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Surviving Celiac: How to Navigate Dietary Restrictions in College

This summer, I found the answer to a question I’ve been asking myself since I began my freshman year at Boston College: Why is my ability to eat so messed up? The issues that I brushed off as symptoms of adjusting to a new setting and food options turned out to be a larger problem—I have celiac disease. And my diagnosis turned my life upside down. How was I supposed to cut out pasta, bread, pizza, baked goods, and so many of my other favorite gluten-based dishes? After pondering solutions at home over the summer, one main question loomed. How in the world was I going to navigate this when I returned to campus?

In my time at BC before my diagnosis, I discovered my tried and true staples in the dining halls—a deli sandwich from Eagles Nest, a slice of pizza from Mac, and pasta dishes with breaded chicken. This year, none of these are an option for me.

While I was upset to miss out on my favorite BC meals, my main concern was nutritional value. As someone who also experiences low iron, receiving the proper amount of protein is incredibly important to me. So, as I’m experimenting to find the best strategy, here are my suggestions for navigating campus with a dietary restriction. 

Add Protein Into Dishes

Oftentimes, I add protein sources to meals lacking in sustenance. At Lower, the Rat, or Mac, I always make sure to put chicken, eggs, chickpeas, or beans into my salads or other dishes. It’s important to receive protein in each and every meal. While the salad bar is often the easiest option for those with dietary restrictions, having salads for multiple meals a day is not sufficient for the nutrition our bodies need to stay happy and healthy. Don’t get me wrong—I love my salads as much as the next person. But for those with dietary restrictions, it’s important to consider how we’re eating and if we are keeping our bodies satisfied. 

Substitute, Substitute, Substitute!

Many meals at BC come with bread, tortilla, or another starch on the side, which is definitely not an option for me. Instead of just skipping the carbs altogether, I’ve been substituting rice for starch whenever possible to best recreate the original dish. For example, Lower had some delicious tortas for dinner the other night. Unfortunately for my celiac self, this was served on bread. So, I opted to have all of the original ingredients besides the torta, and I paired them with rice. While this wasn’t exactly accurate to the original dish, I could still incorporate carbs into my meal.

Reliable Microwaveable Meals

I recently discovered that the gluten-free fridges in Lower and the Rat have many microwaveable options. While these aren’t always the most practical or time-efficient, they’re a reliable option always available on campus. These fridges often contain mac and cheese, burritos, bowls, or other Amy’s Kitchen products. Thanks, Amy. While these dishes may take more time out of your day, they add some variety to your diet and serve as a dependable meal choice.

Navigating a drastic and immediate change to my everyday diet and life is difficult, just as being a student with dietary restrictions continues to be. But, I’ve come to learn that there are options, options that might work for you too!

September 14, 2023