Overall, overseas students can find several vegan and vegetarian options on campus. It has been seen that universities are increasing their food offerings to cater to students with dietary restrictions. It is required that students check with their university's food services to learn about the available options.
15. Can A Vegan Survive In Australia?
Veganism is getting increasingly popular in Australia, with a rising number of people switching to a plant-based lifestyle. It implies an increasing awareness and availability of vegetarian and vegan-friendly options in Australia.
Many supermarkets offer vegan-friendly options, from fresh fruits and vegetables and plant-based dairy items to grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Additionally, several Australian restaurants and cafes have dedicated vegan menus that offer vegan options.
It is advised that vegans in Australia must consume adequate protein, iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 by including various plant-based foods into their diet and consider using fortified foods or supplements when required.
Vegans can undoubtedly thrive in Australia with some effort and attention to nutrition.
16. What Are The Best Places To Find Vegan Products In Australia?
Australian supermarkets have started stocking varieties of vegan products to cater to the needs of the growing vegan community. Some businesses only accept online orders; others will allow pick-up from their stores.
Whole Foods Market is an excellent place to look for vegan groceries.
The Cruelty-Free Shop is the most prominent vegan supermarket in Australia that sell a good range of vegan food, that includes snacks, prepared meals, pantry staples, and more.
Iku Wholefoods in Sydney is another great place to find vegan foods. Located in several locations around the city, it sells a range of vegan groceries, including vegetables, fresh fruit, dairy-free milk, bread, and more.
Coles and Woolworths have a dedicated vegan section in their stores where you can buy a wide range of vegan products.
IGA supermarket is another excellent place to find plenty of plant-based options.
Several great vegan-friendly restaurants in Sydney exist if you plan to eat out. Soul Burger and Gigi Pizzeria are the most popular restaurants around the city that serves delicious vegan pizzas.
The Inner West in Sydney, the Summer Hill Organic Fruit Market, and Dr Earth Health Foods are some of Sydney's best vegan food options. The Vegan Collective Markets in Sydney brings together the choicest vegan products and food annually.
You can find many Asian grocery stores within a small distance of Sydney's Inner West. Marrickville Market can be your weekly stop for organic produce and vegan products. At Om Grocery, you can find premium-quality lentils and spices in Ashfield.
ALDI, a supermarket chain, can be your one-stop shop for various vegetarian and vegan food needs. You can find a range of non-dairy milk (oat milk, soy milk, rice milk, and coconut milk), veggie burgers, meatless meatballs, vegetable pot stickers, hot dogs, eggplant ravioli, and many more. Besides these, you can also find vegan-friendly health and beauty products, including fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, and household items.
Melbourne also has several vegan grocery stores - The Cruelty-Free Shop, TheVeganGroceryStore.com.au, and Veganz. They offer a variety of plant-based foods to fit their customer's values and needs. It includes fresh produce, pantry staples, prepared meals, vegan-friendly personal care, and household items.
There are plenty of healthy food and grocery stores in Australia, such as Aussie health products, GoVita, Goodness, Sunny brook health store, and The source bulk foods. They sell a broader and more specialized selection of foods than conventional grocery stores, including health foods, local produce, organic foods, and nutritional supplements.
17. Are There Any Websites And Apps For Vegan And Vegetarians In Australia?
Below are some trusted Apps that can help you find the best places that serve the type of food you want.
Vegan Australia – This organization offers ample resources and articles and conducts events regarding veganism in Australia.
Vegman – This app on Google Play Store lets people find vegetarian, vegan, and VEG-friendly restaurants in Australia.
Happy Cow – is another popular App on Google Play Store that guides people on natural health food stores and vegan and vegetarian restaurants worldwide.
VegOut – This is an App driven by Happy Cow that compiles vegan, vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly food outlets around the globe.
18. Where Do Vegans Live In Australia?
As veganism is a growing movement country-wide, Vegans can be commonly seen in different areas of Australia. However, certain cities such as Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide, and Brisbane are known for their vegan-friendly culture and have a higher concentration of vegans.
Here you can find several vegan cafes, restaurants, and markets. Plenty of vegan events and festivals take place in these cities each year.
19. What Is The Best Vegan City In Australia?
As most restaurants are now vegan or vegetarian-friendly, you can relish a filling and delicious vegan meal almost anywhere in Australia.
