Choosing Your University
Finding the right university for you can be hard. There are so many factors that go into deciding what university will be best for you. And when you have dietary restrictions that is just one more thing to add into the mix and that needs to be greatly considered.
During my junior and senior year of high school I visited a couple schools. The sizes of these schools varied from pretty small to very large. The smallest school I visited honestly seemed like a high school and that was a big turn off for me. It only had one dining hall and I saw that as a potential problem for me. Thankfully I got accepted into Ohio State! Honestly I would have been devastated if this was not the case.
Disclaimer: Some of this information may be outdated. I have not had an Ohio State meal plan since my freshman year (Fall 2014-Spring 2015). When I lived off campus I did not dine on campus often due to the cost. And the year after my freshman year they changed the meal plan. Also since then multiple new dining facilities have been opened.
Gluten Free Options at Ohio State
Choosing Ohio State was the right decision for me for so many reasons. One of those reasons was that eating gluten free was not difficult. I did tend to eat a lot of the same foods, which helped in my decision to move off campus my second year. Unfortunately now there is a university rule that you have to live on campus the first two years. But finding gluten free options on campus was not difficult.
The best part about dining services at Ohio State is that everything is labeled. Everything is labeled with the name of the food and any allergens that may be in the food.
This does not mean cross contamination does not happen, especially in buffet style dining halls. At Ohio State these dining halls are called Traditions. To get into traditions you swipe in using your meal plan (don’t ask me about the meal plans they changed right after I moved off campus). Once you have swiped in it is buffet style. Honestly I did not go to the Traditions dining halls often, if I did it was because I had run out of cereal for breakfast. This was just a personal preference. The Traditions dining hall nearest to my dorm was not the greatest.
The one really cool thing about the Traditions dining halls though, was that they had a small cooler full of gluten free foods. They kept desserts, breads, bagels and stuff like that in the cooler. And there was a gluten free toaster near the cooler as well. They also didn’t monitor it, so one time I just took a whole box of cupcakes up to my dorm room with me when I left. They were pretty delicious. I would not have done this, but I had never seen anyone else at the cooler so I figured they might as well not go to waste.
I was also informed by a peer that I should talk to the Assistant Director of Nutrition. You can get a meeting with them and get more information and figure out what is best for you and your needs.
Places I went to often were more like regular restaurants that you could use your meal plan at. I lived in Morrill tower and ate at the RPAC all the time. I really enjoyed the taco salad. The RPAC has two options for dining. The one is like a cafe, they have smoothies and coffee and little quick snacks. The other serves hot foods and salads.
Dining at the Union
I also love Sloopy’s in the Union. It is a sit down restaurant with waiters and waitresses. Although one time I was very concerned I was going to get glutened here. They have gluten free bread most of the time and have separate toasters and everything. I ordered gluten free toast with my meal because it was an option. The waitress comes back and says we ran out of gluten free bread, would you like wheat bread instead. I honestly don’t remember my initial reaction, but I know I just said to forget the bread. I did not get glutened, thankfully. It was just one of those times I really wished restaurant staff were better trained when it comes to food allergens.
Although somewhat far from my dorm, I ate at the Union frequently. They also have the Union Market that I really enjoyed. They have a salad bar and multiple hot food stations. And now they have a 100% gluten free station. I saw this last year when I was participating in Buckeyethon. My go to was usually the salad bar because it was quick and easy. I also have had hamburgers from the grill station. If I remember correctly they have gluten free buns. But again everything is labeled.
Living in Morrill Tower had its pros and cons for sure. One of the biggest pros for me was that it had a C-Store. The C-Store was a little convenience/grocery store. They had cereal, microwave meals, ice cream, cases of pop and much more. In the C-Store in Morrill Tower they carried the Amy’s Broccoli and Cheddar Bake. I ate this too often to admit and at the time picked out all of the broccoli. One of my suite mates commented on this once like she was my mom or something.
If you decide to go to Ohio State definitely check out the C-Stores and see what their inventory looks like now, I’m sure you will find something that you can eat.
Living in the dorms and being gluten free was not hard either. My roommates were very understanding. I had my own toaster that I kept with my stuff and they knew not to use it. They may have offered me things I could not have in the beginning, but obviously I would decline. They were also pretty funny. My one roommate found me a dating website called GlutenFreeSingles.com. I never got on the website. But I appreciated that they cared that I was healthy and happy. Although being in a romantic relationship does not automatically make you happy. On top of that we had some room to keep dry food in our dorms. We would occasionally walk to target and grab some food that could be kept and eaten in the dorm room. This was helpful and also a perk of Morrill Tower. If I had been in another dorm I would have most likely had to have taken a city bus to get to Target or a grocery store.
So obviously Ohio State is a football school. During my senior year at Ohio State I learned that there was gluten free vendor in the football stadium. This vendor got a spot back in the 2016 season I believe. Finding this was one of the best things ever. It is run by Bake Me Happy. Bake Me Happy is a Columbus based gluten free bakery that supplies Ohio State with a lot of gluten free products. At the games they sell everything from gluten free hot dogs, to loaded nachos, and pretty much anything you could want at a sporting event. And if you are of age, they sell gluten free beer and cider as well! Drink responsibly my friends. And if you are drinking please eat some safe food of some sort. You will want to remember the games. And not eating when you are drinking can be very dangerous.
Take Charge of Your Health
Going to a large university meant I had options in all aspects of college life. I had options for different areas of studies, and organizations to join. Most importantly I had many options for food. That made my college experience a little less stressful.
If you are a celiac, or have to be gluten free for any reason and are looking at colleges, make sure you talk to the people you need to. Contact the dining services supervisors, and do not be afraid to ask questions. This is your health we are talking about and it should not be taken lightly.
Also if you do decide to go to THE Ohio State University, there is a support group for people living a gluten free lifestyle. If you decide to go to another university that is awesome to! Try to see if they have a support group on campus, if not take some initiative and start one. This is a great way to meet people, and you could get some leadership experience from starting an organization. Personally I wish I would have learned about the support group before I graduated, I would have been at all of the events.
Lastly good luck in your search for the right university for you! Work hard, have fun, but most importantly stay healthy.