emarti08

The Restrictions of a College Meal Plan- Please Help!!

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Hi everyone! 

I'm trying to start my very first Whole30, but I'm very anxious about how to do it. I am a freshman living in an on-campus dorm at a very small University, which means there are a lot of restrictions on what I can and cannot eat. I'm trying to figure out how I can possibly do it, and I hope you all can help! Here is a list of the specifics about what food is available to me: 

 

1. I am required to be on a meal plan where I have 15 meals a week. One meal is equivalent to $4.08 and can be used on any restaurant on campus (which include: Sandella's, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Chickfila, a coffee shop, and Einsteins Bagels), and also in the cafeteria (more on that in a second). Anything over that amount I have to personally pay, and I do not have the budget to do that on a consistant basis. This also means that anything I purchase has to be $4.08 or less, meaning I can't stock up on fruits and veggies that are sold at these places. 

 

2. The cafeteria has very limited options. There is always hamburgers and fries, pizza, and a do-it-yourself station for both sandwiches and salads. The salad options very and there is never any grilled chicken available to put on the salad. The only form of protein for the salad bar is a hard boiled egg, which is only available about once a week. There is a homestyle foods station, which can sometimes serve grilled chicken and potates, but more often than not serves fried chicken, chicken covered in sauce or meatloaf (which i think may be Whole30 approved?). Finally, there is an international station which serves things like burritos, french onion soup, and is completely random and changes daily (unpredictable). 

 

3. I have little to no money to spend on food. I don't have a job, and I rely mostly on my meal plan to sustain my eating habits. Furthermore, I have no kitchen in my dorm, and crockpots/burners (etc) are not allowed due to safety reasons. 

 

This being said, I really do want to do the Whole30 and I am committed to doing it. I just honestly have no idea what to eat! My cafeteria rarely serves fruits and veggies (seriously, they almost never have fresh fruit or any sort of vegitable). Before now, the way I was getting my fruits and veggies in was by drinking Naked Juices, but i know smoothies are off-limits. I really don't know what to do, so if you have any ideas, PLEASE let me know!! 

 

Thank you, and sorry for the lengthy post!! 

Emily

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Kudos to you for taking an interest in your health and having the gumption to take on this challenge!

 

I don't want to discourage you from trying this, but with your meal plan and no cooking facilities you are going to have a tough time. The likelihood of the food like the meatloaf and the sauces served being Whole30 compliant is almost zero. Those almost certainly contain wheat flour and soy, as do the hamburgers. 

 

Salads would certainly work, and from there you could attempt to get some protein like the hard cooked eggs you mentioned. I'm afraid you would go hungry a lot of the time and that is not what the Whole30 is about.

 

Maybe take this on with a different approach - eat the best, closest to Whole30 foods you can, without going hungry. So choose the salad, vegetables, grilled meats and fruit when the cafeteria has them.

 

Use what cash you do have to buy cheap protein like compliant canned wild sardines (sounds dubious but really, really delicious, and no cooking required). Make sure you buy some vegetables, whatever is on sale that you can cut up in your room.

 

If you have a parent or grandparent that might be willing to help you a little with getting more vegetables, work that angle.

 

I know it is winter now but don't forget to check out farmers markets.

 

Perhaps there is somewhere you could find to volunteer in exchange for good clean food?

 

Keep brainstorming, and just resolve to do the best that you can do.

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Wow, those are some pretty severe restrictions, let me see if I got this right.

 

  • You have essentially no expendable income with which to supplement your meals
  • You have no facilities where you could prepare food
  • There is rarely or never fresh produce available
  • There is rarely or never any compliant protein available

I really think that you might be in a "not possible" spot right now as it relates to Whole30.  I applaud you for wanting to do a Whole30 for your health and wellness but I imagine that with the reality of your restrictions and funding, you are going to stress yourself out a lot in trying to find food and you are going to be extremely hungry a lot of the time.  If you remove all of the non compliant foods and only eat what is compliant when it is available, that looks like it would be a bit starvey.

 

I think maybe you try and do the best you can with the resources you have at this time and know that this is a mere blip in the journey of your life and that in the future you will have a lot more flexibility when this chapter of your life is over.

Edited by ladyshanny
Edited to add: woopsie, Ultrarunner and I posted at the same time.

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Good for you for taking an interest in your health at this early time in your life!

 

I agree with ultrarunnergirl about doing the best you can. Avoid the pizza and burgers; try to focus on meat and veggies even if they are not ideal they are still better than the alternative. Meatloaf, vegetables and a salad is a better meal than pizza or burger and fries even if the meatloaf has wheat in it and the veggies are cooked with bad oil, right?)

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It's been awhile since I was living in the dorm, but I do remember ours had a "common" kitchen in the building you could reserve for group events or use as it was available to cook if you wanted. Does your school have anything like this in your dorm or another building?

