By Rachel Begun, MS, RD
Are you gluten-free and heading off to college? Do you think you are exempt from gaining the proverbial “Freshman 15″? Think again.
There is misinformation and hype floating around suggesting the gluten-free diet is a weight-loss diet. As a seasoned and experienced registered dietitian and expert in the gluten-free arena, I’m here to tell you that it just isn’t so.
Like any dietary pattern, a healthful gluten-free diet is about the choices you make. You can choose mostly whole, unprocessed foods that will fill your body with the nutrients it needs to be academically and physically successful, or you can choose highly processed foods that will drag you down and make it easier to pack on the pounds.
As the saying goes, old habits die hard. Just as now is the time to start laying down the foundation for your professional and social life, it is also the time to instill healthy eating habits that will last you a lifetime.
So, as you head off to college, here are some tips to help you eat both safely and healthfully.
Focus on naturally gluten-free foods
Fresh or minimally-processed fruits and vegetables, lean meats, poultry and fish, legumes, low fat dairy, gluten-free whole grains, nuts and seeds are your best bets for eating both safely and healthfully. Save packaged gluten-free foods for when you want to indulge in a treat or need the convenience.
Purchase healthful staples
Campus foodservice associates are usually more than happy to stock stashes of gluten-free staples for students in need. Before leaving for school, do your due diligence to learn which brands are the best options so you can recommend them to the foodservice staff for purchasing. If the foodservice team can’t stock them for you, offer to purchase them yourself and have them stashed away in a safe place in the kitchen where they won’t be contaminated.
Power comes in numbers. Ask the admissions office to put you in contact with other gluten-free students. Come to consensus on healthful brands so the foodservice team can purchase one brand for all. This will make it easier for them to provide you with healthier options.
Be prepared for spontaneous eating
If you have been living gluten-free for a significant period of time, you know that you have to plan ahead to be prepared for spontaneous eating occasions. Keep your dorm room stocked with safe and healthy options for late night snacking, Saturday afternoon football games or times when the campus dining rooms may be closed.
It’s important to let school administrators know about your needs before living arrangements are assigned. This way they can potentially assign you to a suite with a kitchenette or a room large enough to fit a mini refrigerator. The more food preparation that is under your control, the more healthfully and safely you can eat.
For more gluten-free resources for college students, visit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s reference page at www.CeliacCentral.org/college
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness offers Vitacost.com website visitors weekly recipes and blogs about living the gluten-free lifestyle. For more information about celiac disease and gluten-free living, visit www.celiaccentral.org.