Whole30 for a college student

Ashley Hobar

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I am on day 5 of Whole30 and so far so good! However, I am about to start my spring semester of college and I am a little bit nervous about how I am going to do once classes start back up. Luckily, I am living at home and both of my parents are doing the whole30 as well. Does anybody have any tips? I know that I can pack food, but most days I will be on campus all day, and then going straight to work or meeting and it will get tricky. Any advice would be great!

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Hmm. I'm just starting my first Whole30, so my advice is more based on experience in campus dining halls. I would say that given the nature of the program, trying to pack some healthy meals for on the go is probably the easiest/safest. Here are some ideas I had:

- Bring a sweet potato, some sort of fat (maybe coconut oil), and a bag of crudites. You can fork the sweet potato, pop it in the microwave, and give it a hefty dollop of the fat. You can usually find some grilled chicken in the dining halls too. With a big side of fresh cut-up veggies, that should be useful.

- Try the salad bar. Not sure if you're on a meal plan (either meals or dollars/points), but you can usually mix and match. You can usually build a pretty healthy salad full of veggies, hard-boiled eggs, and grilled chicken. If you don't see olive oil and vinegar as dressing options, I'd ask.

- If you're having breakfast on campus, hard-boiled eggs, grape tomatoes, and other easy-to-grab items can make for a full breakfast in a pinch.

I guess it depends, though - do you have a fridge to keep stuff cold at work? That would probably make planning in advance easier. Hope this helps!

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As a college student myself, I'd steer clear of dining halls (unless you've already paid for your meal plan and want to get the most for your money). In my dining hall, the only meat I'd be able to eat is whatever they'd be able to grill (burgers and grilled chicken), hard-boiled eggs (only available in the morning, though!), our salad bar, and maybe a few things from our vegan/vegetarian station. You're pretty far along in your Whole30 by now, though, so my whole post may come too little too late...

However, not knowing how everything is prepared, where it came from, and how long it's been sitting out leaves a lot to chance for me. That, and my dining hall is pretty shoddy with the food prep. But if yours is great, disregard the above.

Here are some combinations that have worked really well for me while I've been on the go for most of the day:

Salads. They're amazing. And it's really easy to prepare for a bunch of them in advance. Chop up a bunch of veggies that you'll use, pre-wash your greens in advance and pack the night before. And it's so easy to add protein to them! Tunafish, Salmon, Chicken, Steak...it all tastes good. Best part: one box contains all!

Or tuna "pasta" salad, with spaghetti squash.

Stir fries are also pretty great for the same reason as salads. However, I tend to like them warm. If you don't have access to a microwave (or don't like using them) while you're out, this may not be a great option for you.

Hopefully these ideas help, but here are some others to supplement your meals with. I list based on simplicity to prepare, and items that can be stored for a couple of days in the fridge, so you don't have to make them every day.

  • Pre-cut vegetables (Try to eat within 1-3 days of cutting, though.)
  • Berries
  • Fried plantains
  • Sweet potatoes (as fries, wedges, whole)
  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Olives
  • Nuts/Nut butter

Maybe invest in a thermos? Or really great food storage!

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I'm not in college anymore (but mine wasn't exactly a typical college experience anyways), but here are a few ideas based on what's worked for me in army dining facilities in Afghanistan and not.

I second the hard-boiled egg idea. You can usually get short-order (fried) eggs at all of my DFACs but they're cooked in oil out of a spray can. That works if you're eating food from home or dining hall food.

For easy-to-go breakfasts, I tend to prefer something like "filled scrambled eggs" or a breakfast burrito minus the wrap. Think scrambled eggs, sausage, veggies...all cooked in ghee or coconut oil.

Lunches...are the bane of my existence. If you're packing food, chicken thighs, drumsticks, breasts, whatever, are versatile but need a LOT of seasoning and to not be anywhere near overcooked. If they're anything close to overcooked, once they're rewarmed they're like rubber. Or bricks. Or rubber bricks. I try to pack my lunch to be leftovers from the week before, although last week didn't leave me as many leftovers as I would have liked. I have one more chicken and broccoli meal to pair with carrots and snap peas with dip from paleo mayo.

If you're eating lunch in a mess hall, bring your own emergency protein in case the only thing you can eat is a salad. Most dining halls I've been in will have a vinegar/oil combo, but the oil might not be good (canola, soy) so you might want an emergency ration of that or of creamy mayo-based dressing.

Dinners...invest in Tupperware or the Ziploc containers. I am using my containers so much more, I feel like my dishwasher is finally being used! I'm serious...when I was eating boxed (organic) mac and cheese for dinner, and sometimes eating out for lunch because I didn't feel like packing a lunch, I used it maybe twice a week. I'm using it at least four times now, half or more of those on the weekend when I do my cooking sprees.

Cooking sprees will save your life. I mean that in a nice way, but I definitely mean it. My schedule is a little unpredictable. Okay, who am I kidding, a lot unpredictable. I take at least one day on the weekend (it usually ends up being two days, so sometimes I'll skip Saturday a little) and do a lot of prep work and most of the cooking. I'll save a few things for later (like when I made the carnitas last week...I made the meat, put it in the fridge, and sauteed the onions and peppers for its side dish the first night I ate it) prep, but I'd say I cook a good portion of my meals on the weekend...at least 75%. Minor prep stuff (like peeling the carrot I'll put in my lunch as a side) I'll leave until the night before. It only takes a few minutes and I'm good to go!

Good luck...I know what it's like to be busy and try to do this change in eating habits. I'm starting to notice the benefits, though, and it's only going to get better from here!

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