Navigating the Gluten-Free Diet in College

CHA Registered Dietitian Rebecca Toutant.

By: Rebecca Toutant, MA, RD, LDN, CDE, cPT

Suggestions for dealing with Celiac Disease Spring is in the air! For some high school students, that might mean college campus tours. If you’re like me, you didn’t think about the details of college until you unpacked your dorm room and questioned, “Well, now what?” However, if you’re going to college with celiac disease, take time before you enroll to make sure that gluten-free diet accommodations match the life you want to live.

Where will I eat on campus? Most students who live on campus are required to have a meal plan. The most frequent complaints I hear from students are issues around cross contamination, lack of spontaneous meal choices and boredom with gluten-free options. Most colleges offer accommodations, but consider how you like to eat. Do you have to call ahead to order food? Do they have a separate kitchenette for people with food allergies? How much does the menu change?

Where will I eat off campus? The dining hall won’t fit all of your food needs. There will likely be snacks between meals, breakfast in the dorms, or late night pizza parties. If you’re going to school in a smaller town, there may be limited restaurant options with shorter hours. What grocery stores are nearby and what do they offer? Are there a variety of local restaurants that offer gluten free options? Are there late night options so you can enjoy food while everyone else is having 2 a.m. pizza?

Who can I talk to if I have problems? You may not feel well resulting in missed classes. Professionals can help you advocate for your needs and identify solutions. Outline contacts you feel comfortable turning to if things aren’t working out. If your usual health team is far away, are there local professionals who can help? Also, explaining celiac disease to people can bum you out. Are there local or college support groups you can connect with to get to know the local gluten free options?

Going to college with celiac disease can be challenging, but remember, you’re not alone! For more information about navigating a gluten free-diet on college campuses, click here.

Cambridge Health Alliance

Contributed By: Cambridge Health Alliance

Cambridge Health Alliance is an academic community health care system committed to serving all members of our communities. We have expertise in primary care, mental health and substance abuse, and caring for diverse and complex populations. CHA patients receive high quality care in convenient neighborhood locations, and have seamless access to advanced care through CHA’s affiliation with Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. With over 140,000 patients in Cambridge, Somerville Everett and Boston’s Metro North, CHA is working hard to offer the integrated services its communities need now, and in the future.