Let’s admit it, sometimes eating gluten free can be hard. But eating gluten free at college is even harder. I hope to provide some tips for you that I’ve experienced first hand through my first 2 years at college and being gluten intolerant.
*Every university will differ*
Contact University Dining
This is the MOST IMPORTANT part if you’re going to be living in the dorms/ eating at the dining courts. Going into my freshman year, I contacted the dining court supervisor who was very familiar with food allergies and Celiac Disease/ Gluten Intolerance. She was able to tell me what items were safe for me to eat, who to contact for each dining court, provided easy communication, and so much more.
My sophomore year, I had more stomach issues besides the gluten and dairy and she was able to accommodate to my other dietary restrictions as well. I felt safe knowing she was cooking my food and on days she wasn’t there, I felt safe receiving my food from the other cooks who she had trained and talked to about my accommodations.
*If you go to Purdue University and don’t know who to contact/need help, feel free to message me!*
Contact the Disability Resource Center (DRC)
This is also the MOST IMPORTANT part of surviving gluten free at college. Contact your university’s Disability Resource Center. I know you may be thinking that gluten intolerance isn’t a disability, but at college it is MUCH more harder to find safe gluten free options. Having your disability adviser on your side is an absolute must (and if you have other issues in the future, they will be there to back you up!).
In order for the DRC to help accommodate you, a doctor’s note is required saying you need to have a separate refrigerator, microwave, etc because of cross contamination risks related to your food allergies/intolerances. You do not have to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease either (this was my experience), a gluten intolerance/sensitivity is also recognizable.
Find Local Grocery Stores & Restaurants
Use the Find Me Gluten Free app! I know I’ve talked about this app a lot, but it’s just so awesome! (See other posts here: Eating Out: Gluten Free Style & Gluten free while traveling) Find Me Gluten Free will be able to tell you what grocery stores and restaurants are near by that carry gluten free foods. I also recommend joining your graduating class facebook page (Ex: Purdue University Class of 2019), you can post in there asking who else is Celiac/Gluten Intolerant and meet new people! I met a girl that I’m actually going to be living with this next year by doing that! 🙂
Take Your Meals To-Go
Meal prepping is a MUST in college whether you’re gluten free or not. Sometimes you won’t have a break between your classes or you won’t have time to run back to the dining courts or your dorm to get yourself lunch. When I had a break for lunch, I would take a lunch bag with ice packs, a sandwich, juice drink, and a banana and/or crackers. Usually I would make my sandwich the night before and put it in a zip lock bag in the refrigerator, I would also go ahead and pack my lunch bag with the rest of the foods that wouldn’t have to be refrigerated. On days I didn’t have a lunch break, I would take a banana, crackers/chips, and a granola/breakfast bar to tide me over until I could get a real meal after my classes at 1:30.
Use The Kitchenettes (at the least busiest time of week)
About 1 week before moving back to college for my sophomore year, I was diagnosed with delayed gastric emptying. This has restricted my diet a lot (more than gluten did!). Figuring out what I could eat all over again was very hard, especially during college. I realized that I would have to do a lot of cooking myself.
My experience using the dorm’s kitchenettes wasn’t the best and I can’t even describe how HAPPY I am to be having an actual kitchen next year! But, using the kitchenettes was good at times and helped broaden my cooking skills (which were very limited/non-existent).
The best tip I can give you for using the kitchenettes in your dorm is to figure out what days/times of the week are the least busiest. You won’t have to worry about others cross contaminating your food (this happened to me once) and you won’t have to spend so long cooking (waiting on others to get done so you can use the oven). I also recommend cooking up enough food for several meals/ the rest of the week. You won’t have to cook as often and you’ll feel so accomplished!
I hope this Gluten Free College Survival Guide 101 has been helpful! I’ve been wanting to cover this topic for quite a while!
How do you survive college being Celiac/Gluten Intolerant?
Also, I can’t believe tomorrow is the last day of May! But, we can advocate for Celiac Disease all year long! 🙂
Hi, Love your site! I run a celiac support group and we are trying to improve the college experience for celiacs kids on campuses across the country. There is nothing more reliable than on the ground reports from celiac students. We shared a link to your college survival guide on our site!
Can you help us spread our survey for current or recently graduated celiac college students?