When I was fourteen years old, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, or severe gluten intolerance due to an autoimmune disease. A few months later, I was diagnosed with almost twenty other food intolerances. This discovery occurred when I was living in China, so my family and I spent the next year learning what I could and could not eat, both at home and at restaurants. However, when I returned to the States for college, I basically had to relearn how to eat. I researched restaurants menus, read food labels, and found new recipes. My parents could not cook for me anymore, forcing me to learn how to survive in college with food allergies.
The first food service that I encountered when coming to college was the cafeteria. I discovered that because my university required that I buy a meal plan, they were likewise required to cater to my dietary needs. When I began my college experience, I would usually ask the cafeteria staff to make me whatever I wanted to eat. If I did not want what they were offering or if they did not have something I could eat, I could ask for some of the secret stash of gluten-free products they kept in the kitchen. As I became busier in college, I started to change the way I ate in the caff. Now, I do not spend nearly as much time creating the perfect meal: I grab whatever I can eat and run out the door to work or to study. Because I’ve spent two years gazing at the caff’s food choices, I can normally recognize the foods that I am able to eat. Depending on one’s intolerance sensitivity, however, these methods may not suffice. I cannot eat any gluten whatsoever without repercussions, so I often regret not asking about the ingredients of dishes. Generally speaking, I select what I want to eat from the line, ask the chef which of those foods I can eat, and supplement them with things I am certain I can eat, such as selections from the salad bar or grill.
When my palate craves food outside the range of the capabilities of the cafeteria, I go to my favorite on-or-off-campus dining establishments. At DBU, we have Mooyah, Chick-Fil-A, and the Daily Bread Bistro, each of which has menu items that they can make for me. When I am able to get off-campus, I frequent Peiwei, Chipotle, and other such “healthy” restaurants, as they are more likely to cater (and even recognize) food allergies and intolerances. However, selecting the safest location at which to dine is mostly up to the individual to research, based on what is close to the student’s campus. Most restaurants have their menu and nutritional information on their website; some even have gluten or other allergy-free menus online or in the physical restaurant. It is becoming easier and easier for people with intolerances to find things to eat.
Eating in the cafeteria and in off-campus restaurants are the most convenient options for busy students to eat, but it is very difficult for people with intolerances to learn where they can conveniently eat safely. Don’t worry; you can do it! My advice is to befriend the staff of your favorite establishments. Every chef and manager who works in the caff knows my name; the director of the bistro knows my order and the procedure to keep it gluten free without my direction. This is the easiest and safest way to enjoy and succeed in eating during your college years, especially when you do not have time to cook for yourself. The phrase “friends in high places” comes into practice in cases such as these. Politely ask lots of questions, and do not hesitate to confirm that the chefs know how to prepare the space where they work to avoid cross-contamination. I promise; you can survive! Happy eating!
Intolerance-friendly Cinnamon Streusel Coffee Cake
- 1/3 cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
- 2 tablespoons flax seed meal, mixed with 6 tablespoons water (allow to sit for >5 minutes before adding)
- ¾ cup “buttermilk” soy milk (¾ tablespoons vinegar in ¾ cup measuring cup, fill up the rest of the way with soy milk)
- 1 tsp gluten free vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups gluten free flour blend (NO xanthan gum) (I use Bob’s Red Mill)
- 1 cup coconut sugar
- ¾ teaspoon xanthan gum
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon (I use ¼ tsp nutmeg and ¼ tsp cloves because I am intolerant to cinnamon)
- ¼ cup coconut sugar
- 2 tablespoons gluten free flour blend
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon (OR half nutmeg/cloves again)
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
- 1 tablespoon canola oil
- Generously grease a 7 x 11 inch (grey, not black; also glass is okay) baking pan. Preheat the oven to 340 degrees F.
- In a mixing bowl, beat the oil, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla with a whisk or electric mixer until the mixture is smooth.
- Gradually add the rest of the cake ingredients slowly, mixing well between each ingredient.
- Pour into prepared pan.
- In a small bowl, mix toppings together; sprinkle evenly on top of batter.
- Here, you can either cover tightly with foil and put in the fridge for <24 hours, or put it in the oven.
- Bake 35 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Written by Michelle