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Healthy Living
Dietary Accommodations on Campus

Heading off to college can be a bit overwhelming. A new town, new friends, new schedule, but most importantly, a brand new dining system. For some, this can be intimidating due to diet restrictions. Don’t fear! At Iowa State, it’s easy for students of all dietary needs to find tasty and affordable food!

Where Do I Eat?

There are over twenty dining establishments on campus alone. Yes, I said twenty. The most popular large dining halls are: UDCC, Conversations Dining Center, Friley Windows, and Seasons Marketplace. All of these dining centers accommodate for vegan and vegetarian diets by providing a number of entree options, as well as a salad bar, soups, fresh fruit, and plenty of extra specialty sides. The newest addition to this list of dining halls is Friley Windows, which features “Zest”. “Zest” is a vegan food station, stocked with gourmet alternative dining options for students with a vegan or vegetarian diets. All of the on-campus dining options can be found in the MyState app, under the “Dining” tab. The hours for each location can be found by tapping on the name of the dining hall or cafe you wish to visit. You can also use Net Nutrition and ISU Dining’s online menus to help you find items. 

For individuals in need of specially prepared food, there are still plenty of options! Check out the ISU Dining Website for all the details. To avoid any food contamination (e.g. in the case of allergies, gluten intolerance, etc.), look out for sign displays in the dining halls and ask staff to help you find dishes that are specially prepared for different dietary needs. If you’d like further help, you can contact the ISU Dining Staff Dietitian, Nicole Wright, email:, phone: 515.294.3812. BTW, the ISU Dietician has a blog you can follow to stay up to date on the latest nutrition news. 

If you’re unable to find a location that suits you on campus, there are dozens of restaurants, coffee shops, and convenience stores within walking distance from campus. Both Lincoln Way and Welch Avenue are popular streets for Iowa State students venturing off campus for a bite to eat. If you’re curious about menu options, check your online resources (e.g. Yelp, Google) or call ahead!

How Do I Save Money?

We know grocery shopping can put a dent in your budget, so here’s some ways to save your dough. First, let’s talk about meal plans. These can be arranged via AccessPlus, under the “Campus Dining” tab. Meal plans include a number of options: anytime plans, semester plans, meal blocks, and dining dollars. These plans allow you to use either meal swipes or dining dollars, but most offer both. Meal swipes allow you entry into every ISU dining center, and unlimited food while you are inside the establishment. Dining dollars are loaded onto your ISU I.D., and they allow you to purchase food, drinks, and some toiletries or extra items from the C-Stores and cafes on campus. Read into each plan to see what is best for you. Learn more about them here.

If you live off of campus and a meal plan doesn’t work with your schedule or budget, then there are plenty of places to shop off of campus. Some affordable grocery options in Ames are: Fareway, ALDI, Hyvee, Wal-Mart, and Wheatsfield. To save some extra cash, check the local newspapers, like the ISU Daily, and campus coupon books. There are always great sales going on targeting college students, so be sure to take advantage of them!

The final best advice I can give is to ask for help. Ask fellow students where they get the best deals on your favorite food items. Ask the staff in the dining halls, your on campus dieticians, or the student wellness office if you need help figuring out where to go for the food you need! Keeping yourself fueled with the right food ensures that you’ll be more successful in all your other endeavors.

Bon appetit!