gluten free in college

The Ultimate Guide To Being Gluten Free In College

The number one question on every Gluten Free intolerant College students mind is  “How the hell am I going to eat?” ” How the fuck am I going to have a social life?” But remember you aren’t allergic to artificial light or water. Sure Gluten Intolerance sucks but it could be worse.  So suck it up and lets survive college dining like champs.

The aim of this article is to not only answer that question but also answer any other concern you have about being gluten free in college. The article below will serve as the ultimate complete comprehensive guide to being gluten free in college. If you have any additional tips links or corrects we really hope you’ll share them in the comments below so that we can help out our gluten free comrades.


So Without Further Ado I Bring To You: The Ultimate Guide To Being Gluten Free In College


What is Gluten Intolerance?

being gluten free in college

Most of you all know what Gluten Intolerance but in the event that you just stumbled onto this article by chance I”ll give you the skinny on Gluten Intolerance. Individuals with Gluten Intolerance must consume a diet that excludes foods containing gluten.


What The Fuck  Is Gluten and Why Does It Hate You?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts, and triticale. It is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing, or thickening agent. It is often appears on labels as dextrin.


For all you nerdy science kids this is what dextrin looks like chemically.


Video On How To Start Eating Gluten Free Video


What Happens If I Eat Gluten Anyway?

gluten free pain

This may happen to you

While there are people who avoid eating gluten due to adverse reactions, gluten is not an inherent “toxin” as many would have us believe. In other words Gluten Will Not Kill You! People with an immune-mediated wheat allergy and those with Celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet, as gluten triggers harmful reactions. According to adverse reactions of eating gluten for those who are intolerant to it include

  • Gas, abdominal swelling, and bloating.
  • Abnormal stools.
  • Weight loss.
  • Fatigue and weakness.
  • Vomiting.
  • Celiac disease may also lead to:
    • Osteoporosis and other bone problems related to a lack of calcium absorption.
    • Anemia caused by iron deficiency and/or folic acid deficiency.
    • Infertility or having more than one miscarriage.
    • Delayed onset of puberty.
    • Frequent respiratory infections.
    • Problems with memory and concentration.
    • Irritability in children. And adults may show signs of depression.


Nerdy Scientific Breakdown: Those who experience gas and bloating in particular after eating wheat may actually be reacting to a form of carbohydrate in the wheat called fructans, rather than the gluten protein itself. For these latter groups, avoiding wheat and gluten may alleviate uncomfortable side effects


Take Notes:  Eating wheat/gluten does not cause damage to any bodies cells nor trigger dangerous allergic reactions. This applies to both Gluten tolerant and intolerant. For those who can eat gluten, gluten is just one of many food proteins encountered in the course of a mixed diet, neither detrimental nor essential to good health.


Is There A Reason To Avoid Gluten If I Am Not Allergic?

If you tolerate gluten and enjoy it, there’s no compelling reason to avoid it. If you don’t tolerate it or just prefer not to eat it, there’s no compelling reason for you to keep it in your diet (other than, perhaps, convenience or self hatred).

A lot of Gluten Free advocates will tell you eliminating Gluten from your diet is beneficial to your health. This isn’t necessarily true. Many people however find that cutting out gluten helps them avoid the temptation of the numerous empty-calorie, high-glycemic, processed snack foods that they want to eliminate. Others, however, find that cutting out gluten only to replace it with gluten-free versions of these same empty-calorie, high-glycemic, processed snack foods is of no benefit for weight loss, energy levels, or improved health.


Take Notes: A “gluten-free” claim is by no means an indication that a food is more natural, healthful, or lower in calories.


What Food Is Actually Gluten Free?

being gluten free in college

The term gluten-free generally is used to indicate a supposedly harmless level of gluten rather than a complete absence. The exact level at which gluten is harmless for people with celiac disease is uncertain and controversial.

