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10 Must-Know Tips to Successfully Go Gluten Free in College

Going gluten-free on a college campus is challenging regardless of why you’ve made that change. It often feels like universities are designed for the mass consumption of gluten. You’ll probably start to pay attention to places where it seems like gluten-free eating is impossible. The following list will help make your gluten-free transition as painless as possible. Here are some of the important things to know when you’re making this dietary change.

  1. Your food will still taste good. When making this switch you may have heard myths that it’s really hard to find good food, eat with family and friends, and consume anything outside the realm of unprocessed, organic vegetables. Do a little research and it will be very clear, your junk food days are far from over. Try this: Glutino, Udis and Amy’s are three brands you can find in most grocery stores that can help fill in the gaps you may find from some of your past grocery cart staples.
  2. Many grocery stores have entire sections dedicated to Gluten-Free eating. Meijer, Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s are three grocery stores where you could spend your entire paycheck on gluten-free options. Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s employees are trained to assist shoppers in locating the right food for them. If you head to their websites (which are linked at the end) you can find lists of all the gluten-free options they have in stores. Try this: Trader Joe’s, Gluten Free Joe-Joe’s, are all the fun of Oreos with none of the gluten. Dip them in a tall glass of milk for a delicious snack that will make you forget you ever doubted going gluten-free.
  3. Freeze (and then toast) your gluten free bread. If you’ve ever tried gluten-free bread, you may have experienced it falling apart in your hands. A really easy way keep that from happening is to store your bread in the freezer (or at least the fridge) and then toast your bread when you’re ready to eat. You’ll notice it stays together easier and keeps a fresh, bread-like taste for longer. Try this: Udi’s whole grain, gluten-free bread tastes like normal bread and isn’t the size you might pretend to serve to your Barbie Dolls, which is a problem some gluten free bread companies have yet to tackle.
  4. Cross-contamination might affect you. Depending on whether your decision to drop gluten from your diet was related to a medical diagnosis (like Celiac or a gluten-intolerance) or trying out a new diet, cross contamination will affect you differently. This comes into play at restaurants, in the kitchen you share with your gluten-eating roommates, and when dealing with food made on equipment that processes wheat products. Every body is different and just because cross-contamination impacts one person does not mean it will impact another. It is something you should monitor for yourself. Try this: If you share a kitchen and find out cross-contamination is a no-go for you, try reusable toaster bags that will keep gluten-containing crumbs off your gluten-free food.
  5. Soy sauce has gluten in it. This one is tough if you’re a Chinese food or Sushi regular but don’t write off your spicy-tuna roll just yet. Many restaurants will have gluten-free soy sauce and be happy to make the switch. Note: sushi is actually a pretty good option for you, regardless, as long as your avoid gluten-containing soy sauce. Try this: San-J’s gluten-free soy sauce can be found at Whole Foods.
  6. Check your soups and salad dressings for gluten, too. Always check the ingredients on soups and salad dressings because you may find that various wheat products were used to make them thicker or heartier. Novice gluten-free-ers often forget to check the ingredients on items that don’t obviously contain gluten products. Try this: Au Bon Pain includes allergen warnings on all of their soups and dressings so that you don’t have to worry about unintentionally ingesting something that will make you sick.
  7. Rice pasta is, and always will be, better than traditional gluten-free pasta. This one is gluten-eating-boyfriend approved. For pasta that doesn’t have a chalky taste or wet-noodle texture try a rice-based pasta. It will prepare on the al dente side and have the same grainy flavor as your favorite gluten-containing pasta. (Also, rice pasta doesn’t have that weird yellow color that most gluten free pasta does.) Try this: Lundberg Family Farms Organic Brown Rice Pasta will be pasta that your roommates will even want to steal.
  8. Or you could try spaghetti squash. Another delicious (and arguably healthier) alternative to wheat-based pasta is spaghetti squash. Located in your grocery store’s produce section, this squash pairs well with the ingredients of your typical pasta dish. You can prepare it in the microwave or the oven. See the link at the bottom for tips on the oven preparation.
  9. Going out to dinner is not as hard as it sounds. When you first go gluten-free, eating at a restaurant that is preparing food for you and using ingredients that may not make it onto their menu might scare you a bit. Many restaurants in the Ann Arbor are happy to accommodate gluten restrictions. Look on menus for indications of gluten free dishes or ask your server what options might be available. Try this: Some great date night spots in town are: Jerusalem Garden, Savas, Isalita, Palio, The Pretzel Bell, and The Black Pearl.
  10. You can still eat on the run. Believe it or not, it’s not that difficult to get a quick bite to eat on gluten-free diet. Try this: Revive on East University has a make your own salad option with numerous gluten free options. If you’re craving a late night snack, Pizza House has gluten-free pizza that rivals any pizza joint’s average thin crust. If you need food on game day head to Jimmy Johns for their famous “unwich,” which you can fill with any of their delicious sandwich ingredients. For a quick lunch, keep in mind that most of Chipotle’s ingredients, excluding their flour tortillas, are gluten-free.

So there you have it. Switching to a gluten-free diet does mean paying more attention to the food you eat, but if you plan ahead and continue to look for options that work for you, you don’t have to sacrifice good food, good times or good friends.

Images courtesy of: Mama Mia

Spaghetti squash how to: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/how-cook-spaghetti-squash

Trader Joe’s list: http://www.traderjoes.com/dietary-lists/gluten-free

Whole Foods’ list: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/healthy-eating/special-diets/gluten-free

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