Know someone going to college while dealing with food allergies? An experienced student answers your burning questions here.
How has being gluten-free shaped your college experience and choices?
Being gluten-free in college has affected my life in a variety of ways– both good and bad. On the one hand, I struggled through my freshman year as a result of complications with my celiac disease that eventually landed me in the hospital. Additionally, eating gluten-free can be tremendously isolating since I can’t easily participate in a lot of the food-orientated social events that take place at college.
On the other hand, however, I sometimes consider my gluten-free life a blessing in disguise. My diagnosis motivated me to start my blog “Casey the College Celiac.” The connections I have made and opportunities I have had as a result of my blog have inspired me to go further. Also, have no option but to eat gluten-free has consequently made my diet healthier than the average student’s daily junk food feasts. People often see me cooking and admire how “gourmet” I eat!
Any advice to any struggling college students with celiac/food allergies?
Talk to your cafeteria manager and your disability resource center at the very beginning. In a general sense, it’s important to remember never to compromise your health!
At first, the cafeteria was very accommodating, and I ultimately had all my meals prepared specially (and separately) in the back of the cafeteria. Unfortunately, however, my school’s cafeteria underwent a change in management and cooking staff, after which they were unable to provide “safe” gluten-free food free from possible cross contamination. So, I made the difficult decision to cook and prepare all my own meals. While it can be a struggle to find the time and the resources to cook in college, I’m eating better (and safer) than ever before!
How do you manage snacks throughout the day?
My favorite foods for on-the-go energy are homemade “bliss balls” or frozen balls of dates, nut butter, seeds and banana. I also have recently tried out chia seed pudding (made the night before in a portable jar) with berries and sunflower butter as well as sliced up vegetables dipped in an avocado-kale guacamole.
What about social situations? Do you bring your own food?
In college, food dominates the social scene, so my usual plan of attack is to come equipped with lots of gluten-free, celiac-friendly food! When whole meals are going to be served, I’ll either eat before or pack my own. This way, I don’t worry about whether there will be food for me that day, or if it is contaminated. If I plan in advance, I can still go to the dining hall and enjoy time with my friends!
If bringing my own food wasn’t awkward enough, celiac disease comes with a host of other often embarrassing quirks. For instance, I have to ask my boyfriend to brush his teeth before kissing me to prevent cross contamination. I also often find myself needing to explain to people that being “glutened” is the reason I’m zombie-walking through my week. In the end, the best way to make celiac the least awkward as possible is to educate those around you about the challenges and realities of the situation.
Any last words of encouragement?
Living with celiac disease and eating gluten-free in college certainly hasn’t been easy, but I wouldn’t change it now. I’ve experienced incredible support from my peers and teachers that I never would’ve imagined. On a daily basis, I choose to nourish my body with what makes it feel the best – foods that are healthy and fresh! And, most importantly, I’ve chosen to embrace my diagnosis and not let it keep me from experiencing all the adventures college has to offer.
Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.