  • Nerdiness: A 2008 systematic review tentatively concluded that consumption of less than 10 mg of gluten per day for celiac disease patients is unlikely to cause histological abnormalities, although it noted that few reliable studies had been conducted.

Regulation of the label, gluten-free, varies widely by country. In the United States, the FDA issued proposed regulations in 2007 limiting the use of “gluten-free” in food products to those with less than 20 parts per million of gluten.


Can I Drink Alcohol If I’m Gluten Free?

gluten free beer in college

The short answer is Yes. The long answer is Not like everyone else. People diagnosed with celiac disease may experience symptoms when drinking distilled alcoholic beverages. Therefore, if you are Gluten Free and interested in drinking check with a manufacturer about the ingredients that have been used in a hard liquor, and to proceed with caution if choosing to drink a liquor that is made with wheat, barley, oats, or rye.


Can I Drink Beer?

College and beer go together like love and gay marriage or perhaps I should say donuts and coffee : P   However, nearly all beers are brewed with malted barley or wheat and will contain gluten. There are sorghum and buckwheat-based gluten-free beers on the market but I seriously doubt they will be playing with these types of beer at your local beer pong championship.

There are also beers known for their low-gluten levels; however there is disagreement over the use of gluten products in brewed beverages.


 List of Alcohols The Are Consider Gluten Free

  • Winecheck out this excellent article by Rachel Begun, MS, RD from The Gluten Free RD about how there is a slight chance of your wine actually being contaminated and the questions you need to ask about your wine to make sure it’s safe.
  • GF Beers – generally made from Sorghum and should be clearly marked gluten-free.
  • Hard Cider – made from apples, here’s a list you could check out and verify that these companies definitely offer gluten-free hard cider before making your purchase.
  • Hard alcohol – now this varies.  Not all hard alcohol is gluten-free.  Obviously you’ll need to avoid alcohol made from things like rye or wheat.  Some people will tell you that anything distilled, even when made from gluten-baring grains, is gluten-free and yet there are folks who say they’ve gotten sick from them.  I really don’t know what to tell you.  If I drink hard alcohol, I try to stick to pure
  •  Tequila pure Rum as both are made from non-gluten ingredients.  Spirits made without any grain such as brandy, wine, mead, cider, sherry, port, rum, tequila, and vermouth generally do not contain gluten.  But again, you’ll always want to double check that there are no flavors or additives in your choice of alcohol that may contain gluten. Please note:  At any point a manufacturer could change their recipe making my list obsolete.  So, do your homework.
  • Champagne is also an option for you as it’s a type of wine.  Again, I’d just double check that your brand of choice is gluten-free.
  • Another very low alcohol choice is Kombucha. It’s a fermented tea that is effervescent and is very low in alcohol.  It can be purchased at places like Whole Foods or made at home and is actually very good for gut health.


What Can I Eat In The Dining Hall?

gluten free dining hall

Let’s be real for a second. College dining hall food is mediocre at best. So don’t beat yourself up about the fact that the food may or may not be Gluten Free. On another note, the key to eating anywhere and being gluten free is staying safe. If you don’t trust the food DO NOT EAT IT. Feeling like absolute garbage because you decided to eat the garbage served in the dining hall is not worth it.

If the food served doesn’t have an ingredient list then I would avoid it. I’d say stick  to the salad bar but I must mention that I’ve heard horror stories about stray croutons.


Take notes: There is one thing I strongly suggest: if the people you talk to do not address your needs to your satisfaction, do not acknowledge the cross contamination issue, do not make it completely safe and feasible for you to eat in their cafeteria – DO NOT DO IT.


What Should I Do If My College Doesn’t Have A Gluten Free Menu?

Unfortunately, school policies and general knowledge and accommodation of Celiac Disease are not really up to the level we’d all like. Many schools have mandatory meal plans that do not consider the needs of Celiac students and do not consider cross contamination to be an issue. If you want to pursue the cafeteria route, try the FAAN College Network.

