Labor Day is just around the corner, which, for many college students, signals the return back to campus for the upcoming school year. Whether you’re a freshman adjusting to life away from home for the first time or a senior at the heels of graduation, it can be tricky and sometimes just plain overwhelming to navigate dietary needs in college. While many college campuses offer fantastic accommodations for students with food allergies during mealtimes and beyond, what about those snack cravings that strike when you least expect? How do you satiate hunger that happens outside the dining hall without compromising your health? How do you talk about your food allergies with roommates and friends? Check out these tips and tricks for managing all your allergy-friendly snacking needs at college!
How to Talk About Your Food Allergy
Being open and communicate clearly about your food allergy with friends, roommates, and your RA can help you create a safe living environment and social life. It’s important to advocate for your health, especially if you’re sharing a dorm room with someone who doesn’t have food allergies so that you’re both on the same page about snack storage and preparation. Think about sharing your emergency action plan with your support network and showing them how to use an epinephrine auto-injector in case of emergency. Your campus dining services program and campus nutritionist might have additional advice for how to have these conversations.
Allergy-Friendly Dorm Snacks
We recommend stocking up on your favorite sweet and savory non-perishable snacks before the semester kicks off, so that you come to campus ready to tackle on your studies and unexpected hunger. Always read nutrition labels carefully, whether you’re on the lookout for peanut-free or gluten-free snacks. Check out items like Annie’s gluten-free macaroni and cheese, Biena Chickpea Snacks (a delicious crunchy alternative to peanuts!), Van’s Simply Delicious snack bars, Enjoy Life gluten-free cookies, Harvest Snaps snapea crisps, Corn Chex gluten-free cereal, and Food Should Taste Good multigrain chips. Store snacks in an airtight bin to ensure zero contamination in your dorm room.
Make Friends With Your Mini Fridge
Mini-fridges are a college staple. While many colleges offer year-long rentals, consider buying your own so that you don’t have to worry about previous users storing gluten or peanut products inside. Having a mini-fridge in your dorm room expands your options for allergy-friendly snacks and provides the ideal personal storage space for groceries, frozen meals, leftovers, or home-cooked meals brought back after break.
Learn to Plan Ahead
If you know you and your friends are planning to spend Saturday studying at a local coffee shop off campus, do a little research ahead of time to minimize potential anxiety. Find the menu online, speak to a manager over the phone, and know what your safe options are before you walk in. Always carry non-perishable emergency snacks in your backpack (like granola bars or allergy-safe trail mix) and don’t forget your Nima sensor anytime you know you’ll be eating out. Exploring the Nima-tested map beforehand and suggesting a destination that makes the map to your friends is another idea for staying in control of your allergy without compromising your experience as a college student.
Common College Food Allergy Resources
The good thing is there are plenty of resources out there to support your life as a college student, including satisfying your snacking needs to get you through all hours of the day. For resources specific to your university or college, reach out to your campus nutritionist.
If you’re looking for comprehensive information from Food Allergy Research and Education about how to manage food allergies while at college, check out their student guide.
Beyond Celiac has put together another useful guide for navigating college with a food allergy.
And don’t forget to check out the Nima blog for additional posts about college, peanut- and gluten-free snacks, and more!
Bottom line: be prepared! Because the Nima sensor is small and portable, it’s a great tool to carry with you when you know you’ll be away from your dorm room and far from known allergy-friendly snacks. Having a little more information about your food or verification that what’s labeled as gluten-free is, in fact, gluten-free makes snacking one less thing to stress about during your busy life as a college student.