Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gluten-free at McGill v. 1

Hello beautiful people!

I've decided to do a little series on what exactly gluten-free folks can find to eat on campus at McGill when it's not possible to bring food.

So, being gluten-free at McGill so far has not been easy. I know in the last post I had things all planned out, I had my snacks organized, and I was ready to go, but I've had some wrinkles. On Sunday we had a fiesta with the wine so I didn't get around to packing my lunch-snacks, Monday morning was too rushed, so I brought only an orange to school and hoped to find some other reasonably-priced GF snacks. Nothing fancy, you know, just some cheese or an egg or something. Not easy!! A lot of campus cafes are closed or shortly closing for the summer. Engineering Cafe had a basic, mostly primal salad (good) for $7 (very not good). They were also out of fries. Oy!

Wrinkle #2 is that I seem to not do well with nuts, which you may recall were a big part of my dry, portable protein plan for school. I don't recall whether I've mentioned it here at all, but I had been off nuts for a few months, thinking I was intolerant (I get skin reactions from nuts sometimes), then I'd decided I had probably been eating gluten-contaminated nuts, so I was paying attention to brands and carefully reintroducing them into my diet. So I've had nuts nearly every school day till midway through this week; on Tuesday I had a real bad tummy ache that just went on and on, by night time I was still bloated and uncomfortable. I had an intuition that it was the nuts. So that's out of the picture again, I'll probably abstain and reintroduce a few times more over the next few months to be sure, but at home I guess I'm accepting a nut-free reality.

This is my updates nut-free lunch pack for today - carrots, snowpeas, two HB eggs, a piece of cheddar, and a handful of dates.

But... what to eat in an "emergency"?

Option 1 - sprouted flax & sesame crackers and sardines from Couffin Bio on Sherbrooke.The sardines were delicious and sustainable but a little pricey (3$+).

Option 2 - french fries from A&W on University (delicious but not super nourishing; not a good weekly fallback).

Edit: I've since figured out that many (most) restaurants fry onion rings and other sides with wheat batter in the same fryer as their fries - do not eat French fries from a restaurant unless you've confirmed that they use a designated fryer!

Option 3 - free apples from the Birks student lounge (admittedly this is not a reliably consistent option).

So far, that's all I've got. There's a Cultures (looks good, some bowls, soups and salads are GF, though weirdly the smoothies are not) and a Thai Express (which looks potentially promising though I don't totally understand the chart) on University I'll look into, and there's some possibility that the student-run Nest cafe in the SSMU building will attempt to reintroduce GF options in the fall (I emailed the present manager to volunteer help). I also emailed Student Food Services this week to tell them I think offering GF food is important, so while I only got back a pretty basic, "We're working on it, but there are lots of dietary restrictions on campus and we can't accommodate them all equally", who knows, maybe other options will emerge. I'll try to post updates by volume here to document my adventures and as a resource to other GF students on campus.

For now I am rethinking my packed lunches... More canned fish and some fish jerky attempts will probably play into my near future. Stay tuned!

If you are new to Leek Geeks, especially if you are a gluten-free McGill student who found us on google, please leave a comment and say hello! :)


  1. Ugh! Sorry to hear about the nut issue. I am avoiding dairy until I have my allergy test in mid June--and I am mortified to admit that eggs have been giving me some issues too.

    also--date bars or truffels for last minute lunch emergz! extremely nutritious, even as a lunch substitute. I made maybe 50 mid-semester and keep them in tiny, airtight containers in the fridge. If I'm in a rush, I will whirl some spinach, coconut milk, flax powder if I'm feelin it, cocoa, and a banana in the Magic Bullet, put a lid on, and I'll grab canned fish and dates. And that's lunch. Also, I keep dates in the backpack for mid-afternoon pick me ups: 3 homemade date truffels can power me for at least 2 hours of solid concentration.

    I am also known to take a whole pepper from the fridge, and just pack a dull knife to slice it.

  2. I was also thinking: avocados. Easy, just again take utensils with you to slice up.

    Are you eating tofu? That could also be a protein source in a smoothie that you can make fast and take fast with you to school.