I’ve been doing some thinking about how hard it is to start eating gluten free. Once you’re slammed with a diagnosis that forces you to go gluten free, it can be incredibly overwhelming to figure out what works for you. Whether it’s your first time ever going gluten free, or you’re going gluten free in a new environment, I know it can be tough to deal with.
To get a fresh perspective on what going gluten free out of your comfort zone feels like, I spoke with Lily Maxwell, an Albany native and first-year student at SUNY New Paltz. Lily, 18, has been eating gluten free since she was 14 and diagnosed with Celiac disease.
GFHV: How did you prepare for going gluten free in an unfamiliar place?
Lily: I brought a lot of my own food with me. I brought boxes of granola bars and fruit in my fridge. Once I was here for a while, I started to take advantage of my surroundings (I realized I had too many granola bars.) I visited the farmer’s market on Thursdays and keep vegetables in my fridge — they’re good to snack on late at night when I don’t want to eat junk food.
GFHV: What’s in your stockpile right now?
Lily: I’ve had a lot of work recently, so I’ve been living on peanut butter and carrots! I have olive oil in my fridge for if I want a salad. I also keep apples, bananas, almonds and hummus around. I try to stockpile on protein-filled food and carbohydrates because a lot of the time, especially eating a lot of vegetables, I don’t have enough protein and carbs for the day.
GFHV: Many social gatherings are food-oriented. How did you deal with that?
Lily: It definitely affected me — my orientation meet-up party was a pizza party, and since I couldn’t eat the pizza, I didn’t go. Same thing with hall events — baking cookies with my floor, for instance. I try to make my socialization about other things — I hang out in the art building and I like to go rock climbing at The Inner Wall.
GFHV: Have you had any social situations where people have treated you differently because of what you ate?
Lily: Definitely – every meal somebody gives me a look or comments because I always have an enormous salad that’s spilling onto the table, or an entire bowl of tomatoes. I really like vegetables and I’m trying to be healthy. At this point, people know me as the salad girl.
GFHV: So what’s in your infamous salads?
Lily: Oh wow, this is going to be long! A lot of the mixed lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, sometimes olives, feta, a bunch of hummus or beans because I love hummus and sometimes hard boiled eggs or rice
GFHV: What’s the weirdest breakfast/lunch/dinner you’ve had because you had to eat gluten free and your options were limited?
Lily: Today I just bought an entire bag of tortilla chips and I was just like, lunch! And [friends] have a bagel or coffee and I just walk in with my bag, munching…and they’re like, “Ookay.” But Tostitos are delicious. [GFHV Editor’s Note: Plain Tostitos are gluten free, as are most plain varieties of potato chips. Flavored Tostitos contain wheat and are not gluten free.]
GFHV: What do you wish you had known when you first moved here?
Lily: I wish I had explored more instead of waiting for someone else to mention where gluten free stuff was. I kind of stuck to the salad — I wish I had established a more balanced diet instead of eating the same thing every day. I definitely need to get better at packing snacks with me, like carrots and portable peanut butter or fruit. I’ve realized that trying to find the time to eat gluten free isn’t very convenient with my schedule, and maybe I need to change my schedule so I have more time to go to the dining hall and eat real food. I definitely didn’t think of how hard it would be when I was starting here.