 

If it does, I know you said you don't have much discretionary income (what is paying for the other meals in the week?) but you may be able to batch cook roasted chicken, ground beef, vegetables, etc. and take it with you to the dining hall to supplement their salad bar and other veggie options.

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I agree with what everyone else has said. Do you have a mini fridge in your dorm? I personally would probably stock up on canned tuna, salmon, and chicken. These can be relatively inexpensive and easily added to a salad. Amazon has some decent deals especially if you set up a subscribe and save. 

 

I might also advice you to become part of the solution by attempting to raise awareness about the lack of nutrition available in the cafeteria. Maybe you can find some other like minded individuals and start a petition to at least get more fresh fruits and veggies. If people don't say anything things never change. 

 

One more question - are you really limited to 15 meals a week? That seems a bit ridiculous as well.

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Thank you everyone for replying! I've started my attempt at doing it. I've decided just to do it to the best of my ability, without starving myself. So far it's been somewhat of a success! I appreciate all of your suggestions, they were really a huge help! 

 

@Physibeth - I personally chose a meal plan where I only get 15 meals a week. It is also an option to have more or less, but I go home often on weekends and usually make my own breakfast (cereal, oatmeal, etc) so it's never a problem. In the rare case I run out of meals, I just have to go buy something for myself, but like I said that is rarely ever an issue. 

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If you go home every weekend and can get your folks on board, I suggest you stock up on things then to last you for the week. Boil a dozen or more eggs to keep in your dorm fridge (if you have one) along with some raw veggies to replace those cereal breakfasts, and grab cans of tuna and sardines to supplement the caf salad bar.

 

I work at a college and the students rallied to radically change the caf food. Their efforts led to hiring a new food service company that is committed to working directly with farmers and otherwise providing fresh and locally-sourced food. There's still a lot of garbage, largely because there's also a student contingent that rallies for froot loops, soft serve, pizza, and fries; but on the rare occasion I dine there, I can cobble together a compliant meal. In other words, use your voice, use your power, and you might surprise yourself with what you can achieve.

 

In the meantime, I'm really glad that you're finding a way to live and eat healthier despite all your limitations.

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I'm coming from being off-campus for almost 8 years now and having gone to a HUGE university with awesome dining choices (and apparently the largest non-military cafeteria in the world), but here's my ideas anyways.

 

 

1. I am required to be on a meal plan where I have 15 meals a week. One meal is equivalent to $4.08 and can be used on any restaurant on campus (which include: Sandella's, Dunkin Donuts, Subway, Chickfila, a coffee shop, and Einsteins Bagels), and also in the cafeteria (more on that in a second). Anything over that amount I have to personally pay, and I do not have the budget to do that on a consistant basis. This also means that anything I purchase has to be $4.08 or less, meaning I can't stock up on fruits and veggies that are sold at these places.

 

Probably the only thing viable here would be one of the salads from Subway, but without meat, as I don't think any of it is compliant. You would need to use your own dressing and a can of tuna/salmon/etc for protein... and I doubt that $4.08 would buy you the salad anyways.

 

 

2. The cafeteria has very limited options. There is always hamburgers and fries, pizza, and a do-it-yourself station for both sandwiches and salads. The salad options very and there is never any grilled chicken available to put on the salad. The only form of protein for the salad bar is a hard boiled egg, which is only available about once a week. There is a homestyle foods station, which can sometimes serve grilled chicken and potates, but more often than not serves fried chicken, chicken covered in sauce or meatloaf (which i think may be Whole30 approved?). Finally, there is an international station which serves things like burritos, french onion soup, and is completely random and changes daily (unpredictable).

 

Your best choice in the cafeteria is to make friends with the full-time cooking staff, and if you really want to go a step farther, find out who the cafeteria manager is and talk to them about your options for healthier foods. I would bet that there are other students with food allergies that they are catering to - one example from my school is that the cafeteria staff would grill plain chicken breasts for a friend with celiacs. Not necessarily nutrition information, but they should be able to provide ingredient lists for their foods.

 

 

3. I have little to no money to spend on food. I don't have a job, and I rely mostly on my meal plan to sustain my eating habits. Furthermore, I have no kitchen in my dorm, and crockpots/burners (etc) are not allowed due to safety reasons.

 

Understandable. We weren't allowed to have crockpots/water kettles/etc in our dorms (which didn't stop us, not that I would ever recommend going against your dorms rules now that I am a Full Fledged Adult ;) ). I assume you can have a mini-fridge and microwave, right? Even if you cannot go full Whole30 now, if you want to start to eat better, next time you go home I would ask a parent/whoever to help batch cook some foods you can divide into tupperware and keep in the freezer to microwave for later, or maybe care packages from grandparents. 

 

We had one dorm on campus that had full kitchens on each floor and we would try to make friends with someone who lived there to get access to the kitchens, or a friend with an apartment with a kitchen. Those two options do assume cash to buy groceries with though.

 

TL;DR: Make friends with kitchen staff, especially talk to the head of food services. A little conversation can go along ways.

 

~Jessica

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