College Advice- dorm food, supplements, exercise regime

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 07, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Hi all!

I will be a freshman at university in a few short weeks. I've been eating clean for nearly a year, paleo for almost 6 months. For the last 2-3 months, I have eaten dairy. I do not have any food intolerances, so I will eat things like beans, chickpeas, rice etc but I try to stay strict about gluten and funky ingredients like HFCS. Lately, I seem to do better with several small meals rather than 2-3 bigger ones. Since the summer began, I get very queasy going without food for several hours (spoke with my doc about it & will be tested for some type of bacteris that she thinks could be the cause). My school has a great cafeteria- I can get omelets with fresh veggies, salads with my choice of ingredients and there is a weekly farmer's market set up outside with fresh fruits and veggies. I will have a minifridge and microwave in my room. I currently practice yoga, go on long walks, run a few miles, strength train, bike and play golf. I am active every day, but usually 2ish days are "light" activity like walking and golf. I'd like to continue to be active. I am going to school in the South, so weather will allow me to be outside. There is even a pool on campus! I am looking to maintain my weight of 140 lbs at 5'3.5. Blood tests show that I am completely healthy and my doc says that she would never guess I weigh 140.

Here are my questions:

What are the best foods to keep in my dorm room? So far my list is: coconut oil (should it be refined? Extra virgin?), 80+% dark chocolate, almond or cashew butter, quest & kind bars (I know, not technically paleo, but are gluten-free, don't seem to impact me negatively and will be needed when I'm on the go), Greek yogurt (if I can find) and microwaveable rice.

What supplements should I take? While I will keep eating clean, I'm sure I won't be eating foods cooked in EVOO & coconut oil most of the time and the meats won't be grassfed nor the veggies organic. Here is my idea for supplements (please tweak it!) 6 days / week: 1 Centrum for Teen Girls multivitamin, 2 Vitamin C tablets, 1 Citrical 1 day / week: 1 Centrum for Teen Girls multivitamin, 1 Vitamin C, 1 Stress B Complex, 1 Biotin, 1 Citrical

Current college students and busy people- what is the easiest exercise regime to follow? I will walk to classes everyday (not sure how long of a walk that will be though). Is it best to be a little active everyday, or to do something strenuous 3 days per week? Do you recommend exercising in the morning before class- or do you usually end up just skipping it and sleeping in?

Lastly, any other tips for keeping healthy, both physically & mentally?



on August 08, 2013
at 03:54 AM

Which school are you attending?



on August 07, 2013
at 07:45 PM

I like this product: http://www.vitacost.com/vitacost-extra-virgin-certified-organic-coconut-oil-54-fl-oz-10 It's unrefined, organic, extra virgin and a good price for the amount you get (a 3.5 lb tub). Centrum multivitamins are pretty poor quality. I would take this multivitamin instead: http://amzn.to/13NJ2nN I like Lindt 90% cocoa chocolate bars. If you have a Cost Plus World Market near you, you can get them for about $2.70 a bar vs $4 a bar. I would do dual n back training for 20-30 minutes a day, 5 days a week (http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net).



on August 07, 2013
at 04:02 PM

That reminds me, very "unpaleo" but wear shower shoes!! Just wear them.

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7 Answers


on August 07, 2013
at 07:01 PM

Firstly, all of the answers already given are excellent. Glad to see there are some other Paleo college students around :)

Firstly, sounds like your cafeteria offers some decent options, but if you find yourself getting tired of the food after a while (I know I started to, after two years of trying to eat Paleo on a meal plan), don't be afraid to try cooking in the dorm. What stopped me from doing it full-time was that it was inconvenient to have to haul stuff all the way down to the communal kitchen and then back up, but if you cook big meals and save the food for later, you may only need to do so once a week or so.

