The first thing most gluten-free students worry about when going off to college is the availability of gluten-free food in their campus dining hall. This is an important challenge that everyone with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity must face when entering into this new chapter. However, college is not all about dining hall food (thankfully).
Sure, many colleges require new students to have a meal plan for their first year or so; but even if you have a meal plan, you won’t be eating every meal at the dining hall. Don’t be fooled, though, choosing a college with awesome gluten-free options will make your life much easier. Check out my post, Going to College on a Gluten Free Diet, on OneHungryCeliac.com for tips on choosing a school with great gluten-free options.
Living gluten free in college outside of the dining hall can be difficult, and sometimes it’s outright stressful. But it doesn’t have to be. I’m here to tell you everything I learned by going through college on a 100% gluten-free diet, from the must-have gluten-free items to not letting your gluten intolerance get in the way of having a fun social life.
Let’s talk about some of the things that made college life easier for me. I learned most of this stuff the hard way and I hope this list will save you some of that hassle!
Here are my top 5 things every gluten-free student should have:
1. A separate toaster.
It might be frowned upon to have a toaster in a dorm room at some schools, but if you ever live in an off-campus apartment, you’ll most likely have one. Either way, on or off-campus, definitely get your own toaster and guard it with your life. Don’t let a crumb of gluten anywhere near that thing! It’s extremely important your roommates understand its use – no gluten-full breads or bagels allowed! Throw a big “gluten free only” label on the side of it if you have to.
2. Delicious gluten-free bread.
This. Is. Essential. Why? You can do so much with bread. Make a sandwich, toast it, smother it in peanut butter, jam, or just eat it with plain old butter. In college, there will be times when you have nothing to eat except your trusty loaf of gluten-free bread. Canyon Bakehouse is easily my favorite bread for a number of reasons. First, it’s the best-tasting gluten free bread you can buy in stores. It’s softer, lighter, and holds together so much better than other brands. Second, the packaging keeps the bread fresh for 90 days if unopened. This is a sweet deal for college students. Your parents could even ship you a few loaves of Canyon’s Stay-Fresh packaged bread and you won’t have to worry about them going bad (you should eat the loaf within 5 days after opening). Finally, Canyon Bakehouse offers a Heritage-Style bread, which is bigger than those tiny square slices you’ll find everywhere else. This is great for those of us who want to make a normal-sized sandwich for once.
3. A gluten-free snack cabinet/container.
Who doesn’t love snacks? No one. Make sure you stock a cabinet or storage bin with your favorite gluten-free snacks, and let people know they’re yours. This does two things: it prevents others from storing gluten-containing foods next to your food, limiting cross-contamination issues, and it stops them from eating your gluten-free food.
4.Gluten-free frozen meals.
When you don’t feel like making the walk over to the dining hall, you’re going to need something quick to eat. Luckily, there are plenty of gluten-free frozen foods out there. Make sure you always have a few of these stocked in your mini fridge freezer.
5. Your own spreadable foods and condiments.
Cross-contamination: the silent celiac kryptonite. There’s no easier way to accidentally come in contact with gluten than from a shared jar of peanut butter or tub of cream cheese. Your roommate dips their knife in the jar after already spreading some all over their wheat bread or crackers, contaminating the jar with gluten. I wouldn’t dare use that same jar after that.
But the thing is, most of the time you won’t even know if someone contaminated it. That’s why I recommend getting your own separate containers of any type of spreadable food, like peanut butter, jelly, cream cheese or butter. Put a big “gluten-free only” label right on the cover so everyone knows to keep their gluten-contaminated knives away. For more on this topic, check out my post, 9 Things to Know about Gluten Cross-Contamination.
If you make sure you have these five things in your dorm room or apartment, you won’t go hungry and you’ll have a better chance of avoiding gluten cross-contamination. And if you can do that, you’ll have a great college experience. You’ll find that all my tips and recommendations for how to live gluten-free in college have a common theme: don’t let celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity get in the way of having a blast! College flies by, and before you know it all of those good times will be behind you.
To learn more about living gluten-free in college, head over to OneHungryCeliac.com for more gluten-free tips, recipes and more!
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About the Author
Nick Cordio has been living with celiac disease for more than 15 years, and is the creator of OneHungryCeliac.com. The site is dedicated to informing people about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, providing advice and real life experiences about living gluten free, and reviewing awesome gluten-free products and businesses.