Melbourne is considered the vegan capital of Australia for its diverse and sizeable vegan community, vegan-friendly culture, and loads of vegan options. The city hosts many vegan events and festivals yearly, including the Melbourne Vegan Festival.
It offers a variety of cafes, restaurants, and supermarkets, making it the best place to explore vegetarian and vegan options in Australia. Crossways, Fina's Café, Green Man's Arms gastropub, and Red Sparrow Pizza are authentic places to find wholesome, vegan, vegetarian lunch and dinner.
With the most vegan establishments, Sydney occupies second place in Australia's most vegan-friendly city. It hosts the Sydney Vegan Market, a popular destination for vegans. From vegan-tasting menus to meat-free burger joints, the city takes pride in offering some of the best plant-based food in Australia.
Alibi Bar & Kitchen Stylish, Kidness Vegan vegan restaurant, Veggosizzle and Vina Vegan vegetarian, and Yellow vegan restaurant are popular vegan destinations that serve tasty plant-based multi-cuisine menus in the city.
A few other places for vegans include:
Brisbane: Besides being home to top-notch vegan restaurants and cafes, the city also hosts the Brisbane Vegan Expo for veganism enthusiasts.
Adelaide: Adelaide has a strong and growing vegan community with several vegan-friendly businesses. It hosts numerous vegan events during the year, including the Vegan Festival Adelaide.
Perth: Perth is another hub for vegans, with a growing number of vegan cafes and restaurants. The city hosts the Perth Vegan Expo, a popular event for vegans and vegetarians in Western Australia.
The Sunshine Coast: The city is among the best places to be a vegetarian or vegan. It is home to Australia's first vegan grocery store, and over 50% of all restaurants in the city provide at least one meatless option.
Gopal's Pure Vegetarian, Greenhouse Cafe, and Elixiba provide a range of gluten-free and Vegan meals with outdoor seating and takeaway options.
20. Is It Hard For Vegetarian In Australia?
Vegetarianism is a well-accepted dietary choice in Australia. With several restaurants and cafes, supermarkets, and grocery stores offering vegetarian options, it is easy to be a vegetarian in Australia.
Several major grocery store chains now carry various vegetarian products, including dairy-free milk, vegetarian-friendly snacks and sweets, meat substitutes, vegetarian-friendly clothing, and household and beauty products in Australia.
Along with vegetarian food, the country also conducts numerous vegetarian-friendly events, festivals, and fare throughout the year.
Although maintaining a vegetarian lifestyle is accessible in Australia, specific locations provide more vegan options than others, making it far easier to be a vegetarian in Australia.
21. Why Do Vegans Quit Veganism?
Some common reasons why vegans may quit veganism are:
Nutritional Deficiencies: Some vegans may find obtaining sufficient nutrients through their plant-based diet challenging. It can result in nutritional deficiencies, which may cause health problems such as fatigue, weakness, etc.
Triggers Disordered eating habits: The restrictive nature of veganism makes it difficult for vegans to maintain a healthy relationship with food.
Financial Constraints: Adopting a Vegan diet is quite expensive, and some people may find that they can't afford to stay vegan over a long period.
Lack of Social Support: Some vegans feel isolated by friends and family members who don't have the same dietary beliefs. Fewer opportunities to connect with other vegans pose challenges for vegans.
Health Concerns: Some vegans may find that a high-fibre vegan diet causes digestive issues rather than improving their health.
Changing Beliefs and Values Over Time: Ethical conflicts could also be another reason that may lead vegans to question or reject veganism.
It is worth noting that only a few vegans experience these challenges, and several remain committed to their vegan lifestyle for life. Those who struggle should seek ways to address their issues to keep enjoying a healthy, plant-based diet.
22. Is It Cheaper To Be Vegan Or Vegetarian?
Several factors determine whether it is affordable or not to be vegan or vegetarian depends. These include the individual's dietary choices or the type of food, location, access to plant-based options, and whether it is a specialty or niche product.
Generally, vegan and vegetarian diets can be cost-effective if you buy whole, seasonal, and minimally processed foods. Here are a few considerations to help you enjoy a healthy plant-based diet while staying within your budget.
Instead of tempeh, tofu, or plant-based meat alternatives, you can choose less expensive plant-based protein options such as dairy products, eggs, lentils, chickpeas, and beans.
Though Vegan and vegetarian options are widely available at restaurants, they can be more expensive than meat-based meals. Cooking at home can help you cut down on costs.
