Musings by Mia – Eating Gluten-Free at University

Mia's university lab workI have received many requests to write about my experience going through university with Celiac Disease. However, with many universities going online this year I was unsure how to approach this topic. Then, I decided that every student still has to eat! Therefore, this article will explore how I meal-prepped, planned snacks for studying, and bought gluten-free groceries on a student budget.

Based on my university experience, gluten-free food on campus is limited (if available at all). Besides offering a few naturally gluten-free options (such as fresh fruit, yogurt, chips, etc.) and food that teased my celiac-self by being ‘gluten-friendly’ and not ‘gluten-free’, my university campus was markedly lacking in food that I was able to eat. So, I adapted by bringing a lunch and some snacks with me to campus every day. While this did involve more planning, it ended up saving me money and was generally healthier than many of the campus-offered foods.

I would highly recommend meal prepping to any student starting university – even online! Foolishly, I used to think I would be inspired to make exciting dinners when I got home from school. When in reality, I would lay there exhausted after studying, contemplating the pricey option of take-out. After full days of reading research articles, working in the lab, and reviewing my notes, all I had the energy for was putting a meal in the microwave. My solution? I turned Sunday into my prep day: I would plan, grocery shop, and make a few different meals for days I knew I would be busy. I also tried to keep my freezer fully stocked with frozen meals like chili and curries, along with frozen snacks like muffins and cookies.

Mia's staple mealAs I have mentioned in previous articles, I always have snacks on hand. This was especially true while studying, I would pack an extra banana or yogurt in my lunch to ensure I was fueled for the day! Having my own pre-made muffins on hand were a nice substitute for when my friends would buy the gluten-containing versions at campus coffee shops. I should emphasize that I am an avid Costco shopper – before term started, I would always pop to Costco to stock up on some easy grab-and-go snacks such as nuts, granola bars, and pepperoni sticks. (If you’re on a student budget and haven’t checked out the vast amount of gluten-free options at Costco I would encourage you to!)

Besides the aforementioned muffins and cookies (which I do think are handy to have on hand in a pinch, and are easy to make at home), I tried to eat as naturally gluten free as possible, thus avoiding the notoriously expensive gluten-free alternatives to gluten-containing foods. For example, meat or tofu with roasted veggies and sweet potatoes was a staple. On that note – I fully believe in keeping a well-stocked spice cabinet, changing up the seasoning is an easy way to make a week-night meal exciting again. I also shopped deals by reading the weekly online flyers for grocery shops nearby (a fact for which I was endlessly teased – but hey, I love a good deal).

Ultimately, I’ve found that eating healthy gluten-free food on a student budget is definitely doable but tends to involve a bit of extra planning! I hope some of these tips are helpful to both new students and current students alike. Enjoy the rest of your summer and happy learning come September!

About Mia

Mia enjoys gardening, trying new gluten-free recipes and drinking copious amounts of tea!

  • “Musings by Mia is meant to be a collection of topics that I wish had been more discussed when I was first diagnosed with Celiac Disease as a teen. I will explore topics from the perspective of a young adult with Celiac Disease and share my personal experiences in these articles. As these are my own experiences, they are by no means meant to be a ‘how-to’ guide, but instead an informative glimpse into the situations a typical young adult with Celiac Disease might face.”
  • If you have questions or comments,  or if you have topic suggestions, Mia would be happy to hear from you. Scroll down to the comment field below or email with your thoughts.