Tips for Gluten-Free College Life
Written by Kylie Bressoud
Having Celiac disease and going away to college can create stressful situations. We have compiled our top tips for staying healthy during this transition. Every college situation is different, and it is important to explore the resources available on campus.
Plan your meals.
Find meals and snacks that you enjoy, are easy to make in a dorm room, and are nutritious. It is important to have meal ideas on hand that can be made between classes, or when you don’t have much energy at the end of a long day. Taking the time to plan meals will give the peace of mind of not needing to find food at an inconvenient time/place. Not only is it more cost-effective to plan meals, but it also will save you from cross-contamination risk.
Stock the pantry (and backpack).
Foods that are non-perishable are necessary to have on hand. Power bars, instant oatmeal (see our oats article), and nuts/seeds are great to carry with you. Purchase non-refrigerated fruits to save refrigerator space—stone fruit, avocados, bananas.
Fill the fridge.
Mini-fridges don’t have a ton of storage space, so it is important to clean it out regularly -- this also helps you take stock of what you already have. Keep your meal staples in the fridge stocked. The small freezer space can be used to store frozen fruits for smoothies or frozen meals. Utilizing the freezer is a great way to extend the time between your trips to the grocery store. Fresh produce doesn’t stay as fresh with a mini-fridge, so be sure to purchase produce with the intention of when/how you will eat it.
Find your support.
Your college is meant to support you in all aspects of your life, including your health and nutrition. “When you enroll at a college, register with the disability services office to ensure that your medically required dining accommodations are recognized, as celiac disease is acknowledged under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Often, if institutions cannot ensure a safe dining environment for students with celiac disease or food allergies, they will make accommodations to provide access to kitchens, pre-ordered meals, or off-campus living arrangements. Registering is also important in case you experience cross-contamination that impacts your academic performance and you need accommodations, like time to recover” (UChicago Medicine).
This also includes your peers -- make sure you have a discussion with friends about how they can be supportive of your lifestyle with Celiac disease. Many people are unaware of the severity of the disease.
Find your Boundaries + Educate Yourself.
Although you may have the Celiac disease thing figured out, going to college also means new experiences, including alcohol. It is important to be aware that many alcohols are not gluten-free—do your research before consuming.
Every person with Celiac disease has their own boundaries with the risks they do/don’t take with food and possible cross-contamination. It is important to discover and communicate your boundaries to others so that you aren’t put in negative situations. Empower yourself through trial and error -- it takes time to adapt to new environments.