Monday, 6 February 2017

Living with Food Allergies on Campus

Living with food allergies on campus

If you asked anyone who really knows me to describe me in a few words, I wouldn’t be surprised if the words “allergic to everything” were muttered. I have always been allergic to a lot of things; I have allergies that I’ve either been born with or have developed as I’ve grown. Needless to say, there are a few allergies I have outgrown, which is always a good thing! This article is going to be one part food journey, one part rant, and one part University of Alberta campus survival guide for those with allergies, dietary restrictions, and food sensitivities. If this is not your thing (i.e. you can eat whatever you want, whenever you want) just know that I envy you.

The Struggle is Real: 

My skin has always been a reflection of my health. The whole idea of “you are what you eat” could not hold more truth to it. I have struggled for a long time with trying to figure out the causes of the acne and eczema that I get. I tried medications and topical ointments, which successfully stopped the symptoms for a certain amount of time. However, my body grew used to the medications I was taking, and they eventually lost their effectiveness. Furthermore, I knew that I was not actually addressing the internal problem; I was simply masking the external effects. That is when I decided to visit a naturopathic doctor. Yes there is a lot of controversy surrounding naturopathic medicine, and I was very skeptical, but I was also desperate. Thank goodness I was because after a food sensitivity test (that revealed how many food sensitivities I actually had) and an intense 3-month diet (along with taking the prescribed pro-biotics, multivitamins, and supplements), I can safely say that I understand my body a whole lot better, and my skin is proof of it.

Allergy aware eating
The effects of my allergy aware eating from October 2016 to January 2017.

So, how do I survive on campus when my stomach is calling? Let me tell you. 

*Disclaimer: while this may sound like an obvious thing to say, I will say it anyways, please don’t take my word for everything, always make sure to ask the restaurants before assuming something is gluten, dairy, or nut free, especially for those with more severe intolerances like celiac disease or lethal allergies. Also, everyone is different, so I cannot guarantee the same results. This is what worked for me and I hope that if you decide to try it, it works for you too. 

Dairy/Vegan or Vegetarian: 

If you are lactose intolerant, you will probably experience bloating, stomach pain or diarrhea soon after consuming dairy. When I eat dairy (which I unfortunately have a few times), my throat swells up on the inside and I get hives all over my body. How nice right? Avoiding dairy has been a part of my life since I was a child, so I cant really miss eating cheese or yogurt or butter because I never ate it to begin with. However, the struggle is probably so real for people with lactose intolerance, because they are forced to avoid eating foods that they have probably already developed a love for. 

Where to eat: 

This is where vegan restaurants are a lifesaver. Vegan food contains absolutely no animal based products, i.e. no dairy, no eggs, no meat or fish. If you want to avoid the dairy but still want a serving of meat, they can accommodate you. There are two Remedy Cafe locations that are very close to the University of Alberta campus: 10404 82 Ave NW, and 8631 109 St NW. And guess what? Their food is delicious and they stay open until 12a.m. EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK. Perfect for on campus all-nighters! 


Gluten is the one food sensitivity I have really struggled with because I ate a lot of it as a child. After puberty, I began to breakout and got spots of eczema on my neck, inside my elbows, around my mouth and even on my eyelids. I also experienced runny noses, itchy eyes, and even brain fog, which made it hard to concentrate and focus on my studies. It took me a long time, and finally a food sensitivity test to realize that gluten was the cause of all these problems. I love my bread and pastries, so taking gluten out of my diet was such a struggle. Luckily, I have figured out which food places on campus serve gluten-free food. 

Where to eat:

The Daily Grind: SUB, open until 7a.m.- 9p.m. on weekdays and 8a.m.- 4p.m. on weekends. A perfect option for gluten free pastries to have with the drink you order, (fyi: their shortbread cookies are my favourite). 

Edo: SUB and HUB Mall (M 12a.m.- 9p.m., 9a.m.- 9p.m. TWRF, SAT 11p.m.- 12a.m., SUN 12a.m.- 5p.m., 11p.m.- 12a.m.). The noodles look delicious, but they also have gluten in them, so I always opt for the rice dishes. Also, who doesn’t enjoy sushi? Just make sure to avoid the soy sauce because yes, it has gluten in it. 

Fries or yam fries: while this is not the healthiest option, this is perfect for when you are craving fast food. There are many restaurants on campus that offer fries and yam fries, such as Deweys, A&W in HUB Mall, or Marco’s Famous in SUB. Remember that poutine gravy usually has flour in it to thicken it, so if you want poutine, try hitting up La Poutine (8720 109 St NW) for poutine with gluten free gravy.

Burrito Libre: HUB Mall (7:30a.m.- 9p.m. on weekdays, 11a.m.- 7p.m. on weekends) salads or burrito bowls are extremely filling as well as extremely delicious…especially with extra guac. 

Grocery Restaurants and Grocery Stores:

I like to check Gluten Free Edmonton's website

Vegan Restaurants:

Happy Cow has a listing of vegan friendly eats in the Edmonton area. 

Where am I at now?

It’s safe to say that I have come a long way from where I started. Before, I used to feel frustrated with the fact that I couldn’t eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, because when it comes to food, no one likes to be restricted. However, I have come to realize that my allergies are somewhat of a blessing rather than a curse. They keep me away from so many unhealthy habits and prevent me from ingesting things that are not good for me. They have also made me even more appreciative and thankful for my friends and family who go out of their way to accommodate my restrictions, and this reminds me of how lucky I truly am. I now exercise discipline when it comes to food (and am thankfully still able to indulge). I feel ten times better both inside and out now that I understand my diet and am in complete control of it. So whether you are new, experienced, or have no issues at all when it comes to food restrictions, I hope this either made you appreciate the lifestyle you have or helped motivate you to get the lifestyle you want. 

Eating healthy with allergies

Niabi - YouAlberta Contributor

Niabi is a fourth year BA student double majoring in English and Spanish. She’s a relentless optimist, hazardously curious, and loves a good laugh (her friends would say that she has a juvenile sense of humour). When not jamming out to Reggaeton, you can find her trying to cuddle every dog she sees, or serving herself “eyes-are-too-big-for-your-stomach” helpings.

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