By Bre Nichols
Baylor was recently named one of 14 colleges “leading the way” for gluten-free students by bestcollegesonline.com.
The university received the designation by offering students more gluten-free options in dining halls and providing free assistance in planning out healthy eating habits.
Gluten is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape.
In recent years, gluten intolerance has become more recognized by doctors as the cause for various health problems, ranging from headaches to infertility.
“The need has grown over the years with more people being diagnosed with gluten allergies and celiac disease as well as the growing interest in gluten free diets as a lifestyle choice,” Brett Perlowski, Baylor’s director of dining services, wrote in an email to the Lariat.
“Each year, we will have a number of students who have special diets that we work to accommodate to make their experience with residential dining a good one,” he said.
The university updates campus dining hall menus weekly at dining.baylor.edu. The site shows breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert menus for the dining halls, including the available gluten-free options, which were increased in 2010.
This gives students and faculty an opportunity to plan ahead where they will be able to eat and get the proper food throughout the week. Baylor also moved to accommodate students on-the-go by adding dining options in the Baylor Sciences Building.
“Our most recent additions to the campus Moe’s Southwest Grill and Which Wich Superior Sandwiches in the Baylor Sciences Building — both have a number of items that can be prepared gluten-free,” Perlowski said.
As for residential dining locations, the university is “looking at ways to create a more obvious presence for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan menu items,” Perlowski said.
Del Rey Oaks, Texas junior Katie Compton, who has a gluten sensitivity, said the changes Baylor has made will make it easier for students who are trying to follow a specific eating plan.
“The hard part for me is that I was really limited on what I could and couldn’t eat, so meals got really boring,” Compton said.
“And when I was in the dorms, it would have been really helpful to have access to products that are gluten-free, or be able to look at a different menu.”
Baylor also offers Peer Nutrition Education for students who are learning about the effects of celiac disease and the benefits that can come from changing their diets. This program can be used by students having difficulties planning healthy eating habits because of the limits of the gluten-free diet. The program is free to students and faculty and is led by nutrition majors who can assist them in assessing their diet goals.
“It’s very personable,” Katy junior Jamie Mortimer, one of the peer nutrition educators, said. “Our aim is to assist and guide the people who come to us.”
Mortimer said Peer Nutrition Education meetings could help with “anything from weight loss to adding more protein in their diet to needing help planning a gluten-free diet.”
“We show them good products that are gluten-free in the market that they can buy and make at home, or we can go through each of the dining halls and help them eat smart by steering them toward gluten-free products,” he said.