- Be a food sleuth: Know what you’re consuming by reading food labels of packaged foods. Note that gluten is not currently considered a food allergen and thus is not included as part of the allergen statement on packaged foods. This means that looking for wheat on the allergen statement will capture many foods that contain gluten – but it will miss those like rye and barley that contain gluten but are not source of wheat.
- Avoid your food allergies and gluten the natural way: There are many foods that do not contain gluten naturally — think fresh fruit/vegetables, fresh meats, potatoes, rice, beans, and healthy fats like olive oil! Make these foods the basis of your diet for a less processed approach to eating without gluten. It is the same for your food allergy, aim for foods that naturally do not contain the specific allergen.
- When purchasing pre-made products and ingredients do look for “gluten-free” and may contain statements: Gluten and food allergens can hide in many places. When buying substitute versions of foods that are normally a source of gluten or your food allergen check the label. Gluten-free means that the item should have no or only small traces (up to the allowable 20 parts per million) of gluten and should be safe for most people with this dietary need. If the pre-packaged item contains one of the 8 major allergens the label must have the allergen listed in the ingredients or in a may contain statement after the ingredients.
- Be cautious or avoid self-serve foods in restaurant environments: Areas such as salad bars, condiment stations, and any areas where other people serve themselves are high-risk for cross-contact.
- Check-in with your healthcare team: Once diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder or a food allergy, it’s a good idea to have a healthcare provider who understands and can respond if you have questions about or changes in your sensitivities.
- If you need an EpiPen always have two on you with different lot numbers: Having you EpiPen on hand is extremely beneficial in that if by chance you ingest an allergen you are prepared to react quickly. Two is necessary with different lot numbers because it allows for a back-up if the first is ineffective. Always carry your EpiPen on hand, do not leave it in the car or hidden away in a hard to reach area of your bag. Every second matters during an emergency.
- Prepare in advance: Always be ahead of the game. Before going to the dining hall, visit the campus dining website and review the menu. This prevents you from choosing a food item that is inappropriate for your dietary needs because of time constraints and allows you to focus on what ingredients are in each dish.
- If you do not know, ask: Never assume and be your best advocate for yourself. Always ask to see the label of an ingredient or find out how the dish is prepared.