How to Handle Having a Dietary Restriction at Cal Poly SLO

Everyone has food they don’t like, and while you may avoid eating tomatoes because they have a weird texture, having a recognized dietary restriction is a totally different world.

I personally am gluten intolerant, and while many people believe that I mean Celiac, I don’t. Gluten intolerance is much less extreme than Celiac is. I don’t have to make sure everything was made in an entirely gluten-free facility, I don’t have to use certified gluten-free products (although I usually try to), and I won’t need to be hospitalized for accidentally taking a bite of something containing gluten. Rather, I have to simply watch what I eat very carefully and just make sure that my meal doesn’t actually contain any gluten. Although my condition is not extreme, I still have to live with the very minimal options offered for me.

Some of my friends have asked me why I choose to attend Cal Poly even though I knew that the gluten-free options were extremely limited when other schools I had gotten into offered more extensive options, and the answer is, I love Cal Poly for other reasons, not the food.

Now don’t get me wrong, Cal Poly has taken many steps toward making living on campus with a dietary restriction much easier, offering gluten-free bread and various other gluten-free products at both village and campus market, offering a vegetarian sushi option, and offering almond milk as an alternative pretty much everywhere with anything containing dairy. And while these options are great, and I am happy that Cal Poly is heading in the right direction, it’s still pretty hard to eat on campus. Because of this, I’m here to give you my tips and tricks that I’ve built up being gluten-free at Cal Poly SLO.

First, living with a kitchen is much more important than you think. I knew going into school that I would need a kitchen if I wanted to eat more than just salads from Red Radish for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since most of the gluten-free products offered at various locations around Cal Poly are frozen or refrigerated, I knew I would need more than a microwave. I ended up in Cerro Vista, with a full kitchen: stove, fridge, microwave, the works. I make at least 70% of my food in my apartment, one, because I love cooking, and two because I can control exactly what is going into it. In my apartment alone, one of us is gluten-free, one is lactose intolerant, and one is vegan, and trust me, the kitchen is essential for all of us.

Second, you need to learn to get creative. I have had pretty bizarre schedules the last two quarters and sometimes I don’t have the chance to head back and make food, or I just really don’t feel like it. Usually, I head to red radish and cram basically as much as I can into a salad, but as many people with a dietary restriction can probably understand, salads can get pretty boring when it’s one of your only options. When I’m wanting something more interesting, bishop’s burgers are always happy to lettuce wrap a burger, or Chick-fil-a actually can do grilled nuggets or sandwiches if you ask.

Finally, meeting with one of Cal Polys registered dietitians can be extremely helpful! These people’s jobs are to tell you where and what you can eat on campus. They can also help you make sure you’re eating healthy on campus, even if you don’t have a diet restriction. Personally, before starting at Cal Poly I reached out to see what I could and should do about my restriction and they were very happy to help! While having to eat on a restricted diet is difficult no matter where you are, it’s always good to go into a new situation prepared and knowledgeable about what you can and can’t have.

Although Cal Poly isn’t the ideal living for someone with a diet restriction, it is possible to make it work and stay healthy while doing it! Cal Poly is constantly taking steps toward healthier living options and has resources that you can use to make living at Cal Poly with a dietary restriction that much easier. As someone living on campus with a dietary restriction now, I can tell you that it is, in fact, possible to do!