Top 10 tips for dealing with Celiac Disease in College
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By Anya Gruber (Smith College)
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- Do your research and find right college for you.
It’s always a good idea to eat in the dining hall on your college visits. Make sure to talk to the dining staff and ask if they can accommodate a GF diet (shockingly, some schools I visited didn't know even what gluten was!).
- Once you’re moved in to your perfect college, talk to the dining staff and work out a plan.
It’s a good idea to make sure you know you’ll be accommodated. Work with the dining staff at your school to make sure that they can provide both food and an environment that is safe for you and educate them if you notice something that might be problematic. Don’t be demanding but ask if they might be open to suggestions about which specific foods to carry. At my school, for example, there is a suggestion box for GF issues, we have different plates for GF food and even a newly formed GF student committee that meets monthly to talk about issues or concerns.
- Splurge on a mini fridge for your dorm room!
Sometimes, even at the most accommodating of schools, you just don't like the food that being served that day. I’ve found that it’s really helpful to keep some food in my room for late night cravings when the only thing open and available is non-GF pizza delivery.
- When your friends want to go out for late night pizza…
Suggest trying ethnic food instead. In my college town, I've found that the Greek, Thai, Mexican and Indian restaurants have lots of inherently GF items on their menu.
- Don't avoid special events just because they involved food.
Just tell whoever is organizing the event that you're GF, and more often than not, they’ll work something out for you. I’ve done this at my school lots of times and it’s never been an issue. Don't miss out on an event you’re interested in just because food is being served!
- Don't be afraid to take the opportunity to educate other people about Celiac Disease.
A lot of people have misconceptions about Celiac and being GF, and you’re in the perfect position to clear up any myths.
- Host a dinner party!
This may not be possible at many schools, but at mine, not only do they provide three GF meals a day, but they also maintain an entirely GF kitchen for the GF students to use, stocked with ingredients. Make dinner for your friends and let them experience for themselves that being GF isn't a big deal and the food can be really good!
- Even though movies make it seem like all college students do is sit around and eat…
Don’t worry, there are a lot of other things to do that don't involve food! Don’t be afraid to explore the community around your college if there doesn’t happen to be anything that interests on campus.
- Being GF is a great reason to get out and explore the neighborhoods surrounding your college.
What restaurants have GF food? Who delivers GF food late at night? Where can you buy GF beer (if that’s your scene)?
- Find a support group or, even better, start your own.
Sometimes having Celiac Disease makes you feel different – I know I felt like that a lot at first. Talking with other people who are in the same situation can make you feel better. Plus, it’s a great way to make new friends.
Finally, college is the time to try new things - don't let Celiac Disease hold you back!