If you haven't been living under a rock, you probably have noticed a rise in "gluten free" merchandise in grocery stores, restaurants, and even cosmetic products. Gluten free diets have skyrocketed in recent years, leaving millions of people worldwide scrambling to figure out how to survive the seemingly limiting diet.

In reality, it is quite easy to live without gluten. It takes some practice, especially if you are a newbie to the college lifestyle. It is especially hard if you love food- AKA me. Surviving college with Celiac disease is 100% doable, with a little research. This article is a first-hand experience of what I did during my time in undergrad while avoiding gluten and trust me- it wasn't as hard as it seemed. Good luck!

1. Pack Your Own Snacks

Olivia Chadwick

Whether it be a long road trip or a hiking expedition across a national park, it is imperative that you pack snacks. With the market flooded with gluten free packaged goods, finding a quick snack is a piece of cake. Try and steer clear of foods packed with sugar- I like to pack gluten free granola bars, cereals, homemade trail mix, or fresh fruit when I go on trips.

2. Recreate Classic Favorites

Olivia Chadwick

Just because you cannot eat gluten, does not mean that you cannot still enjoy your favorite foods. Find your go-to recipes and figure out how to swap out the gluten containing ingredients. Some of my favorites are macaroni and cheese,  sandwiches on Udi's GF bread, and gluten free chocolate brownies.

3. Don't Be Afraid to Eat Out

Olivia Chadwick

It can be terrifying to place your health in someone else's hands- especially if you are really sensitive to gluten. Restaurants nationwide are serving more and more gluten free options. Research gluten friendly options (check out this amazing list of GF fast food options nationwide) at your local restaurants, cafes, chains, or coffee shops. Many locations have started labeling nutrition and allergen information, which is my saving grace. If you order at a restaurant or retail location, notify them of your allergy so they limit cross contact. Even microscopic amounts (over 20 parts per million) can make us sick, unfortunately.

4. Ask for Nutrition Information

I read a lot of ingredient lists to make sure I do not accidentally ingest gluten. Many colleges are becoming transparent their menu items, providing nutrition information such as calories, allergens, ingredient lists, and carbohydrate counts. The FDA has recently come out with gluten free labeling rules, which may help when interpreting packaged foods. However, if a product says "certified gluten free" on the package, it is safe to eat for Celiac customers.

5. Befriend the Chef or Manager

The chefs at your college dedicate their time and effort into making delicious food for your campus. Most chefs have been thoroughly trained in food safety and food allergies, so it wouldn't hurt to introduce yourself and ask questions. After all, they are the ones making your food.

6. Explore Customizable Options

Olivia Chadwick

A lot of dining halls have display or action stations, where you are able to order exactly what you want. At NC State, I was able to pick and choose what I wanted in my bowl or dish, making it easy to avoid gluten containing ingredients. If you suspect cross contact, ask them to change their gloves or remake the dish. 

7. Learn to Make Simple, Gluten Free Meals

Olivia Chadwick

One of the biggest things I learned when I went off to college is that cooking for yourself is a necessity. That way, you are 100% sure what is going in your food, without the fear or risk of getting sick for hours (or even days). I started small, with dishes like gluten free pancakes or a chicken vegetable soup. Pretty soon, you will be a pro at making gluten free foods!

8. Eat More Naturally Gluten Free Foods

Olivia Chadwick

A common misconception to eating gluten free foods is that they are automatically healthier. In reality, many gluten free packaged goods are loaded with excess sugar and salt, to make the product more appealing. Focusing on naturally gluten free foods, such as fruit, vegetables, meats, nuts, potatoes, rice, beans, and dairy is an easy way to steer clear of gluten and get your nutrients in.

9. Check Out the Local Farmer's Market

Olivia Chadwick

While purchasing naturally gluten free foods, why not support a local farmer? Farmer's markets are great tools when it comes to finding the highest quality, lowest cost option. I try and stop by the State Farmers Market once a week to pick up fresh fruits (peach season has my wallet screaming) and huge $2 bags of kale. More bang for your buck- all without gluten.

10. Join a Club

Olivia Chadwick

When I first arrived to NC State as a freshman, I was overwhelmed with the amount of clubs I could join. After a little research, I found out that campus had a food allergy club! I started to attend meetings and befriended some really cool people with similar dietary restrictions. Here I am (second from left) on a Whole Foods allergen friendly tour.

Having Celiac disease is not the end of the world.

If I can get through college avoiding a large component of college food, so can you. Talking with friends and family is also a great way to feel supported and confident. Eating is a very social activity, and nobody deserves to be deprived of what they love.