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Gluten-free? Tips for Successful Eating in Shared Housing
Celiac.com 07/09/2012 - These handy tips will help you to better navigate the challenges of gluten-free living in both dorm rooms and shared housing. Having the right tools, and adopting some wise practices will help you eat gluten-free week-in and week-out, without breaking your bank account, or risking gluten exposure.
Having a few tools can help your efforts come together much more easily, and keep your eating consistent over the semester.
- Rice Cooker
- Small Crock Pot
- Fridge/freezer (even a miniature one will come in handy)
- Resealable freezer bags
- Sharpie permanent marker
Shop wisely by making lists
What's the old saying? Proper prior preparation prevents poor performance? Nowhere is this more true than with a gluten-free diet. Planning your meals in advance can save you time, money, stress, and, of yes, the pain of an adverse reaction to gluten. This practice starts with shopping, and shopping starts with planning.
Make lists and use them. Check out Asian, Mexican, and other ethnic markets in your area. They often have good, gluten-free food at reasonable prices.
Cook your food in advance
You can make the most of your smart shopping practices by planning and preparing your meals in advance.
Consider spending one day each week, or at least a good block of time, cooking and prepping food. Just a few hours of gluten-free cooking can prepare you to sail smoothly through the week ahead. Use all the tools at your disposal. Use your crockpot, use your rice cooker, your freezer bags, and your markers.
Keep your own shelf and label your foods
Package and label the food you make, then store it in your fridge or freezer. By packaging and labeling food, your housemates are less likely to "accidentally" eat it. If they do, you'll likely be on top of the situation.
Keep gluten-free dry goods on hand
Having a drawer full of gluten-free food that does not require a fridge or freezer is also helpful. Good items to have include microwaveable rice, gluten-free pretzels, crackers, chips tuna fish, fruit snacks, and beef jerky.
Keep a collection of spices and sauces to help keep your snacks from getting boring. Good things to keep on hand include honey, gluten-free tamari, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, and hot sauce.
Cover the Basics
Make sure you keep simple items that are rich in protein and carbohydrates on hand, so that you won’t go hungry and will always have gluten-free food available.
Avoid the Dining Hall
Unless your dining hall is one of the more progressive campus dining halls that offer a variety of good, reliable gluten-free foods, you should avoid it.
Some good foods to prepare in advance or keep on hand include:
Fried rice - Frying rice is a good way to use leftover food, and it's easy to pack and take with you to campus. Try it with lots of veggies, meat, eggs, and any other items that seem tasty.
Grilled or roasted chicken, or other meats cut into small slices - These are great items to add to your fried rice, or to your pasta sauce.
Stews, soups or casseroles - Stews, soups and casseroles freeze easily and age well. They can be prepackaged and frozen ahead of time. They can be easily thawed in the bag by placing them in the microwave, or in lukewarm water.
Sauces - Making sauces in advance and freezing them can cut your food prep time during the week. They can give you plenty of room for adjustment and broaden your options. Ideas include: Pasta sauce, pizza sauce, sweet and sour sauce, teriyaki sauce,
Pizza - Use your favorite gluten-free pizza crust to make gluten-free pizza. Then place it in individual bags, label and freeze. If you have hungry roommates with boundary issues, consider numbering the bags to keep track of them.
French toast - Making French toast with your favorite gluten-free bread is a great way to have a quick, reliable breakfast ready to go.
Fruit - cutting up fruit and putting it in bags for the week ahead is a great way to be ready to make quick breakfast smoothies, or to have a great fruit salad ready to go.
Yogurt and kefir are also good to have on hand. They are excellent for making fruit smoothies, or for giving you much needed protein and fat with that fruit smoothie.
Dessert items - Chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and cakes are a great way to enjoy dessert when you want it without being forced to choose from the often dismal gluten-free selection at the local coffee shop, or the over-priced frozen section of your local grocery store.
Lastly, compile a list of reliable local eateries where you can get good, safe gluten-free food when you are in a pinch, or need to dine on the spur of the moment.
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Jefferson Adams is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. His poems, essays and photographs have appeared in Antioch Review, Blue Mesa Review, CALIBAN, Hayden's Ferry Review, Huffington Post, the Mississippi Review, and Slate among others.
He is a member of both the National Writers Union, the International Federation of Journalists, and covers San Francisco Health News for Examiner.com.View all articles by Jefferson Adams