Ah, the wonderful grass ranges of the West: perfect for raising cattle that'll look delicious once on your plate ... or not. If you prefer your animals breathing, don't fear. Colorado Springs has enough hippies in it to keep you happy and healthy while eating greens.
Let's start with the basics. If you're tied to a meal plan, both Colorado College's Bon Appétit and UCCS' Sodexo provide plenty of vegetarian options in their dining facilities. CC's cafeteria, Rastall, even has vegan options for the main course and dessert — and usually, they're pretty good. I haven't had experience with The Lodge at UCCS, but it also offers a vegan meal option.
PPCC has slimmer options than UCCS or CC, but it does have The Meadow, a convenient store-type place that sells hot and cold dishes with vegetarian choices available. Vegan options are harder to come by.
If you're vegan at the Air Force Academy, you may end up starving. The need to feed over a thousand students for a sit-down meal has limited the school's ability to cater to specific diets. However, you can go vegetarian by requesting a seat at the vegetarian table at lunch, and snagging only the vegetarian options during the dinner buffet.
When you grow tired of campus food, convince your friends to wander downtown. At Poor Richard's (poorrichards.biz), I always aim for the veggie burgers, but the pizzas are also great, with options such as soy cheese and spelt crust. The lunch buffet at Everest Nepal (everesttibetimports.com/restaurant.html) is a great value with tons of choices. Both will satisfy you and those pesky carnivores you call friends. To impress that cute vegetarian you've got your eye on, try the pricier Adam's Mountain Café (adamsmountain.com), located in the heart of Manitou Springs.
Switching gears: When looking to pick up something quick for a picnic or splurging on good groceries, I tend to check out Natural Grocers (naturalgrocers.com) and Mountain Mama Natural Foods (mountainmamanaturalfoods.com), but Sunflower Farmers Market (sfmarkets.com) and Whole Foods Market (wholefoodsmarket.com) are well-known, easy picks too. All have great meals to go and super selections for the vegetarian and vegan buyer, as long as said buyer is willing to pay a few more dollars than at the typical supermarket.
Not ready to spend a bit extra? Luckily, it's still farmers' market time, also known as the best time of year to get good, cheap produce while supporting local farmers. Colorado Springs alone has 10 farmers' markets listed at coloradofarmers.org, and most last until the beginning of October. The Colorado Farm and Art Market (farmandartmarket.com), which only sells food that is grown in Colorado, can be a good one to start with. It's open from 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesdays at America the Beautiful Park, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at the Margarita at PineCreek.
Splitting the cost of groceries is always smart, so why not get together with friends (or random strangers you've met in line at the vegetarian counter) throw on some music, and cook away? Most dorms have at least one kitchen in them, or you can try to befriend someone who lives off-campus. My favorite sites for good recipes are 101cookbooks.com and kblog.lunchboxbunch.com. Search for "quick recipes," and you'll be able to find ones that won't require you to be a trained professional.
As a volunteer Coach and Mentor in my third year at The First Tee of…