Health & Wellbeing
Is This the Year You Should Go Gluten-Free?
Beth Winthrop
Beth Winthrop

Senior Manager, Health & Wellness
Senior Registered Dietitian,
Sodexo Universities

Thinking of going gluten-free for the New Year?  What problem are you trying to solve?  Does the December deluge of cookies, cupcakes, pies, hot rolls and stuffing have you feeling sluggish and pudgy?  Excess sugar, fat, and calories are more likely to blame than gluten.  Lean proteins, steamed vegetables, fruit, whole grains, and some exercise will help to get your waistline and digestive system back on track. 

For the millions of Americans with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, gluten isn’t a cause of weight gain, but of abdominal pain and digestive miseries.  In celiac children, gluten’s damage to the intestine can even cause weight loss or stunting related to the inability to absorb the nutrients needed for growth. Unfortunately, approximately 80% of people suffering from celiac disease remain undiagnosed.  Most blood tests for celiac disease are effective only if you are still eating gluten, so hold off on that gluten-free diet for now and talk to your doctor about digestive symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment.

If you discover that you do need to follow a gluten-free diet here is how you get started.  Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and related grains.  It is also added to many foods to enhance texture.  While “Gluten-free” labeling does have a legal definition of less than 20 parts per million, there is no requirement that manufacturers list the word “gluten” as an ingredient.  The University of Chicago Medicine offers a great free guide entitled Jump Start Your Gluten-Free Diet on gluten-free eating.

Although gluten is not subject to the same labeling requirements as the “big 8” food allergens, Sodexo helps customers by listing gluten in foods on our Bite by Sodexo app, online menus, and point of service signs.  The culinary team is also trained to understand gluten-containing ingredients and causes of gluten cross-contact.  Customer experience training emphasizes the good communication necessary to allow customers on gluten-free diets accurate information and the ability to make special requests.  Interested in that delicious cucumber salad on the salad bar?  We’re happy to bring you a serving from our salad prep area, so you need not worry that other customers might have exposed it to the spoon from the pasta salad alongside.

This past year several Sodexo universities took gluten-free dining to a whole new level by opening gluten-free dining destinations on campus. Kent State University was the first in the Nation to introduce a certified gluten-free dining hall on a college campus. Prentice Café earned its gluten-free certification from the Gluten Intolerance Group. In addition, the University of South Carolina recently launched Naturally WoodStock, which features an assortment of sandwiches, pizzas, salads, and smoothies as well as  made to order coffee and espresso bar. Naturally Woodstock is 100% gluten-free and a great place for student, faculty and staff with sensitivity to gluten.

The “Simple Servings” allergen and gluten-free station, “My Zone” personal pantry, and careful one-on-one meal preparation all allow our culinary team to accommodate University dining customers who require gluten-free meals.  After a childhood filled with social worries about a different-looking lunchbox and not being able to share in a friend’s birthday cake, college students requiring a gluten-free diet appreciate the opportunity to be included in the social scene of resident life and dining.

 

Beth Winthrop is the senior manager, health and wellness architect, and senior registered dietitian for Sodexo Universities.  With the on-site registered dietitians, managers, and chefs, Beth works to welcome college students with special dining needs.  Email Beth directly at beth.winthrop@sodexo.com

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