As for the gym, I tended to go in the evenings (8 or 9), both as a break from studying as well as to avoid the crowds. Definitely take advantage of the workout facilities though; they'll usually have a lot of resources (if you ever wanted to try compound lifts like barbell squats, bench, etc -- I recommend this! -- you'll not only have the equipment, but also plenty of knowledgeable people around to spot you and offer advice. Just try and get an employee for advice, instead of a bro who may be more interested in impressing you than giving sound advice) you should take advantage of.

On alcohol: Especially in your freshman year, there'll be constant pressure to drink and drink a lot. If you enjoy that, go for it -- you're young and you'll recover. If you don't enjoy it, don't let it alienate you from people. I personally don't enjoy anything beyond tipsiness, but I still go to parties when friends are going. If people keep hasseling you to drink more, finish one cup and then find the sink in the house and fill it up with tap water. They'll assume you're still drinking and stop being pushy (plus, you'll be more likely to stave off a hangover this way!)

On shower shoes: Do it. Dear god, do it.

Also, which school in the South? I'm at UNC Chapel Hill and am part of student group on campus that's Paleo/Primal/WAP-friendly, so if you're in the area, you could come find us if you need an escape from the SAD people (or if you're coming to UNCCH, you should join the Healthy National Coalition!)


on August 07, 2013
at 05:35 PM

Wow. That is great that you are so health conscious already in early adulthood. My opinion is that the paleo lifestyle should be kept as simple as possible. Eat a lot of meat & veggies, and eat some nuts and fruit. Oh, and if you can, choose organic naturally nourished food.

It sounds like your cafeteria is a great place to grab a quick paleo meal, and if it's covered by your meal plan have at it! As far as stocking your dorm room goes, again keep it simple. Shop the perimeter of the super market. Remember: meat, veggies, nuts, and fruit. You should also stock salt, pepper, coconut oil, and olive oil. But don't cook with the olive oil!!

Try to avoid the other non-paleo stuff if you can. Even if you can tolerate them, they are still likely to cause some sort of inflammatory response over time. It complicates things, and to me, it's not worth the headache.

I hope this was helpful. Let me know if you have any questions.


on August 07, 2013
at 03:51 PM

Some quick tips:

Food: This might not apply to you, but in my experience keeping a ton of super tasty food (like bars) in your dorm room is a great way to get pretty soft by eating snacks you just don't need, especially in the middle of the night. If you have a good cafeteria, I'd stock a few pieces of fresh fruit/veggies, raw nuts, tea, some almond/coconut milk, a small amount of meat of some kind (applegate makes great stuff), and that's pretty much it. Maybe the plain yogurt, as you mentioned. If you're truly hungry, these foods will help you much more than sugary tasting bars. Take this from the girl who would eat 6 kind bars in her dorm at 3 am writing papers...they can and will put weight on you.

Supplements: Ditch them. Unless you're having a health problem, why bother? Maybe keep some vitamin c around for when everyone's getting the dorm plague, consider a fish oil for the omega-3s like you mentioned, and a b-complex will help if you're getting really tired. Otherwise, what are you doing with all that stuff girl?? Vitamin D, probiotics, magnesium may come up later when you're trapped inside and dying of stress and indigestion (wait til you write a thesis ;) ), but for now, keep it simple. I would consider never taking a multi or calcium. Those can actually do more harm than good.

Exercise: Get a 20-or-so-lb kettlebell. Learn to use it. Keep it under your bed. Do a quick (10-minute) workout as soon as you wake up 3x per week and you'll be so far ahead of the game. Otherwise, see what types of activities they offer on campus and do what you enjoy! You won't stick to it if you don't like it, and trust me, exercise can get lost in the shuffle.

Otherwise: Don't develop a margarita habit. Holy hell do those make you fat. Been there, done that.

Don't stress too much--college is fun!



on August 07, 2013
at 04:02 PM

That reminds me, very "unpaleo" but wear shower shoes!! Just wear them.



on August 07, 2013
at 03:43 PM

I'm a senior in college (an old senior, I'm 23 yeesh).

