Dining halls adjust as more students go gluten-free



With the the number of people with gluten allergies and celiac disease increasing, restaurants have started to take notice. Now, as more students go gluten-free, dining halls are trying to catch up as well.

“Bama Dining has offered gluten-free options for a while, but over the past two to three years, we increased our options due to the rising number of celiac disease cases that occur each year nationwide,” Kelsey Faust, marketing manager for Bama Dining, said.

Bama Dining currently offers gluten-free pizza crust, deli bread, hamburger and hot dog buns and pasta in the all-you-care-to-eat dining locations, and its convenience stores on campus offer gluten-free cereal, pretzels, chips, frozen entrees, granola bars and more.

“We can alter most recipes safely without cross-contamination to provide gluten-free options upon the request of a student,” Faust said.

Students who are gluten-intolerant have the opportunity to work with Bama Dining’s food service director to create a menu that meets their specific needs.

“We currently have a wide variety of gluten-free options and in the future we encourage any student on a gluten-free diet to contact our food service director to tour the locations and build a food plan that meets their needs,” Faust said.

Kali Coleman, a junior majoring in exercise sports science and nutrition, found out she had a gluten intolerance in January, and has been adjusting to a gluten-free diet for the last four months.

Coleman said the transition got easier the second month, and she now considers eating gluten-free a lifestyle.

“I think the campus does a great job providing options,” Coleman said. “I have a limited meal plan, but when I do eat on campus, I definitely have the options in the dining areas. The only thing that is unfortunate is finding things in the vending machines at the libraries when I’m studying. Those options are pretty limited.”

Coleman said she works at Outback and working at a place that has a gluten-free menu helps show her more of what she can and cannot eat.

“It shows you can eat out and stay on a gluten-free diet,” Coleman said. “I still feel weird asking for the gluten-free menu when I go to restaurants, but when they do say they accommodate, it definitely makes my day.”

Kathleen Cook, a junior majoring in public relations, went gluten-free in May 2012 when she found out she had a gluten intolerance, and Cook said she went through two periods of transition after finding out about her condition.

“Initially after the doctor’s appointment, it was hard to remember not to eat gluten, and it was challenging in restaurants,” Cook said. “But after about two weeks, it seemed like second nature.”

Cook said the second transition took place when she returned to school in August.

“Not eating gluten was not that hard during the summer, but because of Tuscaloosa’s sometimes lack of healthy foods, it was even more challenging to return to school, especially in the dining halls,” Cook said. “But again, after about two weeks, I learned where to eat, and it seems pretty easy now. I don’t even miss it.”

Cook said Bama Dining does not market some of their foods as gluten-free, but after doing research, she found there were a lot of gluten-free options. Cook also said she sees restaurants making a transition to accommodate those with gluten allergies.

“Restaurants are starting to catch up with not only the increasingly common allergy, but also the trend,” Cook said. “For example, Taziki’s now has a gluten-free menu.”

Coleman said she misses certain things, like bread, but her friends, family and co-workers have been helpful in her dietary transition.

“My friends and family have definitely been my stronghold through this transition,” Coleman said. “My older sister, Tabitha, did her best to lay off the products when I first cut them out, and also helped me do some shopping to redecorate our kitchen cabinet.”

Coleman said her co-workers have also been mindful of her transition and have offered support.

“I definitely think surrounding yourself with a supportive network is important in order to make something like this possible and successful,” she said.

Any questions about gluten-free options on campus can be directed to the food service manager or supervisor for Bama Dining.

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