You can also speak with your schools  dietitian, food service manager or other administrator in charge of food.

Your next step should be going to the Dean of the college, explaining the situation in terms of what eating Gluten does to your quality of life and insisting your mandatory meal plan be waived.

Take Notes: Parental assistance can often be helpful in this endeavor as schools often see them as the money bags and the ones to please.


What Should I Tell My Roommates

If your living gluten-free, explaining it to others might be second nature by now. But when it comes to informing a roommate who will share living (and maybe cooking) space, clear communication is especially essential.

I would recommend having an “elevator speech” ready to explain your condition to roommates and other new friends, in a few sentences. Here’s an example of what you might say:

“I follow a gluten-free diet…no, it’s not a weight loss diet. It’s the diet to treat a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. If I eat anything with gluten (which comes from wheat, rye, oats, and barley products) I get really really sick. So I avoid foods that have it in the ingredients or have been touching it.”


dont touch my food

Don’t fucking touch my food and I wont touch yours


What Kind of Gluten Free Snacks Should I Keep In My Dorm?

 Unfortunately, in many states Celiac is not considered to be a ‘disability’ and thus, schools are less willing to go above and beyond providing foods that seem to be Gluten free. So you make have to survive off of what you keep in your dorm. Think of it as post apocalyptic survival mission! Below I have listed  30 Gluten Free Snacks You Can Keep In Your Dorm
  1. Water
  2. Sweet Potato Fries
  3. Frozen Grapes- Debbie from Words to Eat By convinced me to try them with this post and I have been happily munching on frozen grapes ever since.
  4. Marinated Carrots- Buy sliced carrot coins and marinate them overnight with your favorite low-sugar vinaigrette
  5. Edamame-
  6. Natural Peanut Butter on Celery
  7. Toasted Pumpkin Seeds or Roasted Sunflower Seeds-
  8. Apple Butter on a Rice Cake- Take notes: Quaker Rice Cakes are NOT gluten-free because of cross-contamination issues.
  9. Orange Slices-
  10. KIND bars-
  11. Gluten Free Cold Cerea
  12. Chocolate Covered Dried Apricots/Bananas- Microwave 2 oz. bittersweet chocolate in 30 sec. intervals stirring until melted (or use double-boiler). When it is throughly melted, dip the apricots (halfway) or bananas (I do the whole slice). Place the fruit on a cookie sheet covered in wax paper; sprinkle with crushed nuts. Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate is set.
  13. Dried Fruit with Nuts-
  14. Salsa/Pico de Gallo and Chips-  I buy Muir Glen’s Cilantro Garlic Salsa. You can also make nachos with gluten free Barbecue sauce or salsa (see Mrs. G.F.’s nachos)
  15. Hard-Boiled Egg-
  16. Pesto with Almond/Pecan Nut-Thin Crackers- Pesto can be made casein-free very easily with almonds, walnuts, etc (see my Cilantro Pesto recipe). For crackers, try Almond or Pecan Nut Thin Crackers or Mary’s Gone Crackers. If you want to try your hand at making homemade crackers- Ginger Lemon Girl has a recipe for crispy cheddar crackers.
  17. Popcorn
  18. Apricot Sorbet
  19. Tomatoes, cucumbers or avocados with Salt and balsamic vinegar
  20. Waffle Sticks with Natural Peanut/Almond/Cashew Butter
  21. Larabars- These are expensive like all health bars, but they are wonderful when you are in a pinch and very hungry! I really like them, but my two year old won’t eat them yet. You can buy them at Whole foods or at Amazon.
  22. Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans- Gluten Free Gobsmacked has a recipe for Fried Chickpeas. Chickpeas are packed with protein and they have a high fiber content, which prevents blood sugar levels from rising too rapidly after consuming this yummy snack.
  23. Corn Tortilla with Pinto Beans/Guacamole- Corn Tortillas are a staple for celiacs and the gluten-intolerant, so they had to make the list! Karina’s Kitchen has a recipe for Joey’s Kicked up Rockin’ Guacamole
  24. Smoothies
  25. Pepperoni
  26. Lettuce Wrap- Bibb Lettuce with tuna (try Cindalou’s recipe); or wrap hummus in lettuce like Vegan Momma.
  27. Gluten Free Cookies, Muffins, or Breads
  28. Juice Popsicles- Elise at Simply Recipes has a how-to on making juice popsicles.
  29. Brown Rice Tortilla Wraps
  30. Soups


