Eating well while going to college doesn't have to be hard, especially when you have the dining hall to rely on. In fact, with a little knowledge and preparation, it can be effortless to stick to your ketogenic diet.
How to eat keto in college? Some great keto-friendly options found is most college dining halls include:
- Scrambled eggs with cheese
- Coffee with cream
- Hardboiled eggs
- Plain tuna from the salad bar
- Grilled chicken breast
- Deli meat and cheeses
- Burgers without the bun
In this article I'll go over options to eat in your college dining hall, helpful tips to avoid getting knocked out of ketosis, and even ALCOHOL.
Helpful Tips On How To Eat Keto In College
The hardest part about eating keto while in college, especially in the dining hall, is not knowing what exactly goes into the food. What you may not know is that your school's dining services are probably more than happy to show you the nutrition info.
Many students have special dietary needs, so you don't have to feel awkward, asking for nutritional information. Often, a meal plan while living on campus is a requirement, therefore the dining hall is obligated to make sure they're serving you foods that you can eat.
People require or abstain from certain foods for many reasons:
- Religious purposes
- Athletic endeavors
- Dietary restrictions
Don't feel like you're the only one with special dietary needs. I'm sure the school gets asked for nutritional information all the time.
Another helpful tip is to get to know the kitchen staff. After all, you'll be seeing the cooks quite often, and making friends with the kitchen staff may open up access to special requests.
Keto Breakfast Options In College
Breakfast may be one of the easiest meals to make keto-friendly while dining in the mess hall. Scrambled eggs with shredded cheese and a slice or two of bacon are pretty universal.
Just make sure you skip the oatmeal and grits since they aren't keto friendly.
If your dining facility is fancy enough, you may even opt to throw in some veggies or add a side of avocado. Sausage and sausage patties may also be available at your dining facility, but it's best to check for any added sugars since they can add up.TIP: Make sure you check with dining services or the person behind the counter for any added fillers to the eggs. Flour and/or milk are the biggest culprit when it comes to egg fillers.
If you're not a breakfast person, then you can skip the morning meal and have a cup of coffee instead. Feel free to drink your coffee black, with cream, or even make keto coffee if you have all the ingredients available.
Keto Lunch Options In College
Your first stop when heading to lunch should be the salad bar. EVERY dining facility I've ever been to has a salad bar with plenty of keto-friendly options.
While you don't have to eat salads if that isn't your thing, you can load up on plenty of vegetables and different cheeses at the salad bar. In terms of protein, many salad bars are loaded with hardboiled eggs, plain chicken breasts, and even tuna.
If the salad bar is not your cup of tea, then perhaps try the sandwich station. Opt for some deli meat and cheese without the bread.
Keto Dinner Options In College
Similar to lunch, you can always hit up the salad bar for some vegetables and proteins.
When it comes to dinner, college dining facilities usually have some fancier options. Some colleges have specific themes each day of the week, but they often revolve around a protein of some kind.TIP: Look out for any added sauces to the meat since they are usually filled with sugar.
Another excellent option for dinner could be cheeseburgers, without the bun and sugary condiments, of course. If you're uncomfortable asking for the burger without the bread, say you have celiac disease. Yes, it's a little white lie, but now they won't be nearly as judgmental…
Not that you should care what they think anyway.
Useful Tips For Students Eating Keto In College
I've mentioned these previously, but these are too good not to reiterate.
- Make an appointment with the director of your school's dining services, and possibly the office of disability services. There may be a chance you can get the cook to whip up keto-friendly meals for you.
- Be social, with the cooks that is. You'd be surprised how a little kindness and friendliness can go a long way in their willingness to be accommodating and helping you out.
What To Eat On Keto Diet
It might be easier to have a basic template on what to eat on a keto diet, so here are the basics you should stick to. Generally, your biggest priority is to limit carbohydrates while consuming moderate amounts of fat AND protein.
Ketosis is a metabolic state established through dietary restriction of carbohydrates, not the intake of high amounts of fat. Fat should only act as a lever depending on your goals, which for many, is fat loss.
What do I mean by lever?
- First priority is determining how many calories to eat.
- Secondly, set protein intake according to lean body mass and goals.
- Limit carbohydrate intake (Generally 20 to 50g of net carbohydrates).
- Last, fill in the remaining calories with fat.
To calculate your macros and have a better understanding of why this is, visit the keto macro calculator.
