Canadian Blood Services and American Red Cross do a fabulous job of focusing on their donors' health, but in my experiences, proper nutrition wasn't really included in their efforts. Those who donate blood are instructed to drink plenty of fluids on the day of their donation and to load up on simple carbohydrates after donating (translation: Oreos), and that’s pretty much it.

The last time that I donated blood, I became slightly iron deficient for a couple of weeks. I was very weak, had no motivation, and I fell asleep everywhere, which made my daily commute pretty awkward. Losing that much blood takes a toll on your body and on your iron stores. In fact, It can take up to 12 weeks for your body to replenish its iron supply. 

The American Red Cross suggests that you should be consuming foods from this list for the two weeks before your donation. Dietitians of Canada also has a list of iron-rich foods. The meals you could make with these lists are really quite endless, but as students, we don’t have loads of money or time, so I put together a list of some easy student-friendly meals.

Beans and Rice

cereal, tea
Jessica Barefoot

I absolutely love beans. If you ask my roommates, they’ll tell you just how much by singing that embarrassing song and swearing that I came up with it. Put beans together with brown or enriched rice, spinach and some sweet potato, and things get even better. This meal has a complete protein profile and is a good source of iron.

Pizza

Liz Tadie

I’m not sure if you noticed “tomato products” on the American Red Cross list, but I sure did and I’m taking full advantage. A little homemade pizza goes a long way. I often buy pre-made whole-grain shells, make a tomato sauce and add chicken, iron-rich vegetables, and cheese (because cheese).

This is a super fast and delicious way to get enough iron, and you’ll probably have leftovers that you can take to class for the whole week. Pizza can be healthy if you do it right.

Pasta

Daniel Schuleman

Probably the most well-known college student food. I know it’s my backup. A sauce with ground beef and tomato sauce would definitely have some iron, and it’s a well-rounded dish if you use whole wheat or enriched pasta.

Oatmeal 

blueberry, cereal, sweet, milk, yogurt, muesli, berry, oatmeal, porridge
Becky Hughes

This one might even trump pasta when it comes to classic college meals. Oatmeal is my breakfast 95% of the time, and the same goes for a ton of students that I know. If I don't eat oatmeal, my day feels a little incomplete. Oatmeal is inexpensive, versatile and, you guessed it, high in iron. And, if you need some recipe ideas, Spoon has got you covered. 

As long as you're paying attention to your diet and rest, you'll most likely be back to normal within a few days after donating. Although iron deficiency isn't something that everyone experiences, paying attention to how much iron you eat is really important since your body takes longer than you'd think to replenish its stores. 

If you suspect that your iron stores are low after you donate blood, you should see a health care professional because they might advise you to take iron supplements. 

Interested or willing to donate blood? Check out when your school is having its next blood drive.