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Gluten Free| College

Updated on December 3, 2013

The Challenge of being Gluten Free while in College

Being a fellow gluten-free individual, I understand the head aches that are associated with this disease. The embarrassment of telling people, having to explain at parties why your sticking to just a salad, freaking out when gluten was accidentally ingested, and trying to prepare for the unpleasantness to come.

But even with the hard times, we learn to eat right, stay away from gluten, and deal with the occasional glutened episode. Life goes on. Most of the people you know already get it and the embarrassing explanations are few and in between. Life goes on....

But then it's time for college, or your child goes off to college. What to do? So many new people, parties, new cafeteria food, etc...

It can all seem very overwhelming on top of trying to get use to college itself.

Here is a list of the Do/Don't as a Celiac/Gluten allergy individual going to, or already in, college

Your Roommates

Most times as freshmen, cooking tends to be limited to what our creative minds can come up with using a microwave. But, cross contamination can still be present with what your roommates use.

It is always a good thing to let your roommates know about this condition of yours. Yes, it may be a weird ice breaker, but it is worth it.

You will be living with this/these person(s) for the semester/year/years, and it is always good to have the extra buddy that will help keep you out of trouble. We all have that one friend who takes our gluten intolerance to the extreme and is always convinced there going to accidentally glutenize us.

If your living in an apartment/dorm with a kitchen this is extremely important to do. Cross contamination can create on issue in the kitchen, so it's good to educate your roommates on how to prevent it. It is also good to let them know what to expect. I had on roommate freak out on me because I did not inform her what happens when I do get glutenized. Believe me, it's hard to explain to someone that your not dieing during a gluten episode.

That feeling you get after eating gluten...
That feeling you get after eating gluten... | Source

What are you Intolerant/allergic to?

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The Cafeteria

The biggest nightmare, your probably thinking, or thought, is that the cafeteria at your school will only have fruit and salad for you to eat during the next four years, believe me, this is not true. Most college cafeterias cater to people of all dietary restrictions. My school even has rice flour tortilla for wraps.

The one thing that I highly advise is to talk to one of the chefs/people in-charge of food services. They can give you a better understanding of what they can offer. My school has an entire gluten free menu. Best thing to do is shoot them an email highlighting your diet restricts and how sensitive you are to gluten and set up a meeting if they can't fully answer you questions via email.

Colleges have special procedures in place. Believe me, when it comes to diet restrictions they have seen it all.

The only thing I have ever had a bit of trouble with is some cross contamination. Lets take the rice tortilla wrap for example. The serves don't always know you or your dietary restrictions.So it is always good to tell them. I always ask the sandwich bar lady to change her gloves and make my wrap on a different surface. They may give you a weird look, but by the end of the semester, they will all know you and better understand. My current order is a turkey wrap, hold the gloves, as they jokingly say.


These aren't to hard to figure out. Say way from the beer and the cookie tray and you will most likely be fine.

One thing I will advise is to check your alcohol. Many of us turn 21 in college and are introduced to drinking. Some of use before hand. But, as we all know, drinking tends to be a big thing with college.

I doubt anyone wants to have a gluten attack while tipsy though.

I stress you to know your alcohols. May alcohols are derived using grains. So it is always good idea to Google popular drinks and alcohols brands that contain gluten. That, or do a quick search on your phone. Never tell a friend to surprise you with a mixer, unless you let them know which ones are ok, and which are not.

Other then that, go have some gluten-free fun.

Other Precautions

Medical Identification Tags:

I know, I know those medical bracelets are a pain, but they can be your best friend in the moment of needs. Plus, these day's you no longer have to get one with an ugly chain. Medical Identification tags come on charm bracelets, watches, and other need stuff.

Keep it in Your Wallet/Purse:

You can also keep a card in your wallet or purse that explains your allergy. Paramedics, EMT's, and medical staff are all trained to check for these things.

Taking Labs:

Before beginning your labs for the semester, it is always wise to talk to the TA or Professor in charge of the section to see if any allergens will be used in the lab that your allergic to. I found out that the dye that they use in our dissection pigs is made out of latex...who knew??

Stores that have a Good Selection of Gluten Free Products:

Trader Joe's

Trader Joe’s offers a downloadable product list of their gluten-free items.

Stop & Shop

Shoprite’s list of gluten-free items is available online.

Whole Foods

Offers many specific gluten-free foods

Health Food Stores




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