Navigate college food while being gluten-free

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The Daily Illini File Photo

A worker constructs a pizza at Mia Za’s on Green Street on Dec. 1, 2017. Mia Za’s is a gluten-free option on campus.

By Carolina Garibay, Staff Writer

If you have celiac disease, a gluten intolerance or just want to cut gluten out of your diet, you might know how difficult finding food options can be. Maintaining a gluten-free diet may even seem more difficult in college, which isn’t exactly known for being the hub of gluten-free options. Luckily, this doesn’t have to be a problem, and you can easily find gluten-free options on campus by following a few tips.  

Download the Find Me Gluten Free app

If you’re gluten-free and haven’t downloaded this app yet, you should consider doing so. Find Me Gluten Free is a gluten-free food finder that can help out if you don’t know any good food options. The app will use your location to pull up different restaurants with gluten-free options reported by other Find Me Gluten Free users, and you can read restaurant reviews. Many users even add pictures of the menu to give you a better idea of what options it has. The app also allows you to select what type of food you want to help narrow your food search.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to dining halls

I’m guilty of being too afraid to talk to the dining halls about gluten-free options in fear of being a burden. However, I have realized that most dining halls on campus have gluten-free options and are happy to accommodate. The dining staff is there to help you! Speaking up for yourself is important, especially concerning something like food, which is a necessity. This advice goes for other events that your dorm may be holding, such as floor events where the incentive for showing up is pizza. Talk to your resident advisers to ensure gluten-free options will be available for you.

Join the Gluten-Free Illini

UI has a club called Gluten-Free Illini, which is a community of students who are gluten-free on campus. If you’re looking for gluten-free suggestions and tips or want to be part of a community that understands your struggles, this would be a great club for you to join. This club would be especially helpful if you’re a freshman or newly gluten-free since its members are students of all ages and have had experience being gluten-free on campus. 

Consider trying gluten-free substitutions 

Another way to ensure that you have a selection of gluten-free foods to eat is by trying some of the gluten-free substitutions at restaurants on campus. Noodles and Company and Mia Za’s, both located on Green Street, offer zucchini noodles instead of pasta noodles. Jimmy Johns, also on Green Street, offers a lettuce wrap instead of bread. Besides those healthy substitutions for glutenous foods, Noodles and Company also has gluten-free pipette noodles. Mia Za’s has a gluten-free pizza crust if you’re looking for more substitutions. A few other places around campus that are gluten-friendly include Maize, Caffé Bene, Domino’s, Meatheads, Thara Thai and Biaggi’s. 

Hopefully, these tips make gluten-free life in college a little easier. You might even discover some more information on your own as you explore what the campus offers. Gluten-free eating is becoming more popular by the minute, so keep your eyes peeled for more potential gluten-free options. 

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