Dietary accommodations on campus

Cartoon by Gordon Johnson

MADI MCGUIRE | OPINION COLUMNIST | mjmcguir@butler.edu

I was recently told by my physician to begin a gluten-free diet. I had heard of the diet before and I had a pretty basic understanding of what gluten was, but I was overwhelmed to say the least.

I did plenty of research to find out what I can and cannot eat so that I could begin my diet as instructed. To my surprise, gluten is not just in bread and other baked goods, it is in a wide variety of foods, including candy, syrups and basically everything that I enjoy eating.

It is easy for me to go grocery shopping and buy gluten-free foods, snacks and ingredients to make dinners, though I wondered how easily someone on campus can be gluten-free when they don’t have their own kitchen and eat at the dining courts or C-Club everyday.

C-Club does have a gluten-free section with protein bars and a few different snacks, but no one should be making a meal out of those items. Atherton and Resco also have specific gluten-free sections, usually with a meat/entree and a potato/vegetable/side option. For vegetarians and vegans, there is a salad bar, vegetable options and usually a vegetarian option containing tofu. However, can someone get a full meal that completely follows their dietary restrictions?

I spoke with the campus dietician, Kristine Sullivan, to see how gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan diets can be accommodated at Atherton and Resco.

Sullivan has only been with Butler for one month and is working on evaluating and assessing the dining courts in order to better accommodate dietary needs. She has individual nutritional counseling with students and works through the HRC as well as the dining courts.

“There are a handful of students with certain diets and allergies, ranging from allergies to slight intolerances or preferences. The chef, Nathaniel, works with students who need to follow strict diets and makes sure that every student has a meal every day,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan recommends talking to the executive chef Nathaniel Malone so he can work with your personal needs.

“Planning ahead is the best thing you can do to be sure you always have something to eat and so you are at ease about your next meal,” Sullivan said.

She showed me the Butler Dining Services website that shows the lunch menus every day, gives all nutritional facts about what is being served, and has a “vegan” or “vegetarian” label if it applies to either group. You can always look online to make a gameplan for your meals.

Because I have had a hard time transitioning to gluten-free and have had some cravings, I asked how you can help reduce or prevent cravings throughout the day.

“You should always eat a big breakfast with a lot of calories, which actually decreases your likeliness to have cravings throughout the day,” Sullivan said.

She highlighted the fact that after having class all day, students are usually in a hurry to eat and are very hungry, which is usually when it is easiest to stray from your diet and grab what is available. She recommends preparing snacks and always planning for your next meal.

As a dietician, she works with those who have allergies and special dietary needs, but she also helps create diets for weight loss.

“When you are trying to lose weight, about 80 percent of it is what you eat and only 20 percent is about exercise and physical activity,” she said.

Her biggest tips for everyone, whether dieting or not, is to avoid processed foods and to avoid drinking too many calories. Yes, that means we should all cut back on the Starbucks.

She also recommends the plate method, which means that half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables, one quarter of your plate should be protein, and the last quarter should be carbohydrates.

Every person requires a certain diet that is specific to their needs, and Sullivan is able to help all students. Scheduling an appointment with the dietician is the same as scheduling an appointment to see a doctor at the HRC.

As for off-campus dietary accommodations, Sullivan said that every chain restaurant has nutritional facts on their websites, but local restaurants are not required to. So, they often do not. The best thing to do is to make your waiter/waitress aware of your dietary needs so they can help you to the best of their abilities.

Sullivan is on a plant-based diet, which means she is about 95 percent vegetarian and eats chicken or fish every once in awhile.

If you need a dietician, be sure to use Sullivan as she is available to you for a much cheaper price than a dietician at a hospital would be, and she can help accommodate you right here on campus to make sure that you are always eating the way you should and are never deprived of a wholesome meal.

Being gluten-free, I can pick from the small section in C-Club, and only order or buy foods that I know do not include gluten. However, I cannot speak for those who eat in the dining courts everyday. I feel like there should be many more options for those with strict dietary restrictions.

Vegans have one option, other than salad, most of the time at the food court, and vegetarians are the same. I think that vegan and vegetarian diets are taken seriously, but a diet like gluten-free is seen sometimes as a pretentious thing. Gluten-free diets are done by some because they want to be healthier, but in many other cases, people have intolerances and allergies to gluten and cannot be exposed to it.

It is hard to have to eat at a dining court for every meal when you must closely monitor what you eat. Our dietician is very passionate and wants to be active within the dining courts to create more meal options, which will hopefully expand our options as students.

Dietary restrictions and college do not go hand in hand. In fact, it sucks to not be able to eat. Making sure you get the right help and planning ahead will be the biggest factors in sticking to your diet.

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