Uni accommodation for newly diagnosed coeliac - catered or not?(71 Posts)
DS has been having tests for coeliac disease, it looks highly likely he has it - just awaiting blood test results - and will have to follow a gluten-free diet.
He starts Uni this Autumn and we are just trying to sort his accommodation. Originally it was going to be catered for first year - no brainer - as he can't/doesn't want to learn to cook (yet).
Now wondering whether if he goes catered they will be able to cope with his dietary requirements. Obviously they have to deal with vegans, vegetarians, religious diets - so I'm assuming they will. Just wondered if anyone has any useful insight into this at all.
Hoping to get application in for his insurance choice this w/end (aware we have already left it late), think we won't be able to phone & ask!
I worked in my University's kitchen ten years ago and there was sod all for Coeliacs. I'd hope that things have improved since then but to be on the safe side I'd go for non-catered and make sure he learns to cook by the Autumn.
My son didn't want to cook at all and refused to learn.
He went into self catered and is doing very well and has enjoyed learning to cook to both of our surprise.
In fact, his summer job is as a junior chef in a pub!
he is going to have to come to terms with a massive change of diet/lifestyle anyway once the coeliac disease is confirmed.
I really don't think lumping learning to cook on top of the other pressure he's under is going to be a good outcome for him.
As the consultant has told us it's way easier to be coeliac now than it used to be - and I'd really hope that Universities have caught up with that too.
Ds had a friend in halls who had a restricted diet and the catering wasn't working out for him , so he was looking to transfer to sc mid year. It probably depends on the set up and how large the uni is.
Most def self catering. my DD has IBS and for that reason requested self catering, and an ensuite room. She has not regretted it because she is in control of her diet.
Self catering. Still remember when they tried to give ham and mushroom pie as the vegetarian option!! He needs to become his own expert and not rely on someone else to decide whether something with oats is ok for him. Also what happens if another student has his meal by mistake. There are different levels of tollerance too - for example distilled malt vinegar should be fine but no one told my stomach that! Can you afford to give him a little extra for food? There are good gluten free options in the supermarket now, it is also about finding naturally gluten free meals and understanding which foods are ok.
self catering - he would have between now and the autumn to hone his skills and discover what gf foods he prefers.
I have coeliac disease and you're right getting used to the lifestyle change is massive. It took a good few years of mourning for me, i found it very hard.
Based on this, I think being catered for (even if they could manage the cross contamination which is unlikely) it would make your DS feel worse.
Even though things are much better these days, in reality being catered for in any sense, often means going without, never eating what you fancy or having a partial meal e.g rice/veg but not the main, fruit for dessert (always).
Learning to cook is a necessity with any food related health condition. It gives you much more variety, less illness and you learn where 'hidden' the gluten is - stock cubes, soy sauce.
One of DS's first year flat mates was coeliac. They were self catered. It's certainly easier to buy gluten free products at supermarkets now, provided there is a decent sized one nearby.
I taught both my DC from scratch how to cook over the summer after A levels. It might be useful for him to learn about how food is prepared as part of coping with colieac diet?
Gluten free offerings might be very limited in catered halls - maybe it depends which university it is?
Having been in uni catered halls (albeit 200 years ago) I'd probably suggest he goes self catering. The food that's available may be incredibly limited. I'd also concentrate on getting him preparing simple meals for himself - he won't starve if you don't but it will make things easier for him.
Yes, just discussed with DS and he thinks he'd be happy with self-catering - he's a fussy eater anyway and thinks he'd have more options if he's choosing himself.
And I will definitely be giving him some lessons before he goes off.
He has some cooking experience but until now it has mainly focused on baking complicated cakes, cookies & bread.
So much to get our heads around!
My DS was booked into catered at his Firm choice but he ended up at his Insurance one and self-catered was the only option.
I was worried as he has ASD and doesn't cope well with change but I coached him into cooking a few basic pasta, chilli and curry dishes and he was fine. He was told me he eats healthier at Uni - cheeky git!
I've been gluten free for 19 years, and travel a lot for work, sometimes staying in uni halls for conferences. If for 4 days they give me the same meal, or lovely things like jacket potato and potato salad, then I hate to think what you'd get as a student. OTOH, its very rare that a caterer manages more than one gf meal, no matter the circumstances!
My coeliac son is off to uni this year and we had the same issue. We found the catered menu on the uni website and the gf options were boiled eggs and fruit for breakfast every morning and baked potato for dinner 5 nights a week! He has gone for the self catering option.
My DD is vegetarian, and at uni in the States. Where, in my naivety, I imagined that they would cater for every sort of diet. After one and a half terms, DD has become pescetarian because she says that, otherwise, she was eating the same things for every meal every day. With this in mind, I would go self catering and teach your DS how to cook the basics.
Oh gosh, I'm sorry you've got this extra worry. My DD reckoned on self-catered simply because she's a bit fussy with a couple of aversions (not allergy or intolerance, merely things that make her boak), and a couple of courses she's been to held at unis didn't inspire her with confidence.
She's studiously avoided cooking (other than baking for her further maths class cake rota) as far as she can thus far, and - like your DS - is focussed on A levels at the moment. But she reckons she will learn to cook sufficiently in the extra- long summer hols between the end of exams and freshers. there are many recipes online... There must be some specialist ones for coeliac?
Mydd graduates this year and has self-catered/flat shared since starting uni. She found that once she explained to her new flat mates they were really good at not using her toaster, etc and has managed well. Very limited choice available in the uni canteens.
He doesn't need to learn to cook really, well not properly. He can buy ready meals, pre made sauces and as long as he can cook rice and jacket potatoes and a few VERY simple things etc etc he will survive just fine.
You could also send him to Uni with zip lock bags full of stews, bolognase sauses, currys etc. (which he can help you prepare)
If his local shop doesn't have a good range of gluten free food then he can do an online shop from a bigger shop.
I'm sure it's doable.
Thanks Errol, and everyone. I'd forgotten about online shopping ! Of course he'll be fine, I feel really reassured now.
Sauvignon, my DS also has mild ASD so it's good to know yours had no problem adjusting to self-catering.
I'll send him off with a couple of GF cookbooks and I'm sure he'll rise to the challenge.
That's the spirit. He can apply for the accommodation now, and not worry about the cooking till summer.
Meanwhile, doubtless you are going to be having to find GF foods and recipes he likes anyway, so you'll have done a lot of the research for him - maybe you can make him a ring binder with printouts of good recipes which really work, adjusted for quantity or time if needbe (yeah, they should be able to work this stuff out, my DD seems to always overcomplicate it), lists of GF bought foods he likes, that kind of thing?
When you get the final allocation do check out the kitchen facilities as even some sc may only have a hob and microwave and perhaps no freezer or oven. Some won't allow own appliances, or only if PAT tested or new. It might be worth flagging up any specific needs such as allergies to accommodation/disabled student support as they may be able to give special consideration.
Rather than binders/cookbooks, the easiest thing for collating recipes is to do Pintrest and make boards of 'ready in less than 15 min' 'pasta sauces' and so on.
My mum reckoned that if you could cook rice, pasta, and three sauces you had a pretty good chance of surviving and I think she was right. Nothing complicated, or which needs equipmnent past a pan and spoon.
Possibly the hardest part for him will be finding a pasta he likes. None are actually like gluten pasta (no matter what anyone says), so you have to work through them to find one that is OK for you. I like Garofolo (available from Ocado) but its all pricey. Same with bread - and tbh, sandwiches on a regular basis are just unaffordable as its only the sandwich thin type things that are edible
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