Manoeuvering the menu in first year

A look into the food options for students with special dietary needs

You can find non-meat alternatives at Tara Natural Foods at 120 Princess Street.
You can find non-meat alternatives at Tara Natural Foods at 120 Princess Street.
Gluten-free options for celiac woes can also be found at Tara Natural Foods.
Gluten-free options for celiac woes can also be found at Tara Natural Foods.

Navigating the world of residence dining is no easy task. Even the allergy-free omnivore has to adapt to the all-you-can-eat buffet, the occasional mouthful of something unspeakable and the fact that no matter how good the pasta sauce looks, your mom didn’t make it. For those with dietary restrictions, cafeteria eating is even harder, but anyone can make residence dining work for them.

Options for alternative eaters seem to get better every year, and don’t forget about the two must-haves for any needy eater: care packages and a well-stocked mini-fridge.

The Meatless Menu

The breadth of your options depends on how animal-free you want your plate. Cheese, egg, and milk eaters won’t have much trouble foraging for food in the dining halls—both Leonard and Ban Righ offer vegetarian entrees ranging from pizza and pasta to burgers and hummus wraps. Vegans are in luck too: recent changes mean that both dining halls offer vegan margarine, almond butter, tahini and raw sugar.

Eat It: The salad bar and sandwich station are your new best friends (try a tasty pita with a combination of salad bar tofu and sandwich station vegetables), and don’t miss the soy milk they keep hidden in coolers.

Steer Clear: The pre-made meals in Leonard are almost always of the slab of meat, side of vegetable variety, and beware of the shredded cheese that seems to mix itself in with other salad bar ingredients.

Dorm Room Staples
: Peter Saczkowski, ArtSci ’07, remembers keeping veggie dogs in his fridge for a quick protein fix between classes: “It was kind of gross at first, but you get used to eating them raw with some mustard.” If you can’t stop dreaming of delicious desserts, take advantage of the communal kitchens in residence to do some dairy-free baking for your floor.

Survival Suggestions: Take a walk to the Sleepless Goat on Princess Street for vegetable samosas and vegan cake. While you’re there, head next door to Tara Natural Foods at 81 Princess Street to stock up on all your vegetarian grocery needs.

Dining for the Diabetic

Chances are, you already have a routine to keep your blood sugar steady, but the hectic schedule of university life can be a challenge. The bad news is that the dining halls don’t open for morning and afternoon snacks to help you balance your diet. The good news is that main campus dining halls are all-you-can-eat; and while multiple trips to the self-serve ice cream station might not be in your future, stashing fruit in your backpack is an easy way to make sure that you keep on top of that pesky insulin.

Eat It: Make-it-yourself sandwich, cereal and salad bars give you control over what, and how much, you put on your plate. If you’ve got classes during lunch or dinner, bagged meals of sandwiches, salad and fruit are available.

Steer Clear: Make-it-yourself is great, until you see the waffle station and its accompanying sauces and syrups. Conveniently located right beside the ice cream. Your blood sugar is crying right now.

Dorm Room Staples: Healthy, easy to pack snacks like apples and granola bars, just in case you aren’t feeling up to a little cafeteria robbery and have a busy day of classes and studying.

Survival Suggestions: The A&P on Brock Street is a ten-minute walk and a 24-hour-a-day source of sugar-free ice cream, and you can find sugar-free candy at any Shopper’s Drug Mart.

Gluten-Free Grub

Life in residence with a gluten intolerance might make you long for the days when gluten-free crackers were always in the pantry and the pasta at dinner was made with rice flour. Unfortunately, the University kitchen has not been celiac-proofed, so you’ll need to keep your eye out for foods as common as deli meats and salad dressings, which can be loaded with gluten in all its evil glory. But with a little creativity, frequent adventures to Loblaws, and some investigation into cafeteria ingredients, you can enjoy residence dining just as much as your bagel-binging roommate.

Eat It: Ban Righ offers more self-serve entrees, letting you decide whether or not you want a side of pasta salad – and the consequences that come with it. According to Carl Hanna, director of residence operations, both cafeterias are better equipped for gluten-free diets than ever before: “We do now offer gluten-free breads, and we offer things like fruit salad and fresh fruit for dessert,” he said.

Steer Clear: The pizza, casserole and pasta stations are off-limits, and you won’t find any gluten-free pancakes for Sunday morning brunch. Dorm Room Staples: Your dining hall dessert options are limited to fruit, so you might want to stock up on some gluten-free treats for late night TV or DVD marathons.

Survival Suggestions: Tara Natural Foods and the Loblaws Princess Market at 1100 Princess Street both sell gluten-free snacks, breads, cookies and crackers for your dorm room needs. Your best bet on campus is the Fireside Grill for a made-to-order stir fry. Off-campus restaurants like Ta-Ke Sushi at 120 Princess Street will help you steer clear of bread and pasta for Sunday night dinner delivery.

Colitis in the Cafeteria

Living with colitis probably means you’re already careful about what you eat, both during and between flare-ups of that spastic colon. Whether you follow a high fibre, caffeine and lactose-free diet, or are getting through a tough patch with a low-fibre eating plan, a little bit of imagination goes a long way. You probably already know what your body can and can’t handle, and luckily for you, the University dining halls are renowned for their consistent lack of variety. In other words, figure out what works, stick with it, and you and your colon will be free of freak outs. Eat It: Minimize digestive trauma and make use of the oft-ignored cafeteria microwaves by steaming raw salad bar vegetables for a tasty side dish. For those who can’t eat coarse fibre, dining hall sandwich stations offer a wide selection of white bread, pitas, and tortillas. Lactose-free milk is also available.

Steer Clear: The salad bar is a raw food extravaganza that will leave you ruing the day you decided you could handle a plate of carrot sticks, and the daily pizza and pasta selections are a lactose adventure you may want to think twice about.

Dorm Room Staples: Whatever works for easing digestion. Different foods work for different people. Stockpile whatever helps your flare-ups calm down.

Survival Suggestions: Consider meeting with a registered dietician if you have a hard time adjusting to residence dining. You can also contact Queen’s Food Services at

Kosher and Muslim Meals

At home, it’s easy to steer clear of pork, gelatin, whey and other products, but eating in a dining hall poses some challenges. Don’t be afraid to ask for lists of ingredients if you have concerns. Hanna said food service staff are prepared to answer questions: “If anyone has a question about one of our recipes, they can speak to a manager or supervisor and we will gladly provide them with an ingredient list.” You can also consult with the Queen’s University Muslim Student Association for up-to-date guidance on Halal food on campus.

Eat It: Weekend brunch at Leonard gives you the serve-yourself option of skipping the bacon when you fill up a plate of pancakes and hash browns. As an added bonus, Halal entrees are available at the Ban Righ International station all year, and desserts are all made with vegetable shortening.

Steer Clear: Everything served in the dining halls is made in one big kitchen, so there are no guarantees that prepared food didn’t cross paths with an ingredient you would rather avoid. Be wary of pre-made casseroles – Jessie Hale, ArtSci ’08, recalls lifting the top off her “vegetarian” dish to find ham swimming in the tomato sauce underneath.

Dorm Room Staples: Unless you’ve got a roommate with a pepperoni stick obsession, you should be fine in your new living space.

Survival Suggestions: If you tend to avoid things like pizza and fast food because of their use of pork and other no-no’s, try Sunday night takeout from one of Kingston’s fine Indian, Thai or Japanese restaurants. Curry Original at 2786A Princess Street, uses mostly organic ingredients, and their food is free of additives and preservatives.

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