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How to Successfully Do the Whole30 in College, Even If You’re On a Meal Plan

Having a healthy relationship with food, especially in college, can be challenging. From all-you-can-eat options in the dining hall to late-night junk food runs with friends, the temptation to eat processed foods is everywhere. Plus, being in a space like a dorm room and having a busy schedule make quick, pre-made meals and on-the-go snacks easy and tasty.

Since it’s still early in the new year and everyone is making resolutions to get healthy, you’ve probably heard of Whole30 and even seen your favorite influencers posting their favorite Whole30-approved meals all over Instagram. However, Whole30, a diet that changes your lifestyle and helps you build a healthy relationship with food, has strict limitations that can seem tricky to stick to within the scope of a college lifestyle.

If you take the time to strategize, plan, and be conscious of the choices you make, Whole30 can positively impact your life and health in amazing ways without being overly stressful or impossible in college. Here’s how to complete a successful Whole30 in college, in spite of any potential limitations.



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Be mindful when grocery shopping (especially for snacks).

Whether you’re in a dorm room or an apartment, you should stock up on snacks that will fill you up and keep you in a good mood—but be mindful while doing your grocery shopping. It may sound simple, but never go to the grocery store on an empty stomach. You’ll be much more tempted by food and snacks that aren’t Whole30-approved.

Keep your fridge and snack cabinet well-stocked with good, quality foods you’ll enjoy.

If you live in a dorm and don’t have a kitchen, you can still keep your fridge stocked with fruits and veggies that don’t require any major prep, like strawberries, bananas, pomegranate seeds, oranges, cherry tomatoes, baby carrots or sugar snap peas. These are fruits and vegetables that don’t need to be chopped up and can be snacked on throughout the day. In a dorm room, you should make sure to have snacks on hand that fit into the Whole30 plan, and even if you had tons of snacks like Doritos and Poptarts before starting Whole30, get rid of them so you aren’t tempted after a long night of studying.

If you live in an apartment and have a full kitchen, meal prep lunches for the week and make sure you have groceries on hand to whip up Whole30-conducive meals in a snap. You should never be stressed about not having anything to make because that leads to stress ordering pizza Visit a health foods store or large grocery store and stock up on good seasonings and quality ingredients, and use Pinterest or the official Whole30 website for recipe ideas that fit into the diet.

Be sure to have variety.

The worst thing you can do when starting a new diet or lifestyle change is not giving yourself room to make choices and be flexible. Within the parameters of the diet, you can have lots of different meals and snacks. Just because you’re eliminating certain inflammatory foods from your diet doesn’t mean you have to eat the same thing every day or be miserable. In fact, experimenting with new recipes within the diet will be fun and help you feel accountability for your health and progress.

Be creative and make salads rich with vibrant ingredients. Whip up a quick vinaigrette dressing with olive oil and vinegar or balsamic, but customize things your way with avocados, tomato, corn, grilled chicken, pears, and seasonings. Make brown rice bowls (like at-home Chipotle) and add toppings you make yourself. As long as you’re prepared, making yummy meals and snacks can fit into your schedule and help keep you on track with Whole30. Since you’re committing to the full 30 days, and if you eat something that’s off-limits you must start over, set yourself up for success by shopping smart.

Related: 4 Food Groups You Should Be Eating Every Day & Where to Find Them on Campus

Listen to your body.

Don’t ignore cravings—satisfy them.

Your body will tell you what it needs. Even though you’re cutting out sugar and processed foods, you can have something sweet with a piece of fruit or an all-natural, no-sugar added piece of chocolate. Make sure to read labels since companies tend to sneak sugar in even when you might not expect it.

When you really crave something, pause and think about what flavor or nutrient your body is actually asking for, and go from there. You might be surprised at how attainable it is to be happy with what you eat while keeping your body happy and healthy.

Start keeping a journal to track your progress.

As you move through the 30 days of Whole30, actively be conscious of the impacts these changes are having on your health and emotions. Keep track of what you eat and what recipes you really enjoyed so you have them for later. Write down how your mood was each day and how you were feeling physically. When you look back over the month, and compare the end to the beginning, you’ll be able to tangibly understand how Whole30 has impacted your lifestyle overall.

Since you’re in college, make sure you remember that there will be challenges, and prepare for them in advance.

Let all your friends know you will be tackling this lifestyle change.

If your friends don’t know about something, they can’t support you. Once you explain Whole30 to them, they’ll know not to offer you a donut or a bowl of chips. Moreover, you can encourage your friends to join you if they want to, and then meal prep together and take on the 30 days as a team.

Don’t sacrifice social outings, but be cautious of putting yourself in situations where you’ll be tempted.

Whole30 requires you to cut out inflammatory foods, and there’s a specific list of requirements. These include alcohol, dairy, added sugar (both real and artificial), baked goods, junk foods, legumes, MSG, and sulfates. If you’re going to a party where everyone will be drinking, just take a minute and make sure it’s a situation you want to be in and can handle without ruining the progress you’ve made.

If your friends are going out for dinner, make suggestions of restaurants where you know you’ll be able to have peace-of-mind and enjoy a quality meal within your diet. If they’re going out for fries and ice cream sundaes, consider skipping the outing. College is filled with tempting food situations, so just make sure to be aware and think things through so you avoid stress.

In the dining hall, have a plan and do your research.

This depends on the school you go to and the options they have available, but try to speak with someone and get a list of ingredients for common meals offered at your dining hall. You can even meet with someone and explain the diet you’re doing, and sometimes they’ll provide you with a list of options that meet your dietary restrictions.

On your own, you can make healthy choices in the dining hall by utilizing make-your-own stations, or combining items from the dining hall like grilled proteins with your own salads and dressings for a solution that works.

Regardless of your living situation or how much you love eating junk food after a hard exam, completing Whole30 in college is perfectly possible as long as you plan ahead and make smart, wholesome choices about what you put into your body. Besides, establishing a healthy relationship with food is what the Whole30 plan is all about.

Kaitlin is an English major at Towson University, a business owner at Palm and Pearl Boutique, and a blogger over at The Curious Lemon. She's a writer and editor who first joined the Her Campus team as an Editorial Intern and now writes for the beauty, wellness, and career sections most often. She is currently the beauty section Features Editor. Kaitlin will never turn down a beach trip, ice cream, or the chance to pet a dog. She's an Enneagram 2w1 (or 2w3, depending on the day). Come hang out on Instagram @kaitlinmarks