Health: Navigating College With Food Allergies

By Megan O’Connell, Student at University of Wisconsin – Platteville

Living on campus with a food allergy/sensitivity can be quite the challenge  Whether you’ve been dealing with it your whole life or you’ve recently found out an ongoing health issue has been linked to food sensitivity, it’s a tough situation to handle properly.

How do you handle the task of eating properly when you’ve just moved away from home and are already feeling lost and confused?

You will find the answer to this question is time management. We’re all guilty of misusing time. Now it’s all about doing things in an organized and timely manner. To start off, invest in a white board and a weekly planner.

At a convenient time at the beginning of your week, take 30 minutes to make notes on the white board. Plan out your meals. Write down what you intend on eating for each meal and snacks of the day, every day of the week. Also leave a space in the corner for a grocery list. Although white boards are also convenient for many other things, make sure you use one specifically for food preparation.

If you don’t have a weekly planner, I highly suggest investing in one. I know I would be lost if I didn’t have my nice week-by-week, hour-by-hour planner next to me at all times. By jotting down your class, work and extracurricular schedules, you can mange your time better.

Let’s face it; living with a food allergy generally leads to the conclusion that you can’t indulge in the convenience of campus eating or fast-food restaurants. Sure, some places will offer awesome alternatives for people with food allergies, and kudos to them, but these options are usually rare, not to mention how quickly they drain your checking account. You can’t afford both the nude heels with the darling black bow on the toe for this weekend and the gluten-free veggie wrap from the market for lunch every other day this week.

Now that your planner can let you know when you have some free time, note some time when you have a few hours and pencil in some time at the beginning of each week to cook. Here’s a guideline to get you started:

Breakfast: You can make a batch of muffins, cereal, frozen French toast, etc., to last you all week! Looking to avoid carbs? Boil a few eggs at the beginning of each week. This light breakfast is easy to grab on the go.
Lunch: Pack a lunch! Packing lunch is a great way to save time and money in your daily routine and it makes eating on campus convenient for you. Find something quick and easy you can throw together the night before or in the morning! I like experimenting with different wraps. You can put anything in a corn/flour tortilla and it is almost always delicious. I enjoy spreading mine with hummus and stuffing it with seasonal veggies.
Dinner: Make or buy three to four meals you can freeze. There is nothing more satisfying than coming home at night and being able to simply preheat the oven and throw some black bean sweet potato enchiladas inside without a whole lot of prep work. Plus, you’ll have more time to study for that dreaded upcoming economics exam.
Snacks: The best resource for snacking is ordering in bulk online. In the long run it will save you money, and chances are, you’ll be able to find a website that caters to your food allergy. Order a few items in bulk at the beginning of every month or two. If you have the time, bake the snacks yourself. One of my favorite snacks is dried fruit. This delectable treat is available for sale online in bulk. Although if I made the time, it is something that I could easily make in bulk.

Living on your own with a food allergy is tough, but there are solutions. Once you begin to put in a little effort, you’ll find it’s not so bad. Between studying, watching re-runs of Vampire Diaries and everything else in your life, you’ll begin to fall into a routine that suits your schedule. Although it’s a daunting challenge, it’s one you are more than capable of dealing with.

Visit websites such as The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network for tons of ideas. The options are endless and meet almost all food allergy needs while maintaining the key concept of still being delicious.


Image: Carlos Porto /

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