How to survive college with celiac disease

Celiacs at College


Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day and the easiest one to eat gluten-free in college. You may not be able to grab a quick bowl of cereal or a bagel (unless you brought one with you), but there's still plenty of choices available for breakfast. My cafeteria at Ithaca College had an amazing omelette station that was open every morning. This was my failsafe. If I could eat nothing else on rotation, I still had a large omelette, which can be a meal by itself. However, most days there would be other gluten-free breakfast items available. The cafeteria often served some kind of hash browns, bacon, eggs, yogurt, and fruit. After I checked that the sausage was gluten-free with the head chef, that was a choice too. Going even further, I kept a packet of granola in my purse that I could sprinkle onto my yogurt. And with my toaster and tubs in the kitchen, I could make toast and waffles whenever I wanted. Just be careful about the condiment section. Try to bring your own mini packets of butter, cream cheese, or jam since the existing ones can be contaminated by the student body. Also, don't forget your vitamin supplements - as you may know Vitamin D and calcium are common deficiencies in celiacs. If you're like me and hate the huge caplets, try Hero Nutritionals Slice of Life, gummy vitamins for adults. Yummy.


I was on a 14 meal/per week plan and lunch was the meal I skipped in the dining hall. Although there might be some options like stirfrys on rotation, I found lunch the hardest meal to eat gluten-free. Therefore lunch was cooked and served in my dorm room. My most common meal were sandwich wraps. I buy packets of frozen cheese wraps from Kathie at Gluten Free: Gloriously. Defrost 10 seconds on high - that's it. One of my favorites is to stuff these wraps with Perdue Short Cuts (flavored chicken pieces), shredded cheese, romaine lettuce & ranch or honey mustard dressing (GF of course). If you can't get the wraps or you dislike cheese (or are dairy intolerant), try stocking up on corn tortillas from a mexican restaurant. With a paper plate, a fridge, and a microwave in the dorm, this provided a good nutritious lunch with no cleanup.

I would also make Kathie's pizza every few weeks in the oven provided in our residence building. After cutting it up and packaging the pieces, I would have leftovers to heat in the microwave for a few days. Another idea is sushi. It's expensive but sometimes I'd buy some from the on-campus store and eat it for lunch with either no soy sauce or my GF soy sauce brought from home. As a last resort, if cooking isn't for you or your classes make it impossible to make lunch, buy a smoothie. These can be found on almost any campus and they at least provide some nutrition between breakfast and dinner. 


For dinner, the only reference I have is my own experience and the set-up of the dining halls probably differs between colleges. At my college there's 3 dining halls. At the one I attend the most, there's a section for regular meals and then another special food station with either a rice or pasta stirfry. That rice stirfry is what saved me. After making sure with the head chef that I could eat the stirfry with no sauce, meaning the rice, vegetables, meat, and salt seasoning, I ate variations of this most of the year. Thank god I love rice. Every week I would check online, where the menus are set up for each dining hall, and pick which one to eat at depending on which one was serving rice that day. On the occasion that everything was pasta, I would eat what I could from the regular meal section. On those days, I could be stuck eating like a vegetarian, eating bland food without sauce, or eating little in general. Luckily with 3 dining halls, I could usually find a rice dish somewhere. If you're not a fan of rice, or you have a different style to your eating areas, you may need to ask one of the chefs for a special meal. As an alternative I would go out to eat or I would make one of the pizzas in my dorm if nothing good was available or if I wanted a change of pace. In the end, just make sure you have options and make it a goal to eat a wholesome dinner every night.