Grilled cheese, pizza, and chicken tenders are staples for many college students. For the gluten-free foodie, however, these foods served in college dining halls just taunt. Sure, they smell tempting, but all you can do is admire from afar. Don’t let yourself waste a meal swipe or points to leave breakfast/lunch/dinner unsatisfied. After living on a college campus for just a semester, I gathered five important tips for gluten-free college students. 

1) Don't be afraid to ask. 

This might seem obvious, but don’t be afraid to politely ask if there’s a gluten-free version of whatever the main hot dish is being served. It’s easy for students (particularly first years) to feel uncomfortable asking for substitutes, but when you walk away with a hot and tasty gluten-free spanakopita, you’ll understand why this tip is ranked number 1.

coffee, beer
Effie Henry

2) Get on that gluten-free bread.

Have you found yourself gazing at the prepared sandwiches thinking, "that looks delicious but I can’t sink my teeth into the goodness because of the glutinous bread holding it together?" Gluten-free bread is just as good of a vehicle for your chicken, pesto, tomato, and mozz. 

sweet, bread, coffee, chocolate
Aakanksha Joshi

If your school has a designated bread section or even just a singular bag of gluten-free bread, toast it, and add whatever toppings are available. Don’t be afraid to get adventurous: you might discover the next Fool's Gold Loaf, Elvis’s favorite bacon-filled peanut butter and jelly (some inspiration below).

pecan, bread, butter, apple, toast
Katrina Cuthbertson

#Spoon Tip: Try adding chia seeds to nut butters before spreading on bread to add extra nutrients. The little seeds swell in size from the water in your body once they are digested and can ensure you leave the dining hall energized. 

condiment, sesame seed, cumin, coffee, relish, herb, cereal
Caroline Ingalls

3) Stock up

Keep your room stocked with gluten-free cereals and bars in case the late night munchies hit while you’re studying (and by studying I mean binge-watching the new season of New Girl). This is necessary because most vending machines at school or late night options don’t have gluten-free options that aren’t candy-coated stomach aches or deep fried regret. Personally, I like Puffins and Rice Chex with cinnamon and almond milk!

sauce, beef, pork, meat
Shelby Cohron

4) Cozy up with some soup and rice

Soup (gluten free) + Rice= hearty, filling, and perfect for winter weather. 

#SpoonTip: Add sriracha to every/any soup to add extra flavor.

omelette, omelet, cheese, croissant
Danielle Vaamonde

5) Load up on minimally processed foods

Sure, you may not be able to enjoy mac and cheese from the cafeteria, but there are so many foods out there that don’t contain gluten. Explore different vegetables, proteins, and grains (quinoa is fetch these days, for example). After all, gluten-free alternatives, if not provided by your school’s dining hall, can be expensive. Here’s a small list of foods typically seen in a college dining hall that do not contain gluten:

Rice, Carrots, Chicken, Broccoli, Soups (not all, but some), Pork, Eggs, Green Beans, Tomatoes, Yogurt, Apples, Bell Peppers, Chickpeas, Beans, Potatoes

broccoli, lettuce, vegetable, salad
Torey Walsh

Looking for gluten-free alternatives can actually open your eyes to new possibilities and great foods. With a little creativity and proactivity, you can feel free to give into all of your cravings without giving into gluten. Cheers to being a successful gluten-free college student!