A guide to eating plant-based meals at U-M
Many studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet can be more environmentally friendly than traditional meat-based diets. For example, research from the Center for Sustainable Systems (CSS) at the University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS) finds that a national diet switch to include more plant-based foods can lead to a 35% decrease in greenhouse gas emissions. Another resource from the CSS provides a fact sheet about the current U.S. food system, suggesting that the best way to decrease your environmental impact is to eat less meat.
There are many ways to incorporate plant-based and sustainable meal options into your lifestyle, such as partaking in events like Meatless Mondays or shopping for produce at your local farmers market. We also live in the age of faux meat, with big brands like Impossible and Beyond Meat partnering with restaurants across the country to offer synthetically produced meat replacements.
Here at SEAS, many students like myself partake in eating plant-based diets for sustainability, health and/or ethical reasons. Whether you are a hardcore vegan or just looking to add more plant-based meals to your diet, there are many plant-based options on and around the Ann Arbor campus that have delicious vegetarian and vegan options for students. The following are some of my recommendations.
The Union has plenty of fast food options, and a good amount of plant-based choices for students. For example, Panda Express now offers vegan orange chicken using Beyond Meat, which can be paired with white rice, veggie lo-mein or vegetable spring rolls for an all-plant-based meal. MI Burger also partners with Beyond Meat, offering a burger that can be topped with vegan cheese for an additional charge. This eatery also offers a sustainable angus meat burger mixed with half mushrooms as well as halal-sourced meat.
Located in the U-M Biological Science Building near the U-M Museum of Natural History, Darwin’s offers plant-based options for a quick meal to go. It has a wide selection of coffee drinks that you can get with oat, almond or soy milk, as well as a vegan mango smoothie. It also offers a vegan chickpea wrap, plus pre-packaged vegetarian-friendly salads.
One of the most popular vegan restaurants in Ann Arbor is Detroit Street Filling Station. Located in the Kerrytown district and just a 15-minute walk from campus, this delicious restaurant offers options ranging from plant-based burgers and artichoke dip to burritos and pad Thai. Everything on the menu is 100% vegan, so there should be no worries about cross-contamination. It also offers a 10%-off-one-item coupon if you bring your own reusable container for leftovers, making the restaurant a sustainable and affordable option.
Located on Liberty Street, Jerusalem Garden is a Mediterranean restaurant that offers vegetarian items such as falafel patties, veggie grape leaves, fattoush salad, tahini salad, spinach pie and lentils with rice and onions. There are options for diets of all kinds, and the garlic hummus with pita bread is outstanding. It also is a favorite with U-M students.
If you are an Asian food lover like myself, the Slurping Turtle on East Liberty Street is a must-try restaurant. While most of the ramen is meat-based, there is one vegetarian ramen option, the Red Curry Ramen, featuring eggplant and mushrooms. It also offers edamame and vegetable bao buns for vegetarian-friendly appetizers.
For my boba fans, Quickly Boba Cafe on South University Avenue uses a coconut milk-based creamer in all of its milk teas, making them all non-dairy. The cafe also has a few appetizers, including vegetable spring rolls.
Plant-based diets are becoming more and more common, and luckily almost all restaurants in the area offer a vegetarian or vegan option upon request. The above are just a few of the many choices available. I encourage everyone to try at least one plant-based option this year!