By: Brittany Carloni
Just like fashion, health fads come and go over time. A common health kick today is to eliminate products with gluten from your diet. The popularity of a gluten-free lifestyle was sparked by an increase of people diagnosed with Celiac Disease – an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the lining of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients, most notably gluten. But are the potential health benefits worth giving up stuffed-crust pizza, Fettuccine Alfred, cookies and our favorite condiments?
According to the Harvard Health blog, eating a diet free of gluten can aid in weight lost, boost energy and promote digestive health. It seems simple enough: cut out wheat, barley and rye and you’re on your way to a sexier, slimmer you! But a gluten-free life can be challenging. With the large amount of food that is mass produced in the U.S., it seems just about everything we eat has traces of gluten. And being on a college campus doesn’t make things any easier.
“I think the hardest part is the fact that college students either want something easy to grab in the dining halls, or something fast to eat in their dorm room,” says Erin Brauer, junior, College of Nursing. “Unfortunately, these foods tend to be pizzas, crackers, sandwiches, fried food and things of the like. Most of these choices have gluten in them, especially in products you wouldn’t believe.”
Although some restaurant menus specify items that are gluten free, the majority of them do not. Even worse, the restaurant staff may not understand the boundaries of a gluten-free diet, which is why it is crucial to check the allergy information online before dining out. If you’re serious about going gluten-free, make sure you’re comfortable enough to speak up and inquire about homemade dressings, cross contamination and cooking oils. Often times, the server will have to run back to the kitchen to ask the cook, but better to know than to get sick!
As far as dining at Marquette, there are a variety of options that can accommodate a gluten-free student.
“When we are made aware of the need, our first step is to set up a meeting with the student,” says Kevin Gilligan, general manager of Sodexo campus services.”We make the student aware of options such as gluten free breads, muffins, pasta, cookies, pizzas and other things they may not otherwise be able to enjoy. We also introduce them to a chef in the hall that they are most likely to dine at…Often, the chef will cook them something [gluten free] if they don’t mind waiting a few minutes.”
But for most, it’s worth the wait.
“On campus, I always go with fresh food, and whenever I can, I eat at Straz Dining Hall because it has the most gluten free options,” Brauer says. “I eat lots of fruit and drink smoothies, and I stay away from artificially made snacks that I may not know the ingredients of.”
At Cobeen’s dining hall, students can try food from the Simple Serving Station – a new salad bar at Cobeen that was created for students with specific dietary needs. “This is a station that is guaranteed to be void of the eight most common allergens,” Gilligan says.
If you’re looking to stray away from campus, there are numerous nearby eateries that have adopted gluten-free menu items.
Jimmy John’s – Located on 1532 W. Wells St., Jimmy Johns offers a sandwich called the “Unwich” for gluten-free patrons. The unwich is a lettuce wrap sandwich that comes with all of the regular ingredients, minus the bread. The unwich can be made with bacon, ham, salami and turkey, but make sure to avoid their ever-popular provolone cheese.
Qdoba Mexican Grill – Located on 803 N. 16th St., this mexican cantina also caters to gluten-free patrons. Swap your usual flour tortilla for a “naked” burrito bowl and you’ll save yourself around 310 calories and 7 grams of fat. If you don’t feel like you’re ready to give up the overflowing pillow of beans, cheese and guacamole, then request a soft white corn tortilla. Sure it’s a smaller than the flour tortilla, but we all know that’s probably for the best.
Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery – Located on 740 N. Plankinton Ave., Rock Bottom will work to adapt their menu with any of their patron’s dietary needs. Their kitchen ensures a quality meal, and they offer options such as salads and corn tortillas.
Port of Call Bistro and Beer Garden – Located on 106 W. Wells St., Port of Call has a substantial gluten-free menu and options to choose from. Special menu items include the Ginger Soy Salmon, the Bouillabaisse, Cedar Planked Whitefish and the Choice Ribeye. Sure, it’s a little more expensive, but as a gluten-free diner you have to know when to indulge.
The Milwaukee Cupcake Company in the Historic Third Ward offers a variety of gluten-free cupcake flavors! For more information go to their website at http://www.milwaukeecupcakecompany.com.