Recovering The SelfA Journal of Hope and Healing


Tips for Living with a Restrictive Diet in College

Guest Blogger: Nadia Jones

Living with a restrictive diet can be a really challenging thing for any individual, but especially for young adults living on college campuses or on college budgets. As more and more high profile professional athletes and celebrities are discussing their digestive diseases and issues that cause them to have restricted diets, more public awareness has been brought to the issue in recent years. This is certainly a positive thing.

With greater awareness nationwide that such restricted diets exist, there has been a wider understanding and better access to alternative food options. Diseases like celiac disease, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and food allergies cause millions of people worldwide to live with a restricted diet. Of course, this can be really difficult for a college student. When we think college eating, we think binge eating chips and salsa at two in the morning, limited options in the school dining hall, and lots of beer. But, for some college students, these food options just don’t cut it. Follow these tips for living with a restrictive diet in college and still having the same amount of fun.

Start the Conversation Early

If you live with a restricted diet because of allergies or digestive disorder, you should keep food in mind when you begin your search for a school. One of the problems that college students can encounter when living with a restricted diet is being blindsided by limited choices. When you are first evaluating colleges, make dining and food an aspect of your search. Explore the schools’ dining options. What does each school have to offer when it comes to variety? Are there options that can immediately work with your special diet? Talk with the food system managers or dining hall manager about your diet when you are visiting. They likely have options that aren’t displayed for students with special diet needs. It’s also important to eat within the dining hall when you visit a school. This is a great way to get a feel on how successful you can be on a campus with your diet.

Be Upfront about Things

Being upfront and honest about things with the people around you can make your transition to college much easier. Your new friends and roommates are likely going to notice your special eating habits and needs. Talk with them about it and let them know what’s going on. While it can be nerve-racking to put yourself out there like this at first, it’s usually the best approach. This should also go for how you are with professors, administrators, coaches, and anyone else. There may be specialized dining plans that you can take advantage of, so that you have a more enjoyable dining experience on campus. Don’t be afraid to ask the school for more assistance with your diet. They are there to give you the best living situation possible.

Think Ahead

It’s probably a wise idea to pick a school that has food options available to you outside of the dining hall. Obviously, if you’re living on campus for a year or more, you might get sick of the same few options you have on campus. Be sure to get to know the area around the schools you are considering as well. If you have a restricted diet, it’s a good idea to go to a school that has a market or store with other food options that work for you. Many colleges may offer an extended meal plan for students who require more off campus eating because of a medical condition (this is where being upfront and seeking help comes into play). Thinking ahead also means planning out events. So many events that you will attend in college are going to be filled with snacks and goodies you probably can’t necessarily eat. Take snacks with you to events that you know will have treats—temptation is challenging and you don’t want to be hungry of course.

Don’t Opt Out—Adapt

Living with a restrictive diet can mean having to say ‘no’ a lot. You can’t eat a lot of the things that the people around you eat all the time. You constantly have to turn things down. Going out to eat can be tricky. But, don’t opt out of everything just because you have a more complicated diet. Find ways to adapt your diet. Carry things with you that you can eat. Educate yourself on different foods and meals that you can have. Find ways to make your diet work. Living with a restrictive diet can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be boring or lonely.

About the Author

Nadia Jones is an education blogger for an online education website and a freelance writer on all things academia. Nadia uses the written word to share her knowledge on accredited online college education and the latest news in the educational world. Though Nadia’s mind is always preoccupied with topics of education, she spends her downtime volunteering with middle school students and pitching for her adult softball team. She can be reached at

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