What Kind Of Gluten Free Gear Should I Keep In My Dorm Dorm-Stocking

According to college students living with celiac disease, it’s much easier to stay gluten-free if you bring the following equipment along. Even if you’re  following a meal plan, being able to make some meals at home gives you a lot more flexibility. Since some of the appliances may not be permitted in dormitory rooms, check first with the Residence Life office to find out the school’s policies.

  • Microwave Many dorms already have communal microwaves, but these appliances, when shared, can get pretty dirty and thus could be a source of cross-contamination. Having a personal microwave allows your student to prepare his or her own foods safely. If it’s shared with a roommate, be sure to lay down ground rules about keeping it clean.
  • A micro-fridge.  If the dorm has a communal refrigerator, your student can keep his or her foods separated, in labeled boxes and zip-close bags.
  • Toaster or toaster oven These are usually not allowed in dorm rooms but in a shared kitchen, they’re a great asset. Stephanie, a blogger at, got permission to store her toaster in the dining hall kitchen for safe fallback meals. Hers was bright red and clearly labeled so that no one else would use it.
  • Small rice cooker or pasta cooker
  • Pots, pans, plates and eating/cooking utensils If your student shares some cooking facilities with others, having a separate supply of these is a big time-saver. Otherwise, they’ll have to wash dishes before and after using them to avoid cross-contamination.
  • A big supply of cleaning supplies, dishcloths and dishtowels. These are also life-saving in a shared kitchen, to keep gluten-free cookware and dishes safe. Include enough so that your student won’t have to do laundry frequently.
  • Large plastic storage boxes with lids. Having separate storage makes sure gluten-free items don’t “wander” or accidentally get cross-contaminated.
  • A small blender: for smoothies
  • Brita or Pur Pitcher: Save the planet and space by buying a water filter rather than trying to store 20 bottles of water in your fridge or in my room


If You Are Living On Campus, Have An Emergency Plan.

Make sure you have a plan, if become sick. Visit the school’s health office and the nearest pharmacy and establish an account so that you can get prescription medication. It’s also helpful to have a relationship with a local physician and/or gastroenterologist who can treat you if the need arises.

Take Notes: Under the Health Information Privacy Protection Act3, once you’re 18, you parents are not permitted to access your health information unless you grant them written permission to do so. Make sure these permissions are in place with the health care centers so they can contact your family.


Links & Sorces To Everything You’ll Need To Be Gluten Free And Happy

  3. Top 10 Cooking Tools for the GF College Student
  4. GF College Guide
  5. My Top 10 Ready Made Snack

Places to order Gluten Free and Resources



Maximillian Garland | Bright Futura Columnist

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4 Comments on “The Ultimate Guide To Being Gluten Free In College

  1. I like everything written here excluding the foul words used though. I'm pretty sure that all college students who will read this article will find it a lot easier to stick to a gluten-free diet as this write-up has everything covered-tips, tricks, food suggestions and so on. Overall, this is a helpful post that I'll consider going back to as a reference every now and then.

  2. It is an amazing article and i like your idea to write this awesome post.College presentation is playing a vital role in gaining the confidence in your life. It means that if you are a student and making yourself for today's market job. Then you must have a enough confidence to present in front of others for your success.

  3. You have great content and about the language you are using the right one for your audience. thank you a lot for your detailed strategy of survival .

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