Maintaining SCD at college

We started the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) when our son was in elementary school and continued to practice the diet consistently all the way through high school. We mentored hundreds of SCD families and became actively involved in supporting diet therapies research. With all of this accumulated experience, I expected the shift to SCD during college to be easy and go smoothly.

It was not as easy as we had expected.

Maintaining SCD at college turned out to be a new and challenging learning curve. It required much more effort than we had anticipated, efforts on both the student’s part and on the parent’s part.
Thankfully, with fast adaptation and fast response to the unanticipated, the school year went by well, and our student retained all the benefits of his long term diet, maintaining med free wellness.

Here are the key lessons we learned this past year:

  1. Despite the best intentions and efforts of the college kitchen staff, it is not possible to count on college dining services to fulfil a 100% SCD lifestyle. Staff is busy serving hundreds of students, with many different kinds of special diets, and the attention to details in the college cafeteria will never match the attention to details at home in the family kitchen.
  2. Students have busy schedules, navigating class times, homework, part-time jobs, social life, and fitness routines. Heading to the cafeteria in time for staff prepared SCD meals is not always an option.
  3. Students must have their own ‘mini kitchen’ in their room, with a small refrigerator/freezer, a microwave, and a good stash of non-perishable, shelve stable snacks as back up.
  4. Given these challenges, parents must find ways to deliver SCD meals and baked goods on a regular basis to supplement the student’s needs.
  5. It is best to buy college kitchen supplies only after seeing the actual space in the student’s room. A minimalistic approach works best, clutter is the enemy of calm minds, and a calm mind is important in college.
  6. Disposable dishes are bad for the environment, but a necessity while in college. Find other ways to support environmental sustainability, and make sure your student has a good stock of disposable plates, bowls and cups. It is hard to wash dishes in the tiny size sink of some dorm rooms, and young students hate washing dishes anyways. We hate the combination of microwaving with disposable dishes, but it was a necessary compromise that enabled diet compliance.
  7. Maintaining periodic labs is important given the stress and tendency of college students to cut corners. Make sure your student has standing orders for labs and a local doctor that can monitor and ensure sustained wellness

Lander Hall

First year college dorm room.


SCD food delivery to college


Steven’s Court

Setting up a temporary SCD kitchen in the summer dorm apartment. This kitchen is shared with non-SCD roommates.


  1. Thanks for this college update; we’re heading there soon and it’s good to know what to anticipate.

  2. Thank you very much for update. My son starting college and I am trying to get my ducks in a row. We had conversation with head nutritionist and she promised a SCD compliant meals from the college kitchen. What would you recommend as a control measures for college kitchens?
    PS how he navigated social scene – parties, late night study where everyone orders pizza, etc.?

    • There are no satisfying, all-inclusive answers to these two challenges, but here are some points to consider:
      College health and kitchen staff do their best to accommodate special medical diet needs. I have no doubts that the top-level SCD restrictions will be met, and the college will provide grain-free, lactose-free, sugar-free meals. The problem is that SCD is a very detail-oriented diet (no fillers, no processing agents…) and it is also a diet that must be tailored to individual sensitivities and adjusted periodically (for example: shifting to stage 1 foods when not feeling well). It would be unrealistic to expect this kind of detailed attention and compliance from a large kitchen that serves hundreds of students.
      This is where supplemental meals that are more personalized are helpful, if not necessary.

      Navigating the social scene is a familiar challenge for SCD kids and teens, but it becomes even more pronounced when they are away from home. We made sure that our student had treats in his mini-fridge like frozen SCD pizza and cookies, and small Martinelli apple cider bottles, so he could ‘grab and go’ snacks when needed. When out with friends he tried to find places with plain burgers, etc. Other times, he ate in his room before the outing, or just stayed hungry until he got back to the dorms.

      Sometimes busy SCD families choose to book a private consultation with me to discuss college prep and college SCD strategies. Together we plan specific approaches that are tailored to the student’s location and other unique circumstances.

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