It's true that you may have to modify you diet and exercise route; but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Most colleges have state of the art gyms, which will also give you access to classes, different equipment, personal training etc. Also, look into intramurals and clubs (maybe your school has a golf club?). Your workout schedule will probably depend on your class schedule, so I'd look that to determine when to workout. Personally, I've always worked out before class, since classes, homework and a part-time job can pile up, socializing too!

Your dorm food list looks good to me although I'd add some raw veggies and fruit (if you eat it). I assume as a freshman, you're on a meal plan. My school is pretty hip in that there were options for vegetarians/vegens, gluten-free, even kosher and Halal but I attend a university in the Northeast, and in a large city as well. Supplements are not my strong point, but maybe fish oil for omega 3? You're right in that the cooking methods of cafeteria food is iffy at best. I live off campus now, so I prepare all my own food.

Lastly, I just want to address two very important things. The first is alcohol. You won't have any less fun in you don't drink, nor more if you do. And if you're in the states, you legally can't until you're 21. You know this I'm sure, but underage drinking happens in college, people, it just does. No matter what, alcohol does have an effect on your health and body composition. The "freshman 15" is gained large due to alcohol consumption in one way or another.

The other thing is stress. The first month especially sucks. It's very hard to move way from family and friends and adjust to new people, a new schedule etc. But I promise, every single person feels stressed and lonely the first month and beyond. And I did freshman year TWICE (transfer student), first month sucks. Just find something you like to help with stress, know everything gets better with time and college is not like what you see on tv :)


on August 07, 2013
at 03:19 PM

I can't answer all your questions because I have been Paleo for only one month (still learning) but I can help with the college portion. Honestly, you'll have time to exercise. I know our school workout room was open at 5am and closed at midnight. You're even more accessible to the gym because you'll be living on campus. Even just getting a 30 minute workout in before class and then come back to the gym afterwards is fine. The only think is that the peak hours of the gym are usually around lunch time and after 4pm. So, if you go earlier in the day, that's better. Your gym might also offer workout classes. You can also see if your school has a track or even join social clubs that that devoted to working out.

Beware of the Freshman 15! But, I believe if you stick to Paleo, you'll be fine. Food is more accessible at college. Also, you don't have choice most of the time on what they cook it in. They're not using coconut oil and salt is used like currency.

Do you have a roommate? Because at far as the fridge goes, remember you have to share at least half of space that's already compact. As far as keeping healthy mentally, just stay out of drama. College can be nothing but drama sometimes. Especially, if you don't like your roommate. Also, get involved!


on August 08, 2013
at 07:21 AM

I just tackled my first year in college on paleo, and this is what I have learned:

-Best foods in the dorm: ginger tea, dark chocolate, coconut oil, bananas or apples taken from the cafeteria, dry salami (without funky ingredients, of course), raw almonds, and almond or coconut milk in the fridge.

-My school has a farmers market too, so something you should learn to be good at is cooking vegetables and such in the microwave. I have become a pro at steaming an artichoke in the microwave!

-My gym is open pretty late, so I workout late at night. The best thing to do is actually put gym time in your schedule, so that you treat going to the gym like going to class, and actually do it regularly. I go 4 times a week, but next year will be way busier, so we will see. Just make sure if you workout late, you eat something after, so that you replenish your muscles before bed.

-I also have an organic garden at my school, you should definitely see if there is one at your school, because not only is that a great resource for fresh vegetables, but gardening is also a great stress reliever and light workout!

-I would suggest adding fish oil to your supplements, since fish at the cafeteria is usually pretty rare. Also, you could invest in some digestive enzymes (NOW foods brand is good, find it on amazon), because especially within the first few weeks, you might get some gluten contamination, since you cannot control everything that is in your food, and the enzymes will keep you from the pain.

-Good luck, and enjoy college!



on August 07, 2013
at 11:31 PM

This will be me next year!! Pretty much everything was already covered but I do have one snack suggestion- Macadamia nuts! Good omega-3's and they absolutely kill hunger. Good question!

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