How to Eat Gluten Free (and Healthy!) in College Dining Halls
Written by Emily Wagener. Emily is an Udi’s Campus Ambassador at Clemson University. She is currently a senior studying food science with an emphasis in product development and has been an avid fan of Udi’s products for years.
Transitioning from a seemingly tranquil and straightforward high school cafeteria to a full-sized college dining hall is an unforgettable experience. Suddenly, your choices expand from only one or two dishes per lunch to over ten at nearly all times of the day! Finding both healthy and gluten free dishes can be a challenge for students, especially those new to the lifestyle. Here are a few helpful hints to take control and get your eating habits on track:
1. Go to the top—Contact your University’s dietician or dining hall manager
Whether you are a newly diagnosed student or heading to college for the first time this fall, one of the first things you should do is schedule a meeting with your school’s dietician or dining hall manager. Talk to them about your dietary needs/restrictions, it is their job to ensure that all students can eat safely, so they should be willing to assist you in finding gluten free options.
2. Get friendly with the dining hall front line staff
Although alerting upper management to your situation is important, the people who really matter are those serving your food on a daily basis. Make an effort to be a face they’ll recognize by getting to know them. You’ll find that asking for your veggie stir-fry to be prepared in a clean pan will be less painful that way.
3. Focus on the veggies
Although surviving on Udi’s Double Chocolate muffins sounds like a fantastic dream, the reality is that your body needs balanced nutrition in order to keep up with the intensity of a college schedule. Every dining hall should have a well-stocked salad bar—find yours! Not only does eating fresh veggies provide plenty of nutrients and fiber for your body, but doing so on a regular basis will stave off the freshman fifteen!
4. Get vocal, get connected
Many campuses have allergen-free clubs or organizations where you can meet people just like yourself. Connecting with groups like these build a louder voice when menu changes are needed to accommodate students with dietary restrictions and can help simplify the transition to college life. Udi’s Gluten Free Foods brand ambassadors, such as myself, lead allergen clubs on campuses throughout America. Search your school’s channels for yours, or contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org to start your own!
As with all things, the key to maintaining a balanced diet is moderation. You may be lucky enough to convince your school to supply endless gluten free baked macaroni or yummy desserts, but keep in mind that just because you CAN eat unlimited amounts of these things, doesn’t mean you should!
What is your experience eating gluten free and healthy in college dining halls? Do you receive a lot of support or have you helped guide changes in the way your university handles students with special dietary needs such as those with gluten intolerance or celiac disease?