Figuring out what to eat while away from home can be difficult in itself, but add being gluten-free and dairy-free to the equation and figuring out a solution becomes that much harder. On college campuses, where cheesy late-night pizzas and gluten-filled Ramen noodles are the norm, not being able to eat these things can leave you feeling — literally and figuratively — hungry.

I’ve been fully gluten-free and dairy-free for about six months now, and in that time I’ve come across more gluten-free snacks than I can count. Sometimes snacks that are lacking in gluten also tend to be lacking in the taste department, but I think I’ve finally found some super delicious items to bring back to campus with me that won’t leave me jealous of my pizza-eating friends. Here are some of my favorite gluten and dairy free dorm-friendly essentials to keep you feeling full along with some tips for dealing with dietary restrictions while on campus.

Instant Oatmeal 

Avery Tomaso

I have a confession to make: until about a month ago, I was an oatmeal hater. From the texture to the taste, I despised absolutely everything about oatmeal — that is until I discovered One Degree’s Gluten Free Cacao Nib Instant Oatmeal while grocery shopping one day. I took a chance on these instant oats, fell instantly in love, and now have a new go-to breakfast I can make in under five minutes. Instant oatmeal is a great dorm food, all you need to make a delicious snack are the oats of your choice, a microwave, and your favorite toppings. My go-to oats are topped with Justin’s Honey Peanut Butter and frozen mini blueberries to add a little bit of a crunch!

Microwaveable Muffins 

Avery Tomaso

When you’re living in a dorm, baking fresh homemade muffins usually isn’t an option. While nothing beats muffins straight out of the oven, a tasty and dorm-friendly option are microwaveable muffin cups. There are plenty of options out there, but if you live near a Trader Joe’s you can try out my number one choice: their protein muffin cups. The cups are super easy to make and only require some water and a microwave, making them super accessible for those in dorms. If you’re a chocolate lover like myself, you’ll love the dark chocolate flavor and if you’re looking for something that’s a little more seasonal, the maple flavor is definitely for you. Both flavors are absolutely delicious and the muffins contain 12 grams of protein which also makes them a great protein source if you don’t eat a ton of meat. 

Energy Bars

Avery Tomaso

When going from class to class on the weekdays, there often isn’t a ton of time to sit down and have a full meal. Because of this it’s super important to have snacks that you can throw in a backpack and eat on the go, and my go-to’s for this are energy bars and my favorite brand is Lärabar. Lärabar makes tasty, nutritious, and allergy friendly snacks that are super easy to pop into a backpack or purse and bring to class. In my humble opinion, all of their flavors are amazing, but my favorites are Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough.


Avery Tomaso

Speaking of snacks that are easy to eat on the go, jerky or meat snacks are great if your diet allows you to eat meat. There are so many brands that sell jerkys and other meat snack products, but my favorite by far is Chomps. Chomps meat snacks are gluten free, verified Non-GMO, paleo, and are approved for diets like Keto and Whole-30. Personally, I don’t eat any red meat so I stick to the turkey flavor, but Chomps also sells snacks made from beef and venison if that’s more your speed. Meat snacks like Chomps are small and have a super long shelf life, making them an amazing snack to keep in your dorm!

Gluten-Free Granola and Dairy-Free Yogurt 

Avery Tomaso

Before going gluten-free, granola and yogurt was one of my favorite snacks and my cabinet was always stocked with my favorite granola and my fridge filled with yogurt. Even though the biggest fridge students living in a dorm might have access to is a mini one, single-serving yogurt containers are usually fairly small, making them easy to keep right in your dorm room. There are so many options out there for dairy-free yogurts, but my favorite by far is made by Oatly. I’m sad to say that the granola I used to enjoy is not gluten free, but after much trial and error I’ve found some good substitutes to sprinkle on top of some yogurt. My go-to brand of gluten-free granola is Purely Elizabeth and by far my favorite flavor is Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter. Most granola comes in resealable packages, so it’s another super easy and filling option to keep in the dorm.

How To Safely Navigate the Dining Hall and Off-Campus Eating 

beer, wine, coffee
Kimberly Kao

In their first few years on campus, most students don’t have a kitchen to make their own food and the best they have access to is a microwave and a mini fridge, so being able to navigate the dining hall is super important. At the University of Michigan where I attend school, every food item in the dining halls are labeled so that students can tell what is safe for them to eat based on their individual dietary needs. Specifically for gluten-free students, Michigan also provides access to gluten-free pantries filled with foods specifically for students with gluten sensitivities or Celiac disease. Information about dealing with food allergies while away at college can be found through a quick and easy Google search for your specific college or university — here’s Michigan’s page as an example — and I highly recommend taking advantage of any and all resources your school may offer.

Unlike in a dining hall, when eating out at a restaurant, menu items are always labeled so that the consumer can tell what ingredients are in them. Since recently cutting gluten out of my diet, I’ve found that things I wouldn’t have expected to have gluten in them sometimes do, making eating out with friends that much more difficult. My biggest tip to making eating out easier is to research your college town and find restaurants that cater to any restrictions you may have while also providing delicious food for friends and family who don’t have specific dietary needs. My favorite restaurant in my college town of Ann Arbor, Sava’s, is super accessible for those with dietary restrictions and has delicious food that all my friends love as well! Also, don’t be afraid to ask your waiter any question you may have about menu items and let them know about any allergies you have. I always think it’s better to be safe than sorry and you’ll save yourself — and your stomach — a lot of pain by speaking up!

Living with dietary restrictions as a college student can be difficult, but it doesn’t have to be! My biggest piece of advice is to find what works for you and stick with it. Keep your favorite snacks on hand, do some research about the restaurant options in your college town, and take advantage of the resources offered to you through school.