College is a time for self discovery, growing up, and figuring out your place in the world. It's also a time you learn how to become your own mother. That's something no one tells you, but you figure it out soon enough. It's different than maturity, and more along the lines of self acceptance. You learn your strengths and weaknesses and how to work with them to help benefit you. It's actually quite marvelous, but also one of the most frustrating life lessons ever. If you have Celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, it can be even more frustrating, and imperative that you learn this lesson as quickly as possible. It took me a couple years to finally realize this, and I became very very ill in the process. School, socializing, and work became more important than my health. I have since reevaluated my priorities and came up with these tips to help maintain them.
Allowing yourself to safely socialize without coming in contact with gluten can be tough, but it is possible! It takes will power to stick to some of these tips since they require some planning ahead, but trust me it is worth it!
**Disclaimer: One of these tips discusses alcohol. I am not suggesting anyone drink alcohol or condoning underage drinking. It is an important topic to introduce alcohol as a source of gluten, for anyone OVER 21 YEARS OF AGE.**
So here we go:
1) Late night of classes? Finals week? Friends invite you over for a study sesh or a party? Gluten free frozen dinners and premade frozen pizzas are LIFESAVERS!!! Ever since Udi's Gluten Free came out with premade pizzas, my life has become much easier and more fun. It's not the healthiest choice, but cooking every meal is hardly possible between work and classes. Make sure you bring tin-foil to cook the pizza on if you're going to a friends house! It prevents cross contamination in the oven. Also make sure nothing is cooking with your pizza, and that nothing was cooked in the oven up to 2 hours prior. Gluten becomes airborne when heated.
2) Day-trips or any type of travel require a packed lunch. This is a preventative for becoming tempted to eat something that may not be safe while out and about. Having a small cooler or lunch box is helpful. I have a frozen bag from Whole Foods that's tall and zips closed. I use it for EVERYTHING. It's awesome. I am a big fan of sandwiches, wraps, or salads for packed lunches. Fruit and nut bars are the gluten free equivalent of fast food, so I usually have a couple on me at all times. There are these amazing non-parishable lunch boxes called Go-Picnics that have gluten free and vegan options as well.
3) Parties Parties Parties!!! One of the most gluten-filled places are college parties. Beer pong literally means there will be flying beer, and kegs keep it going all night. Hunch-punch contains any type of alcohol the hosts can get their hands on, and most diagnosed with Celiac or gluten intolerance WILL react to alcohol distilled from a grain containing gluten (I do, and have been hospitalized after drinking whiskey because my body couldn't handle it). Your best bet? BYOB. Find some gluten free beer or hard cider to bring with you, or make yourself some margaritas with your favorite tequila. If I'm out at a bar with my friends and I'm not sure if a drink is gluten free, I honestly just google it. If I can't find the answer online, then I'll pass on the drink and order one I know is safe. Tequila and rum are usually the safest alcohols to choose from since they're made from agave and sugar cane, not grain. Look for tequila that's 100% agave to be safe (1800). Vodka made from corn (Tito's), potatoes (Chopin), and grapes (Ciroc) are gluten free, but flavorings may contain gluten so always double check or stick to non-flavored. If you're feeling classy: wine, port, brandy, and champagne are all gluten free!
Those are my top three gluten free college tips regarding socializing. I've learned from making tons of mistakes, and carelessly ending up in compromising situations where I can't keep myself safe from gluten. These tips are like my fail-safe. If I follow these, then I know I can enjoy my time out with my friends instead of constantly being on the lookout for gluten and gluten-free options.
It takes time to get the hang of a new routine, but learning how to take care of yourself is the real key to success. Keeping yourself healthy and having a good time is possible--I swear. It just takes a little planning. :)
Hope these help!