Avoiding allergens on campus

Cougar Woods is one of the allergy-friendly dining locations on campus. |  Hannah Laamoumi//The Daily Cougar

Cougar Woods is one of the allergy-friendly dining locations on campus. | Hannah Laamoumi//The Daily Cougar

This summer before she attended orientation, hotel and restaurant management freshman Madelyne Austin planned on petitioning a meal plan.

“I thought a meal plan would be a waste of money,” Austin said. “But then I heard that the University was trying to get a gluten-free line so I decided to try it out and see if they offered enough food that I can eat, and it worked out.”

Austin is one of many students who live on campus with allergies to certain foods. She is allergic to dairy, eggs, gluten, chicken and pork. When she consumes these products, she gets severe headaches, sinus and stomach issues.

UH Dining Services strives to make students feel more at home by accommodating their dietary needs. Both dining hall locations, the Moody Towers and Cougar Woods, offer gluten-free foods, lactose-free products and vegetarian dining options.

Dining Services dietitian Caroline Sullivan encourages students, faculty and staff to contact the dining services and schedule free nutrition counseling sessions to help provide a diet that meets their needs.

Knowing the menu ahead of time is beneficial to students like Austin, who checks the daily menu on the Campus Dish app on her phone. The dining website gives the weekly menu, too.

“The staff is also pretty good about answering any questions I have about what is in whatever they are serving, especially in the gluten-free and vegetarian section,” Austin said.

Dining Services has not reported any incidents where students accidentally consumed a food allergen.

“University of Houston Dining Services understands that more and more students are being affected by food allergies, and our staff has received specialized, on-going training that focuses on serving diners with food allergies, intolerances and sensitivities to avoid any cross contamination or unintentional ingestion of an allergen,” Sullivan said.

Nursing junior Chrissy Totilas is allergic to pecans, almonds, pine nuts, macadamia nuts and other nuts, excluding peanuts. She normally eats in the University Center Satellite but has to double-check if she is buying any foods with nuts in them.

“If a small amount of nuts are consumed, I get severe itching around the throat and mouth, but if it’s a large amount, I would probably not be able to breathe,” Totilas said.

While dining options can sometimes be limited, Austin has no plans to change her meal plan.

“There is rarely a time when they aren’t serving anything I can’t have, and I always resort to the salad bar,” Austin said.

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