Student’s Gluten-Free Cookbook For Dummies
A gluten-free diet can improve your health if you’re sensitive to its effects on the body. Even without specific illnesses, many people feel less bloated and more focused and energetic when they stop consuming gluten. If you’re already gluten-free or have decided to give it a try, read on to find suggestions for avoiding gluten in social situations, practical tips and resources for new cooks, and ways to stretch your food budget on a gluten-free diet.
Surviving Social Situations while Living Gluten-Free
You don’t need to stay at home by yourself or hang out exclusively at gluten-free markets to have a safe social experience while living gluten-free. Here are some simple ideas for surviving parties and other social gatherings during college:
When eating at a restaurant, ask questions every time, especially if you’re gluten-free for health reasons and must avoid all gluten. Try to get the waitperson’s attention before the order begins or call the restaurant ahead of time and talk with a manager about the establishment’s gluten-free options. The bonus of making your needs known is that you increase awareness of gluten intolerance, which could result in more food choices for everyone in the future.
If you plan to attend a catered event, ask the hosts who the caterer is and whether they mind if you call to arrange for a gluten-free preparation.
Eat before you go. At the event, you can look for veggies and other safe choices to munch on, but you won’t be starving if you can’t find them. Keep your expectations low if you aren’t bringing any food of your own.
Take a simple dish to share at parties. Think chips and salsa, cookies or brownies made from an easy gluten-free mix, popcorn, or veggies.
Take two dishes to potlucks so you have more choices — a main dish and a side dish or dessert that you can enjoy but that others will like as well. Simple choices are burgers (bring your own gluten-free bun), grilled chicken, grocery store rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, rice, and veggies.
By thinking ahead, you can have a great gluten-free experience at any social gathering.
Tips for New Gluten-Free Cooks
Sticking to a gluten-free diet during your college years can be especially hard. Living and food-prep spaces are often cramped and shared, and not all university dining hall personnel are hip to the needs of gluten-free students and staff. These circumstances make it tough to rely on others to feed you safely. Yet what a terrific opportunity this presents for you to learn to cook! Cooking may seem intimidating at first, but it can be quite rewarding — after all, the result is delicious food!
Here are some tips for new gluten-free cooks:
Cook with other people who know how to cook or want to learn.
At first, choose recipes that don’t rely too much on flour. Adjusting a recipe that calls for a tablespoon or two of flour is an easy substitution issue, but baking an entire gluten-free cake from scratch takes a bit of practice.
When you’re cooking for someone important, don’t try out a new recipe. Stick to gluten-free dishes you know how to prepare and that you know turn out well. Do a trial run with the recipe if you need to.
Take the time to read through the whole recipe before you begin cooking.
Use parchment paper for lining baking pans, especially when baking gluten-free. Parchment makes removing your baked goods from the pan much easier, and it makes cleanup a dream — no butter-flour mixture or errant batter to scrape off!
Always use sharp knives. Not only are sharp knives safer (because they’re less likely to slip), but they make your work much more efficient.
When cooking meat, make some extra to use in the next day’s meal.
When cooking on a stovetop, make sure that the handle of your pan is turned away from you so you don’t accidentally hit it and cause the hot food to go flying off the stove.
If your recipe flops, consider how you can change the food into something good. For example, you can turn flat gluten-free cookies into an ice cream topping or cookie crumb pie crust.
Clean as you go to save time at the end.
Resources for Gluten-Free Freshman
If you’re moving out of your parents’ house and beginning college on a gluten-free diet, you don’t need to feel alone. Resources are in place to help you through your first few months and beyond. If you have issues with the dining plan, cafeteria options or staff, or your health, connect with the following people and organizations to find help:
School administration (your admissions counselor or student advisor)
Dining Services director
Dining hall staff (servers and cooks)
Student Disability Services
Residential Life department
Your resident assistant (RA) in your dorm
Gluten-free student club (if there isn’t one, consider starting one!)
Student Facebook group
Family and friends
Ways to Stretch Your Gluten-Free Food Budget
Chances are good that you don’t have a limitless food budget, and you may be shocked at the cost of gluten-free groceries when you set out on your first solo trip to the grocery store, especially if you plan to purchase specialty gluten-free items such as bread and crackers. Here are some tips for wise spending when shopping for gluten-free groceries:
Plan your meals for the week before you go. Know what you need and use what you buy. This tip alone can save you a bundle!
Pair recipes that use similar ingredients. If using half a chicken or half a jar of pasta sauce, find a recipe that calls for the rest of that ingredient tomorrow.
Reclaim food that’s a little past its prime. For example, turn stale gluten-free crackers and bread into something else:
Make croutons by buttering the bread, cutting it into cubes, and broiling it until it’s very crispy. Store the croutons in the freezer and throw them in a salad anytime.
Pulverize the bread in a blender or food processor to make breadcrumbs to use as coatings, fillers in meatballs or meatloaf, or casserole toppings. Add extra seasoning for Italian or Cajun versions.
Use cracker crumbs as a coating for baked or fried chicken or pork chops.
Buy naturally gluten-free foods. Buy things that don’t have a label listing a ton of ingredients. Think fresh meats, dairy, fruit and veggies, and eggs.
Buy national brands. A food doesn’t need to be a specialty product to be gluten-free. Some examples of foods that are gluten-free and may not be labeled as such are tortilla chips, potato chips, popcorn, corn tortillas, many mainstream soups and sauces, hot dogs, and more.
A quick search on company websites or a good gluten-free shopping guide or app can point you to gluten-free products. Among the large companies that offer gluten-free options — and that issue coupons — are Betty Crocker, Boar’s Head, General Mills, Zatarains, Kraft, Frito Lay, Chex Cereals, Progresso, and Heinz.
Become a fan. Many companies let you in on special deals and coupons if you’re their fan on Facebook.
Use grocery store and grocery website loyalty programs. Join the store or site program for coupons, specials, and free shipping.
Explore ethnic groceries. Some people swear by Asian stores for cheap rice and rice noodles.
Buy nonfood items at nonfood stores. Save a bundle by getting things like shampoo, cleaning supplies, makeup, and toothpaste at a discount store like Target or Walmart or even a dollar store instead of the grocery store, where prices for these items are probably higher.