How To Eat Well At College

By May 25, 2012

Hi, I’m 18 years old and have struggled with anorexia for over a year now. I am currently working with a therapist and have worked with a nutritionist, and have made significant progress in the past few months. Right now I am home for the summer, but in July I will be returning to school. I will be living the dorms and although I will have access to a refrigerator I will not have a kitchen. At home I’m used to having healthy cooked meals almost every night, but I’m afraid of what and how I am to cook at school, and I was wondering if you had any helpful tips on meals I could prepare in a dorm room with a microwave and on a budget. Also, through working with a nutritionist I have a meal plan, but it is set for school/ or work days when I get up at 7 a.m. However, on weekends I usually wake up around 9 or 10 and this throws me off schedule. Do you have any suggestions of EXACTLY what I should eat and WHEN EXACTLY I should eat them? M.A.

Dear M.A.,

First, I am really glad to hear that you are working with a therapist. It’s great that you have made significant progress in the past few months. Keep at it!

I don’t have enough information to answer your questions in detail, but I can give you some general advice. I’m assuming (hoping) that your meal situation when you return to your dorm in July is temporary. It truly is challenging to put together healthy meals using just a microwave for cooking. Come the fall, will you have access to the variety of foods a dining hall offers? In the meantime, you can keep your refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. Tuna and peanut butter are good protein sources to round out a meal. Jarred spaghetti sauce is also good to keep on hand, which can be used to make quick mini pizzas on whole grain bread. One of my favorite microwave meals is a large baked potato topped with melted cheese and chopped cooked vegetables (frozen or fresh). I’m not big on frozen dinners, but Healthy Choice has a reasonable line from which to choose. Without knowing your likes and dislikes, I don’t know that I can be more helpful, but perhaps this will spark some ideas. There are also microwave cookbooks available which you could look for in your local library, if you have enough time to spend on meal preparation.

Concerning your next question, it’s good that you are trying to eat on a regular schedule, but there is no need to worry about being so precise, particularly when you sleep late on weekends. It’s okay to have a late breakfast on those days. You may find that you wake up hungrier and eat more because it is later, but then need less for lunch. Or you may end up eating your usual amount for breakfast, but all three meals are simply later. There is no right or wrong answer. As you progress further in your recovery, you will learn to listen to and trust your body for the amount of food it is calling for.

You are asking such good questions, and I highly recommend that you go back for another visit with your nutritionist. Through interviewing you, she will be able to give you much more specific answers and advice, based on your individual needs and preferences.

Take care!