Students discuss eating on campus with dietary restrictions

Erin DeMaso
BYU provides food options that are available to students dietary restrictions. (Erin DeMaso)

Eating on campus can be difficult for students with dietary restrictions, but some students have found ways to manage.

According to the BYU Dining Services website, there are 18 eateries on campus and a smattering of vending machines. Most dining outlets, like those in the Cougar Eat, are designed for eating quickly, which is conducive to the on-campus eating style. However, not every option works for every diet.

Parker Paulson, a neuroscience major who has celiac disease, said that when he does eat on campus, Subway, Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s are good options because they have lettuce wraps.

Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder in which the body develops an intolerance to gluten. Gluten is a protein that can be found in wheat, rye and barley. This makes it difficult for those with the condition to consume foods like bread. 

While Paulson said he finds that it’s fairly easy to order gluten-free food items on campus, he wishes there was a resource that would provide information about vending machine items, particularly the BYU-made sandwiches.

Dindi Chan, a recent BYU graduate who is lactose intolerant, said she prefers
the Pendulum Court Café when she chooses to eat on campus, as it can be hard to order dairy-free products from outlets at the Cougar Eat.

“At the Pendulum court, the taco salad is good. If I don’t have the sour cream, it’s fine. It’s affordable; it’s like five bucks. It’s got corn chips and beef. It’s so much better (than the grab-and-go salads from the Cougar Eat),” Chan said.

Chan also said she has formed a sort of community in which she associates with other lactose intolerant students. They tell each other where they can find fairly-priced dairy-free products that still taste good.

“That’s the hardest part of having a dietary restriction because if friends go out to dinner, they have to accommodate what you can eat or sometimes they might not even invite you because they know you can’t come, … It did affect my social life at first, but I tend to connect with people who have the same restrictions”.

Media Arts major Zoe Taylor has had similar problems. Taylor has been a vegetarian for around nine years, she said, though not by choice. Meat makes her sick.

“I made the mistake of eating meat my freshman year, and it was so bad. It was like food poisoning,” Taylor said. 

Taylor’s school schedule often requires her to spend extended periods of time on campus. Because of this, she too turns to campus for meals. She tends to gravitate towards Jamba Juice and Taco Bell because they have the best options for her diet, though she wishes they were healthier. Taylor said she also uses vending machines.

“Most of the classes I end up taking, I know where the vending machines are; it’s easy access,” Taylor said. “It’s easy for me to dip out of classes and just go get something. And I mean, I can eat pizza bagels to the end of days, but that’s not healthy. And as much as I would like to have a chicken salad sandwich, I can’t.”

BYU students have recently been provided with a new alternative to fast food in the CougarEat. A new Asian fusion outlet called Choices opened this fall. It serves non-fast food items like wraps and rice bowls. While Choices provides meat options, there are some that are vegetarian-friendly.

All of the students interviewed for this article was aware of Choices, but none had ever visited due to prices and time.

BYU Dining services provides information about which menu items are safe for those with allergies or other dining restrictions. Chain restaurants like Chick-fil-A and Wendy’s also provide nutritional information on their respective websites. 

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