As we are now into September and University start dates are fast approaching, I thought it would be useful to post a blog with my 10 top tips for surviving University with Coeliac disease (or any food allergies and intolerances). If you do have coeliac disease or food intolerances, you will know how challenging going about your day to day life can be and unfortunately, starting university if no exception to this. As someone that has been through living a gluten free lifestyle at University I have learnt so many different tips and tricks which I would love to share with you all. I hope this is helpful for those of you that are starting University in the next couple of weeks!
1. Talk to your housemates!
The most important and first thing you should do when starting University and living in a shared environment is to talk to your housemates and make sure they are aware of what you can and cannot eat. It’s important that they know the extent of how poorly it could make you if you were to eat certain types of foods. I know this is probably quite daunting, talking to people you have never met before about something so serious but it’s so important that they know and once they do know it will make things a lot easier!
2. Have your own shelf in the Fridge and cupboards!
Once you have told your housemates, you will probably find that they are very supportive and helpful in making sure that you don’t a consume anything that you shouldn’t. One of my top tips would be to ensure that you have your own shelf in the fridge and your own shelf in the cupboard. Preferably the top shelf because that way, nothing can fall onto your shelf or drip down! This will ensure that none of your food is cross contaminated with anything you cannot eat.
3. Be extra careful with toasters, ovens etc!
Living in a shared house and using the same kitchen appliance’s can be difficult when everyone else is eating foods that make you ill! To get around this make sure you invest in lots of toaster bags and tin foil so that whenever you are using the toaster or oven, your food will not come into contact with any previous food that has been cooked in the same place. It would also be worth investing in your own chopping boards, cutlery, plates, trays and saucepans and making sure that everyone you live with knows that they are yours and shouldn’t be used. That way, there is no chance of cross contamination taking place!
4. Keep a stash of gluten free pasta in the cupboard!
I’m pretty sure that if you were to speak to any University student and ask what they ate the most of during their time living in shared accommodation, it would be pasta! It’s a University staple food and essential for those days where you don’t have time to pop to the supermarket or have deadlines to meet! Therefore make sure you keep a bag of gluten free pasta in the cupboard in case of emergencies!
5. Save money by buying reduced gluten free bread
Notoriously, uni students never have any money and tend to live off pasta and baked beans! So having to buy gluten free products can be difficult due to the fact they seem to cost triple the amount as normal products! My top tip and what I still do now is go food shopping in the evening, (around 7pm) as this is when the shops normally reduce all of their gluten free bread. This can then be popped in the freezer and taken out when necessary.
6. Batch cook meals
With deadlines looming and fresher’s in full swing, there is definitely not always time to make a nutritious evening meal every night, especially when there are numerous different people sharing the same kitchen (and normally all wanting to cook at the same time!). Another one of my top tips is to batch cook meals so that they last for a few days. They can then be frozen or kept in the fridge and eaten as a quick meal by just popping them in the microwave or oven. This can be done with chilli con carne, spaghetti bolognaise, pasta bake, casseroles etc.
7. Always have gluten free snacks handy!
It might be different for different University campuses but the cafeteria at my campus didn’t really sell any gluten free snacks (sob!). Therefore another top tip would be to make sure you always have a gluten free snack bar handy in your bag in case you are feeling peckish! Some lectures or meetings can go on for hours and there’s nothing worse then feeling so hungry that your stomach starts growling.
8. Find others with Coeliac disease
Coeliac disease is something that affects a fair amount of people and there’s bound to be others at University who are in the same boat. Therefore, try and find friends with coeliac disease that you could talk to, eat with and share tips! A great way to find others is through social media.
9. Research local restaurants with a gluten free menu
Going out for meals was a big part of my University life however it can be difficult when you are unsure if there is anything you can eat! Make sure you research the restaurants in the area beforehand so you don’t get caught out and end up with a side salad! Recently, I have found that lots of restaurants have started offering a gluten free menu which is great and makes life much easier.
10. Offer to make a shared meal for your housemates
Making shared meals at University was something that seemed to happen a lot but can be problematic when you can’t eat numerous types of food! My top tip would be to offer to make a (gluten free) meal for all of your housemate’s so that they are aware of what you can and can’t eat and see that gluten free meals can also be tasty! This means in the future they will know what sort of things you can and can’t eat which is helpful for them when it’s their turn to do the cooking!
So that’s all of my top tips for surviving University of a Coeliac! I really hope this has come in useful and if you have any questions please let me know.