Generally, you should be sticking to meat, vegetables, low carbohydrate fruits such as berries, and healthy sources of fat. Stay within your carbohydrate threshold, and you should reach a metabolic state of ketosis.
An example of foods probably best to avoid:
- Starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, peas, squash, beans, and yams
- Grains of all kinds (rice, wheat, corn, oats)
- Fruits aside from berries
- Sweeteners (sugar, dextrose, honey, agave, maple)
While you can technically eat anything on a ketogenic diet and establish ketosis by staying within your carbohydrate threshold, some foods may not be worth the small amount you would be able to eat. 1
For example, let's say you are trying to stay within 20 grams of net carbohydrates per day and wanted some fruit. You could eat an entire cup of blueberries or half of a medium banana.
I don't know about you, but a cup of blueberries seems more worth it unless you don't like blueberries or really want a bite of a banana. The small piece of banana would likely leave me hungry, whereas an entire cup of blueberries would be very satisfying and satiating.
What I like to tell people is that they can technically eat anything, if they want to slice it small enough, which is true. You have to be the judge of whether it's worth it or not to use up your carbohydrate allowance on such a small portion, though.
Eating such a small portion of carbohydrate-rich foods is why it's often recommended to fill your carbohydrates with vegetables. First, vegetables provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Second, you can eat a large quantity of most vegetables before you hit the 20 grams of net carbohydrates we're setting as our example.
My Top Three Go-To College Keto Snacks
As busy college students, you're always on the go. Some people would rather eat a snack while walking to their next class.
Maybe you want something quick to eat so you can catch up on some sleep or even a snack while you hit the books in the library.
Whatever the case, here are a few keto-friendly snacks you can buy and keep in your backpack.
I love quest bars, or even the Kirkland brand ones if you have access to a Costco. My favorite quest bars are the cookies and cream along with the birthday cake flavors.
Each bar has about 20 grams of protein and only 4 grams of net carbs.
They're also my solution for my sweet tooth when it comes to candy or dessert while on keto.
Check the current price of quest bars on Amazon.
String cheese is a good option but requires it be kept cold. In this case, I'll stick to cheese sticks or snacks such as cheese whisps, moon cheese, or bars made literally from just cheese.
- Check the current price of cheese whisps here.
- Check the current price of moon cheese here.
- Check the current price of cheese bars here.
Cheese sticks are also an excellent option for those wondering how to get calcium on keto. Alternatively, I've seen cheese whisps and moon cheese at costco before.
A keto-friendly snack list isn't complete without listing beef jerky. Just be careful in that you choose a jerky that's not filled with tons of sugar.
I like biltong over beef jerky. While very similar, biltong is VERY thinly sliced and air-dried, leaving for a more tender beef snack.
I like the Kalahari Brand of biltong compared to some others I've tried.
Check the current price of Kalahari biltong here.
If you're looking for other keto snack recommendations, read about my top 40 favorite ones to eat while staying keto.
Lastly, if you have access to a small fridge, that could open the door to many easy keto recipes that you can make in the comfort of your dorm room. I remember using my George Foreman grill to grill up some meats in my dorm along with stashing food from the dining hall to eat later.
Keto At College And Alcohol
I can’t possibly write an article about staying keto while in college and not mention alcohol. I get it, you want to be social, you’re wild and free, and it may even be the first time you’re away from your parents.
First, I hope you’re over 21, and second, you can still have a drink or two without knocking yourself out of ketosis. Just make sure you drink responsibly.
When it comes to keto and alcohol, your best bet is to stick with hard liquor. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a glass of wine or a light beer if that’s more your style.
Some other low calorie and keto friendly options include hard seltzers such as White Claw hard seltzer, Truly hard seltzer, and Corona hard seltzer.
Stay away from sugary mix-ins, and opt for drinks straight or mixed with club soda. You can even splash in some lime and use a sugar substitute if you want some sweetness to your drink.
For a complete list of what to look for and even a list of liquor, beer, and wine, then head over to my keto alcohol guide.
Sticking to your keto diet in college doesn't have to be hard with a little preparation and navigation.
Stick to foods like eggs, vegetables, hamburgers without the buns, and meats without the sauce. If you don't know what's in something, it's probably best you stay away.
Better yet, ask for the nutritional information. You'd be surprised by how willing the college staff is in giving you the information or making alterations for you.
What are some of your go-to college keto-friendly favorites?