Dealing with Specialty Diets at College

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When it comes to food, no two bodies are the same. And as our knowledge of nutrition grows, so does our own knowledge of what our body does and doesn’t need. For some, dietary restrictions are a result of having severe food allergies or a nutrition-related disease. For others, the desire to respect their faith or beliefs — or just to eat healthily while at college — is the driving factor. Whatever your particular case, if you follow a specialty diet, here’s what you need to know about eating in college.

 

Contact Student Disability Office

If you have a significant food allergy for which you need particular accommodation, you must go straight to the Student Disability Office on your campus. They can ensure that your classroom is peanut-free or that the cafeteria has to clean their plates a certain way to prevent contamination. Plus, if you were to have a bad reaction that would affect your school work, you would be provided those accommodations because of your disability. Just remember to bring any and all doctor’s notes and information on your specific disorder so they are informed and it is on record.

 

Work With the Nutritional Officer

Each campus with a cafeteria has a head nutritionist or nutritional officer who looks over meal plans. They should be your go-to if you are struggling to find food that you can safely eat. Many will even work with you to ensure there’s at least one daily menu item that you can eat. A great one will take your advice and needs to mind and design meals and set out snacks and sides that work for you.

 

Don’t Be Afraid to Cook

Because it’s mostly “quick service” of sandwiches and other fast items, lunch can be the most difficult meal to find substitutes for. But you don’t have to be stuck eating the same thing every single day. Instead, become an expert dorm room chef! Your residence hall likely has a common area with a stove, oven, and/or microwave — everything you need to boil up some gluten-free pasta or put some vegan cookies on to bake. Grab yourself some cooking staples that fit with your diet, plus a pot and a pan, and you’ll be all set.

 

Give the Gift of Health

If you’re concerned that your student is not eating because of dietary concerns, try a care package. Care packages are mailed to them (either for an occasion or just because). There are several specialty versions that offer a great solution. For example, OCM’s Kosher Support Package cuts out items that cannot be consumed and only goes for the good stuff. There’s no guess work or searching through small-print ingredient lists. It’s the perfect gift for someone who needs a tasty pick-me-up during final exam week.

 

Speak Your Mind

If you’re struggling to find food to match your diet, you’re probably not alone. This is when taking your grievances to the higher ups really matter. Give your cafeteria time to adapt to your needs, but if they aren’t following through, seek help from a Dean or Student Life office. If that doesn’t work, consider starting support groups for students in similar situations or writing an editorial to the school newspaper about the lack of halal menu items. Your voice should be heard, especially when it comes to something as important as specialty diets in college.

The Dairy Free Life

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Last semester I used to eat all the ice cream, cheese, and cereal with milk that I wanted. Maybe I ate too much of it because this semester did not turn out how I wanted it to. Here is my version of being lactose-intolerant.



Coming into my freshman year of college, I did gain the freshman 8 (not 15), from all the late night Dominos orders, binge watching Netflix shows and eating tubs of ice cream — because why not. Some things that I have learned from becoming lactose-intolerant…..

1. Acne

I have noticed I do not have as much acne on my face as I used to and my skin has become much healthier!

2. Lactaid Pills

These things suck. Honestly, unless you’re in the mood for a big ice cream sundae and a lava cake then it is not worth having dairy (for those of you who don’t know, these pills won’t let you go to the bathroom).

3. Bloating

You definitely don’t feel bloated all the time. I feel as if I am also not always hungry.

4. Milk

No more of that yummy 2 percent or any of that pure milk. Stick to soy, almond and obviously Lactaid free!

5. Pizza

Going to be a hard life not having that delicious pizza pie at 2 a.m….

6. Strong bones

The reason why mothers give their children milk when they’re younger is to give them strong bones… unfortunately, that will not be the case anymore


If anyone is feeling as much pain as I am… don’t worry, us dairy free people will stay close together!

9 Tips on How to Eat Healthy in College

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You’ve probably heard of the Freshman 15 — the extra weight you put on from your first year in college. But it doesn’t have to be inevitable. You can stay healthy and eat right despite the cafeteria temptations and late night dining sessions. These tips can keep your health as much as a priority as your grades.

 

1. The Mini Fridge is Essential

Healthy means fresh, and fresh often means perishable. While many fruits and veggies can be stored elsewhere, you’ll want a fridge to keep nutritious leftovers, farm fresh milk and eggs, or even easy-to-cook chicken breasts.

 

2. Meal Plan in Advance

Meal planning doesn’t have to be complicated, especially if you mainly eat at the cafeteria. Today, most schools provide nutritional content with its food calendars so you can simply research and pick. Mark the choice on your phone or on a whiteboard in your dorm so you know exactly what you need to eat that day.

 

3. Lower Your Meal Plan

Speaking of cafeteria food, if you’re more concerned about eating primarily natural foods or learning to cook for yourself, having a mega meal plan is not going to help. If possible, keep your meal plan on the low to medium range of offerings so you are forced to depend on yourself.

 

4. Stash Whole Snacks

Believe it or not, but snacking is an essential part of eating well. Plan to eat 6-8 small meals per day instead of 3. Space them between classes or activities. But most importantly go shopping often so you have a wide range of choices. Some ideas include granola bars, fruit, and nuts.

 

5. Avoid Calorie-Heavy Drinks

That venti iced double mocha latte you’re addicted to isn’t helping you. Stick to water to help you feel full and refreshed all day long. If you want flavor, consider adding fruits and cucumber to a pitcher overnight or purchasing sugar-free additives.

 

6. Reprioritize Your Meals

You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and it’s true! Breakfast is essential as it sets you off on the right foot (especially when you eat well) and keeps your energy up for class and gym session.

 

7. Concentrate on Size Rather than Calories

Calories are easy if you know what each value is. But knowing the correct size you’re eating is much harder. Some easy ways to remember portion size is to use your hand: your thumb is a tablespoon, your palm is about 3 oz worth of meat, your fist is 6-8 oz of a drink.

 

8. Use Free Nutrition Trackers

There are so many helpful, detailed, and free nutrition trackers out there, that it can be hard to choose one. Our advice is to go with the tracker that is simple to use on the go (mobile is best) and is easy to figure out for any new nutrition watcher.

 

9. Eat In With Friends

One of our biggest downfalls is going out frequently with friends. Late night pizza, delivered Chinese food, ice cream dates… those calories and bad choices add up so fast. You can change this by promising yourself to eating out only once a week (or less) and instead, cooking for or with friends. You’ll get the same social time while also showing off your healthy cooking skills. It’s a lifestyle change we can all get behind.