Being gluten-free far from easy at NU

    Do you know what my favorite food is? Donuts. I love a freshly fried Munchkin or a glazed cruller. If I could eat a donut for every meal, I would.

    So, when I visited my doctor over spring break and he recommended I go on a gluten-free diet for six weeks, I was devastated.

    Little did I know that ditching donuts would be the easiest thing I would have to do.

    The decision to go gluten-free is usually based on medical reasons, and more and more students are choosing to lead a gluten-free lifestyle every day. According to The New York Times, 18 million people in the U.S. have some sort of gluten sensitivity. Despite that, I have been struggling to feed myself since I’ve been back on campus.

    Through my experience, I have realized that I am basically on my own. Though more gluten-free foods are becoming available everyday, Northwestern does a poor job of providing them to students. At home, staying gluten-free was easy. I had a kitchen filled with gluten-free options and I never had to worry where my next meal would come from. When I came back to school, however, it became a lot more difficult. Eating in dining halls is hard enough without dietary restrictions. Now, I am alone in a gluten-filled world.

    I figured I would have the gluten-free section at Sargent to help me out. At least, that is what I thought before I checked it out once I got back to school.

    Sargent’s gluten-free options are laid out on a tiny table and involve a few slices of gluten-free bread, some shriveled up gluten-free bagels and half a box of Corn Chex. The contents of the table look stale, like they've been there since September. The gluten-free section needs a serious face-lift, and some restocking of foods that haven’t been there since Wildcat Welcome.

    To make matters worse, the table is situated right next to the dessert table, covered in gluten-filled goodies. It’s as if Sargent is trying to tempt me to break by shoving scones and pieces of cake in my face. I don’t know if I’m strong enough to resist.

    So, I've learned to forgo the gluten-free table, my one supposed safety net, for a healthier option. Sargent’s grilled chicken is consistently delicious and their vegan section usually provides various veggies and sides. A nice cucumber and tomato salad is exactly what I need to compliment some lightly marinated chicken. Those options are also much healthier than my old lunch at Sargent, which included various items like fries, cereal and cookies.

    One night, in light of the meager gluten-free options at Sargent, I decided to see what Evanston had to offer me. I was lucky enough to try Blaze Pizza before I was cursed with my diagnosis of gluten intolerance, so I was excited to return and take advantage of their gluten-free dough.

    My excitement lasted until I took my first bite of pizza. I felt like I was eating sauce and cheese on a piece of cardboard. For $3 extra, I gave up the deliciousness of regular Blaze Pizza for something inedible.

    It was at that moment that I gave up on gluten-free substitutes. It’s not Blaze’s fault that scientists haven’t yet come up with a delicious gluten-free substitute (though hopefully they’re working on it). Until that time, however, no more gluten-free pizza, bread or muffins. I’ll be sticking with Sargent grilled chicken.

    Now, a week into my adventure, I’m finally getting the hang of it. I stay as far away from the Sargent gluten-free table as I can, not only to avoid the temptations of the cupcakes and cookies that sit right next to it, but also because I have no use of year-old bread. I’ve also learned to take advantage of the good things that Sargent does provide, like their vegetarian and vegan options. I stocked my own fridge with fruits and yogurt so I don’t have to ever rely completely on Sargent. Most importantly, I stay away from any situations involving donuts, because, let’s be honest, the hardest part of the gluten-free lifestyle is self-control.

    My words of advice to any students attempting to go gluten-free at Northwestern: don’t rely on the gluten-free options that Sargent or other dining halls offer, because you’ll starve to death. Don’t attempt to eat fancy gluten-free pizza or pastries, because chances are if something has gluten in it, there’s a reason for that. Instead, just go healthy. There are so many foods that naturally don’t have gluten in them. Stick to fruits, vegetables and meats and you’ll be loving, or at least tolerating, the gluten-free lifestyle in no time.


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