Gluten-Free Diets on Campus
With all of the recent buzz in the news and social media about gluten, it may be confusing to find facts about gluten – what it is, where does it comes from and who should eat it – or avoid it? Some sources will tell you that everyone should be avoiding gluten, and others will say that we should just limit the amount we eat. Is this information really accurate? Read on to clear up some common misconceptions about gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley as well as hybrid grains like spelt, kamut and triticale. Oats may also contain gluten due to cross-contact unless otherwise labeled gluten-free. Gluten is an important part of food chemistry. Gluten protein is one component that provides the structure in breads and baked goods. It helps to “hold up” the bread as it rises similarly to the way support beams hold up the structure of a building.
Common sources of gluten include breads, cereals, pasta, baked goods, sauces, salad dressings and soups. Foods that are acceptable for a gluten-free diet include naturally gluten-free whole foods including meats, poultry, eggs, seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables, potatoes and yams, dairy products and grains such as rice, quinoa, and corn. Alternate food products labeled Certified Gluten-Free such as gluten-free breads, waffles, muffins and other baked products are also acceptable on a gluten free diet. Look for the certified gluten free label below when selecting gluten-free products:
A gluten-free diet is appropriate for those individuals who have Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and Wheat Allergy. It is estimated that approximately 1% of the population has Celiac Disease, and a gluten free diet is the only effective treatment in managing this auto-immune disease. For those on the gluten spectrum with gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy, avoidance of gluten has been shown to effectively decrease symptoms. For more information about celiac disease and gluten-free diets, check out the following link:
It is important to note that it is always best to get a proper diagnosis by a board certified physician if you suspect you have gluten intolerance. For those who do not have a diagnosis on the gluten spectrum, a gluten-free diet may not be appropriate. There is no evidence that a gluten free diet is healthier than a regular diet (unless on the gluten spectrum), or that it is an effective way to lose weight. Furthermore, many nutrients that are enriched in grain products such as B vitamins, folate and iron, may not be present in gluten-free products. Foods containing gluten can be eaten within the dietary guidelines for whole grains to provide complex carbohydrates for energy, iron, B vitamins, folate and fiber for those who are not on the gluten spectrum as part of a healthy diet.
If you have been diagnosed on the gluten spectrum as a college student, it is very important to adhere to a gluten-free diet. Following a gluten-free diet can be challenging enough at home, but it may be especially tricky as a college student living and eating on campus. Rest assured, however, that the Dining Services Team at Messiah College has been paying special attention to ensure that gluten-free options are available on the menu. In my experience in working with those students who follow a gluten-free diet, several issues are common concerns. These concerns and solutions often include:
|Are gluten free dietary alternatives provided at Lottie?||I want to make a sandwich. Where do I find the gluten-free bread?||Find Gluten Free alternate products in the “Dietary Alternatives” section at Lottie.||Examples of some of the GF alternate products Lottie carries include:
French Meadow Bakery, Udi’s, General Mills, Enjoy Life, Van’s, Earth Balance and Organicville.
Note: Brands subject to change.
|How can I make sure that the gluten-free item has not come in contact with gluten-containing foods?||You want a salad from the salad bar, but there are croutons right next to the lettuce.||Contact a Dining staff member to make arrangements to prevent cross-contact.||Ask a staff member for a gluten-free pre-made salad which is stored in a gluten-free refrigerator, and ask a staff member at the salad bar for the gluten-free salad dressing selections.|
|How do I check for hidden sources of gluten in recipes?||Is the gravy for the roast beef made with corn starch or flour, and can I eat it?||No, the gravy contains flour, and is not gluten-free. Meet with a Dining staff member to review ingredient lists of specific items which are questionable.||Refer to the Dining Services website page at
http://www.messiah.edu/offices/dining/special-dietary/links.htm Go to the HELM page for reliable nutrition websites including the Celiac Disease Foundation – www.celiac.org for a list of hidden sources of gluten.
|Is there specified gluten-free equipment such as a gluten-free toaster, microwave and waffle maker?||You would like to toast your gluten free bread, but are concerned the toaster has been used for toasting regular bread.||Use the gluten-free equipment such as a gluten-free toaster, microwave and waffle maker in the “Dietary Alternatives” area labeled for gluten-free use only.||Make a homemade Belgium waffle with gluten free batter on the gluten free waffle maker!|
|Where do I find labels to identify gluten-free options on the Lottie menu?||The Sofrito Chicken, Spanish Rice and Cilantro Slaw sound good for dinner. Can I be sure these recipes are gluten-free?||Yes, all of these menu items are labeled gluten-free. Look for the gluten-free Food Allergy and Intolerance Icon Label:
|Located on the menus outside Lottie, at the serving area, on the nutrition bulletin board and on the Dining webpage at: http://www.messiah.edu/offices/dining/menu-location-hours.html.
Gluten-free menu items are also located on the Dining HELM menus at: http://www.messiah.edu/offices/dining/residential-dining/documents/HELM
|I want to eat at the Union Café or Falcon. What gluten-free options are available?||I would enjoy the loaded potato soup and apple harvest salad. Are they safe for me to eat?||Yes, the loaded potato soup is gluten-free along with a few other soups. Customize the apple harvest salad without croutons or a roll and use gluten-free dressing.||Look for the Gluten-Free symbol on the Union Café and Falcon menus for GF items including soups, eggs, and salads. Order burgers, grilled chicken and cheesesteaks without a roll. Customize or create your own gluten-free salads by omitting gluten-containing ingredients and choose a gluten-free salad dressing. Order a side of gluten-free chips or fresh fruit as a side.|
Not only have these issues been addressed here on campus, but the Dining Team is able to meet individually with students who may still have questions or concerns about their gluten-free diet. It is the goal of the Dining Services Team to provide a safe and enjoyable dining experience to all our students, including those on a gluten-free diet. Please refer to the Messiah College Dining Services home page at http://www.messiah.edu/offices/dining/dining-services-team.html to contact a staff member who can help you to navigate gluten-free dining at Messiah College.