Gluten: the main ingredient in all things starchy and indulgent. So, when I tell people I'm gluten-free, I'm hit with either the extreme "oh my god I would die" response, or the clueless "what even is gluten?" But, here I am surviving in college with a gluten-free diet. 

Rewind to seven years ago before I was immersed into this wheat-free life. After eating your typical pizza and french fries, I would immediately feel like crap. I'd feel tired, my stomach would bloat to make me look pregnant, and my face would start to break out. A recipe for disaster. I told myself it wasn't the food I was eating, in an effort to avoid such a drastic diet change. But, the problem persisted, and before long my doctor had me on an elimination diet. This isn't your typical "diet" to lose weight, it's more a way to find out which main food groups effect your body negatively. So, I cut out dairy, soy, eggs, and gluten, each for two weeks. And you guessed it, gluten was the culprit.  

I knew very little about a gluten-free diet, but what I did know was that it's basically in EVERYTHING: bagels, fries, soy sauce (yes, weird I know), donuts, and basically anything that is a carb. After long hours of research and feeling like my diet would consist of nothing but tasteless and un-flavorful foods, I was determined to make gluten-free living as tasty as possible.   

Intolerances vs. Celiac Disease

Luckily, I was only intolerant, because having Celiac's would be a completely different story. Having Celiac Disease can be life- threatening, and I'm thankful not to have that. The difference between having an intolerance and an allergy is that I can have trace amounts and be okay. 

Define Gluten   

So, what even is gluten? To most people's surprise, it isn't an added ingredient, it's a protein. It can be found in most grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Gluten is basically the glue that holds food together, a reason some gluten-free products are quite unappealing. But, gluten can also be "hidden" in foods that you would least suspect like, soy sauce and anything malted. Malt is germinated barley and soy sauce is made from fermented soybeans and good ol' wheat. 

The Good Stuff AKA Food 

Finding edible (and affordable) food that doesn't taste like sand or fall apart before you eat it is the hard part. Gluten-free products are all about the consistency. Does it resemble actual bread or does it just flake off? I've tried several breads, cake mixes, and baked goods, most of them resulting in disappointment. However, as gluten-free diets are becoming more of a lifestyle, I have recently been able to find foods that taste like your typical pizza or cookie. Like most allergen-free foods, they come with a price tag. Be prepared to ALWAYS have to pay a few extra dollars (college students, I'm sorry).   

Tani Horton

Yes, while at points of weakness, I wish I could just eat the glutenous, delectable, chocolate chip cookie, but, my body would hate me. I'm happy to say that after seven years gluten-free, I wouldn't go back to it, regardless of my intolerance. So, who is ready to join the gluten-free bandwagon??