Struggles Gluten Dairy

The Struggles of Being Gluten and Dairy Free in College

“Wanna go grab some pizza?” No I can’t. “Oh, then why don’t we go out for ice cream?” No I can’t. “Okay, Chinese food?” No I can’t. 

That brief dialogue sums up my life. Going out to eat with friends or even attending any get-togethers or events is always a hassle because I’m intolerant to both gluten and dairy. I’m well-known for taking my lightly salted Quaker’s rice cakes topped with all natural Skippy peanut butter everywhere I go, just in case there isn’t anything I’m able to eat. If you’re out and there’s no food for you, you just might starve.

Going out to a restaurant is a major step outside the comfort zone for gluten and dairy free folks as well, especially if it’s a restaurant you haven’t been to before. People with this allergy have to research the menu prior to getting there to ensure that they can cater to one’s dietary needs. 

The most awkward part is ordering food. Usually my order goes along the lines of “Can I have the caesar salad with no parmesan cheese, no croutons, and no dressing?” The waiter’s response is typically, “So you just want lettuce?”, and I reply, “Yes, just lettuce.” Then you have to make certain the waiter has fully understood you and has written down your order correctly. No one wants to be that aggressive customer that questions the waiter’s listening skills, but the gluten and dairy free population can’t take any risks. This whole process makes something that should be enjoyable, eating and socializing with friends and family, inconvenient and burdensome.

“My son’s girlfriend is on a gluten-free diet and she came to visit. I never had paid attention to nutrition labels before but I found that ShopRite in Long Branch has an entire gluten-free section,” Instructor of English, Mary Bulvanoski said,  “I was glad that my son forewarned me about his girlfriend’s diet because if she came to my house and couldn’t eat anything, I would not have felt hospitable and she probably would have felt bad as well,” said Bulvanoski.  

Gluten and dairy intolerances and allergies are becoming more and more prevalent in the United States. An intolerance to food has to do with digestive problems whereas an allergy causes an immune system response that attacks organs and can be more severe and even life-threatening. Some conditions are more unbearable and painful than others, as said on 

Kirsten Hogan, a freshman pre-med student at Raritan Valley Community College, suffers from lactose intolerance. “I risk the pain and suffering for the enjoyment of ice cream because I can’t live without having ice cream in my life,” said Hogan. Some people just can’t let go of their favorite foods, despite their stomachs begging them to stop.

There are also different reasons, besides having intolerances and allergies, that people avoid eating gluten and dairy. Gluten-free diets are becoming popular in the United States because it is publicized that it can contribute to weight loss. Being gluten-free is also trendy and some people try it just to see if they can endure it. Vegans are dairy-free because they don’t eat or drink products that derive from animals. 

Corey Wrenn, lecturer of political science and sociology, has been a vegan since she was 17 due to animals rights reasons and social justice. “ I’ve been a vegan so long that I know the tricks, like how there are options for me at Subway or Taco Bell,” said Wrenn.

Going to college brings up  another concern for incoming freshman with food allergies. Most people are nervous for the transition from high school to college because they have to make new friends,manage strenuous homework, and are going to be away from home for the first time. 

For me, my biggest worry was how I would deal with my restricted diet. I would no longer have the luxury of my mom making me separate, uncontaminated, home-cooked meals. I had to start all over again and find the “safe” foods and places that I could eat. 

Fortunately,  Magill Commons has adapted to the gluten and dairy free epidemic. Walking through the dining hall for the first time, I felt like a child walking through Toys-R-Us, mesmerized and excited. I was awestruck by the countless food options available for me. There is a specific food allergy section that contains delicacies such as gluten free muffins, donuts, and cookies. There’s a variety of vegan milks, such as soy milk and almond milk. There are gluten free wraps and breads available in the sandwich line. Also, all of the entrees are labeled and it indicates if they have gluten or dairy in them, saving me from having to embarrassingly ask the chef questions and hold up the lines. 

Having food intolerances can be rough, but at Monmouth, I feel like I’m a normal person that can eat anything, with all the choices available for me. Being a part of the gluten and dairy free subculture has made me learn to celebrate the little things in life, like turkey lettuce and tomato on a gluten free wrap.