Edit Desk: Living with a dietary restriction


As a senior in high school I was diagnosed with celiac disease and it drastically changed the way I live day-to-day. 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body has an immune reaction to consuming gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley) that causes damage to the small intestine and can lead to medical complications. The only way to treat the disease is to adopt a completely gluten-free diet. 

When I was diagnosed, I cut foods out of my diet that I had been eating my whole life. No more pasta, no more waffles and no more bread. 

At first, I really struggled to understand what I could and could not eat. I had to check food labels constantly, look up ingredients online and call ahead at restaurants to ensure there were gluten-free options available.

Since I could no longer eat a majority of the foods I enjoyed, food started to become a sore subject for me and eating began to feel like a chore. 

Though it took a while, I eventually came to terms with my new gluten-free lifestyle and I was able to find foods that I enjoyed toward the end of my senior year. 

Sara Iuzzolino, ’25

However, this all changed the fall I arrived at Lehigh. 

I knew that adapting to college life was going to be difficult, but I did not anticipate that finding food safe for me to eat would be a large part of this challenge. 

While the university does attempt to provide safe options for those with dietary restrictions in the “Simple Servings” section of the dining hall, this section only provides students with one protein option, one vegetable option and one carbohydrate option at every given mealtime. 

This is always a safe bet, but I am never given much choice, especially compared to the wide variety of choices that students without dietary restrictions have. 

During my first few weeks of college, I found myself living off rice with sriracha, lucky charms cereal and microwave popcorn, which I knew were all incredibly unhealthy. 

Because of this, I had no other choice than to eat from the sections of the dining hall that are not considered allergen-free zones, where cross-contamination is always a risk. 

Another risk of eating from other stations is that occasionally the allergen labels on certain dishes will be incorrect. I have witnessed this and have had a reaction due to misinformation on these labels. There have been multiple instances in which a food option, for example, hash browns, has been labeled gluten-free one day and the label was removed the next. While it may seem like a slight slip-up to some, this is a mistake that could result in somebody like me getting ill. 

I appreciate Lehigh’s efforts to provide safe food for students with dietary restrictions, however, I think they could and should be doing more. 

First off, there should be more than one guaranteed safe meal option at every mealtime for those with restricted diets. There should be a larger area dedicated for people with allergies, considering much of the student body has these kinds of restrictions. 

Furthermore, students who do not have a restricted diet should be more considerate to those in the community that do. For example, I have seen a student put a regular piece of bread into the designated gluten-free toaster, which can be extremely harmful to people with gluten allergies. In addition, they should try and be cautious when using the serving utensils at other stations in order to minimize cross-contamination. 

It is important that Lehigh addresses this issue since proper nutrition plays a big role in the success of college students. 

Poor nutrition can lead to problems such as fatigue, stress and illness, and will ultimately limit a student’s capacity to do quality work. This will not only take a toll on their academic performance but will also affect them socially. 

While these improvements may require additional funds from the school, they are necessary for the well-being of students across campus.

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