Rather than buying expensive fresh produce, you can keep costs down by choosing less costly vegan options such as in-season produce, frozen foods, or canned foods and shopping at farmers' markets.
Thus, with some creativity and planning, you can have a healthy, plant-based diet without breaking the bank.
23. Is Vegan Food Expensive In Australia?
Vegan food is available at varying price points in Australia. As per a recent study, meat eaters can save up to $750 a year by switching to a plant-based diet.
In some cases, you may find vegan food more expensive than non-vegan food options, such as:
Specialized ingredients go into preparing vegan specialty products such as plant-based meats and cheeses. The high cost of ingredients and production adds to their price point.
The limited availability of vegan food options in some areas drives up prices. However, you can find several cheaper vegan-friendly options if you know where to look. Several grocery store chains nowadays offer an array of affordable vegan items, and there are also various economical vegan recipes and meal ideas online.
Eating vegan can be very affordable. Most whole-plant foods, such as oats, rice, beans, fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, legumes, herbs, nuts, seeds, and spices, are cheap.
Furthermore, vegan alternatives such as vegan cheese, sausages, burgers, plant milk, yogurt, and mince are often relatively inexpensive than animal-based counterparts and readily available in most grocery stores.
While a few vegan products may be costlier than others, you can maintain a healthy and affordable plant-based diet in Australia by choosing whole, plant-based foods and identifying cheaper vegan options.
24. Quick Tips For International Students On A Vegetarian Diet
Being a vegetarian can be challenging for students who come to Australia for studies. Sometimes they have to compromise their dietary preferences to ensure they get adequate nutrients and protein.
However, you need not worry as we have compiled some survival tips for vegetarians and vegan students in Australia:
Always read the ingredients on the packaging for healthy living to know their nutritional composition before buying it. Understand which fruit and vegetables give you more minerals and fewer carbohydrates. Prepare your checklist of what to eat each week and follow it religiously.
Choose from a range of foods to eat a well-balanced and varied diet that meets your daily nutritional requirements. It includes soy products, dark green vegetables, seeds, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, and iron-fortified products.
Have fruits and vegetables with every meal and snack, as they can help boost the absorption of iron and zinc from plant-based foods. Avoid drinking coffee and tea within an hour of meals for better absorption.
Include a protein-rich food with all main meals and consume protein-rich snacks like soy products if you are not allergic to them.
Plant-based meat alternatives can be high in salt and highly processed. Choose fortified products with low salt and saturated fat content.
Ensure you eat sufficient protein by consuming the right amount of beans, tofu, and nuts.
Locate a quality vegetarian restaurant that offers vegan options.
Include more vegetables than usual to compensate for the lack of meat in your diet.
Supplement your diet with Vitamin B12, as your vegetarian diet may lack this nutrient if it lacks eggs and dairy products.
Also, consider taking a vitamin D supplement if you don't get out in the sun daily so your body can naturally synthesize it.
People with specific nutrient needs, such as pregnant ladies, breastfeeding mothers, or children, can seek professional assistance.
Include ALA-rich foods such as walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds, or take vegan omega 3 EPA and DHA supplements.
When choosing plant-based milk, ensure it contains at least 120mg of calcium per 100 ml.
When deciding to study in an outside country, explore available veg restaurants in the country. Try them every alternate day to find what outlet suits your taste. While ethnic restaurants often offer meat-free options, others adjust the ingredients or cook a dish that may not be on the menu. When in doubt, it is best to ask the restaurant staff!
If you don't find 'vegetarian' food, investing in cooking equipment and cookery books is best to prepare quick vegan recipes yourself. Buy a blender, mixer, sandwich maker, and other equipment to ease your life. Also, cooking can save you money and allows you to prepare meals in your style with your chosen ingredients.
If you need help finding the right food, contact your friends, teachers, landlord, or support service officers, or connect with a like-minded community on Facebook, WeChat, or WhatsApp.
Being a vegetarian or vegan overseas student in Australia doesn't have to be challenging. Proper planning and research allow you to maintain a healthy and enjoyable plant-based lifestyle while studying in Australia.
You must remember an increasing community of vegetarian and vegan students in Australia. Several universities offer helpful resources, and a network of like-minded individuals, for students with dietary restrictions.
This way, you can maximize your time in Australia while sticking to your dietary choices.
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