Going Gluten Free

    Over the summer, I was faced with hearing what no college student who balls on a budget wants to hear about their diet: I needed to go gluten free.  Now, I know that this isn’t the end all, be all worst thing in the world--- especially when the RN I had seen at my college had convinced my admittedly hypochondriac self that I had somehow overlooked the big capital C, (stomach) cancer, when originally trying to diagnose my gastro issues.  But to a college girl whose diet seemed to revolve around the weekly Wednesday hash browns and chicken tenders with the occasional salad thrown in, the idea of being gluten free seemed like a life sentence to eating the same diet as the fitness influencers you see on Instagram. This feeling only increased as I began to analyze my diet-- gluten popped up everywhere from my favorite salad dressings and soups to the pizza and garlic knots my friends and I use to order every weekend.  Lucky for me though, I became gluten free during the golden age of specialized diets. With allergies and intolerances popping up increasingly, as the past few years’ gluten free fad has opened up a whole world of opportunities for me. I may have yet to find a gluten-free bagel that perfectly replicates those from Forage or New York City, I’ve been able to replace the majority of the things that I thought that I would miss-- even at college, where my diet used to be 99 percent bread.  

Breakfasts are arguably one of the easier meals to be gluten free, as there are plenty of delicious options both in and out of commons.  Whether it’s chatting it up with Brad and Joe in the egg line in the morning, a Udi's gluten free bagel, or just grabbing an apple and peanut butter, Commons offers healthy and delicious options.  To replace my much missed commons hashbrowns, IHop delivers, but the tastiest (and most affordable) option is the walk to the Dunks near Rite Aid. However, as we look forward to the blustery and blizzardy New England Winters though, I went on a search to find viable options that wouldn’t force me to walk ten minutes there and back, especially since I can hardly drag myself out of bed to make it to my 8 am to make it to commons once it hits below 20 degrees.

  For a healthy breakfast, my personal favorite is from Amy’s, packs 8 grams of protein from a mix of beans and cheddar cheese, and is super easy to heat up in a microwave while I get ready for class.  However, part of me, aka my inner child, loves a good Poptart once in awhile-- and those toaster pastries are essentially gluten with more gluten. However, I found the perfect compromise to my stomach and my heart-- Bobo’s Gluten Free toaster pastries.  My personal favorites have to be the blueberry-lemon and strawberry, the former being my favorite, and the latter fulfilling any childhood craving I might have.  

Meals like lunch or dinner are a whole other world of issues-- mostly because my favorites tend to come from Italy, and are packed with gluten.  I was pressed to find a way to replace my favorite paninis and pastas, even if it took the rest of my life.  As a result, and after taste-testing several different kinds of bread and pasta, I can definitively say I found (in my personal opinion) the best gluten free pastas and Whether it’s their gluten-free sourdough or white bread,  Scharr’s is arguably one of my favorite things that I have found so far on my gluten free journey.  You can eat it toasted or untoasted with pretty much any topping-- something I’ve found to be a rarity among gluten free bread, as they’re often weirdly sweet, which doesn’t make for the best grilled cheese or panini.  Available both online, at Whole Foods, and hopefully a grocery store closer than Portland, it’s relatively affordable (costing around the same amount as you would pay for regular bread). Pasta is a little bit easier as when it comes to microwavable mac and cheese, I honestly believe hands down that Annie’s Rice Pasta and Cheddar is the best microwave mac and cheese known to mankind.  Honestly, the rice pasta tastes just like fresh al dente pasta-- I was surprised to find that I actually liked it more than regular easy mac.  However, if you’re looking for an easy way to cook pasta that’s actually restaurant worthy in your dorm room (even if you aren’t gluten free), I highly recommend trying out cooking it in an electric kettle, a tip I picked up from the international students in boarding school who could seemingly whip up meals that beat out our high school dining hall by literal michelin stars.  It’s quick, and often tastes a lot better than microwavable noodles. From there, feel free to top with tomato sauce, mushrooms, parmesan, butter, really anything you want.

Snacks provide a whole world of options-- both healthy, and not.  As someone who tends to prefer salty over sweet, I was immediately crushed when not only my treasured white cheddar Cheez-its as well as my backup favorites, cheddar and sour cream Ruffles had gluten.  As a result, I did a little research, and happily found out that for an easy vending machine fix, Cheetos are perfect. For a little bit of a healthier option though, the Whisps! Parmasean chips were nearly perfect dupe.  Not only do they taste just like cheez-its, they’re honestly better for you with less calories and more protein per handful you eat while absent-mindedly binge-watching (a very scientific way of measuring).   I’ve also found that typical college snacks like good ol’ microwavable nachos, chips and salsa, or really anything that uses corn or potatoes as a base is often gluten free. When it comes to snacks, the world is your oyster (so long as you read the ingredients list for warnings)!  For a nice sweet treat however, my go to are Tate’s gluten free Chocolate Chip, or when I reallllllly miss binging on my yearly stash of Girl Scout cookies, the Goodie Girl thin mints.   The people who founded Goodie Girl cookies must have some in with the Girl Scouts, as they’ve managed to almost seamlessly replicate those that I’ve tried.  The only difference with my favorite Goodie Girl cookie is that the mint wafers are a bit more minty than you would get with the original-- but it’s far from a negative in my opinion. 

Overall, I’ve found a bunch of great options-- and can’t wait to find more as I go through figuring out my diet further.  And if anyone has any recommendations-- please let me know because I can take all the advice I can get!