Special Diets

Cal Dining is committed to helping our customers meet their dietary needs. Whether you have food allergies, religious restrictions, are following a vegan/vegetarian diet or simply need assistance with your food selections, Cal Dining can provide the resources to help you make safe and delicious choices. Please review the resource section of our website for more information regarding common restrictive diets.

Students with specific question can schedule an one-on- one meeting with our Registered Dietitian to discuss your dietary needs. Please email dietitian@berkeley.edu to make an appointment.

In the meantime, students in need of housing accommodation due to special dietary needs (i.e. severe food allergies, Celiac disease) are encouraged to reach out to Cal Housing Accommodations Coordinator as well as to UC Berkeley’s Disabled Students’ Program 

Allergies and Gluten intolerance

Food Allergies
A food allergy is defined as a disorder of the body's immune response to specific food proteins. Food allergy symptoms range from mild to severe. The most severe allergic reaction is anaphylaxis — a life-threatening whole-body allergic reaction that can impair breathing, cause a dramatic drop in blood pressure, and affect heart rate. Anaphylaxis can manifest within minutes of exposure to the trigger food. It can be fatal and must be treated promptly with an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline).

While any food can potentially cause an adverse reaction, eight types of food, known as the Big-8, account for about 90 percent of all allergic reactions in the U.S.: milk, eggs, shellfish, fish, peanuts, tree nuts, soy, and wheat. Often, these items are hidden ingredients in food recipes and special care must be taken to avoid them. To help our customers with food allergies to browse and choose safely, the Big-8 allergens are listed on the menu signage in Cal Dining locations and on the online menu. In addition, we also list sesame (a seed commonly found in Tahini, breads, and condiments) and gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, triticale, and barley).

Comprehensive information about food allergies can be found at Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) website. Cal Dining is a member of the FARE College Food Allergy Program.

Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance
Gluten is a protein found primarily in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac disease is a disorder caused by an autoimmune reaction to gluten ingestion. Gluten intolerance is sometimes confused with Celiac disease or a food allergy, but is a different condition. However, both Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can be treated by avoiding gluten. Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include gassiness, abdominal pain or diarrhea.

Gluten is found in many foods and is often a hidden ingredients in food recipes, so special care must be taken to avoid gluten. To help our customers with gluten intolerance/Celiac disease to browse and choose safely, gluten is listed on the menu signage in Cal Dining locations and on the online menu.

Religious Dietary Restrictions
Certain religious practices restrict dietary intake and necessitate close attention to recipe ingredients. The most commonly restricted foods are certain types of meat, fish, and dairy. 
To help our customers with religious dietary restrictions to browse and choose with ease, the following foods/ingredients are listed on our menu signage at all Cal Dining and residential and retail locations: alcohol, pork and dairy (milk), among which milk is listed as an allergen. If your religious or cultural customs require close attention to diet, please review the menu signage carefully and ask for help from staff if you have additional questions or requests.

Vegan/Vegetarian Resources
Food choices are made for many different reasons, including cultural, emotional, economical, religious, ethical, environmental and personal health. For those who choose to follow a vegetarian diet (no meat or fish) or vegan diet (no animal products of any kind, including meat, eggs and dairy), Cal Dining offers a variety of daily selections to meet your vegetarian and vegan diet needs at all of our locations.

Whatever choices you make regarding meat and animal product consumption, you can never go wrong with eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Include all colors of fruits and vegetables when you can!


Essential Nutrients for Vegan/Vegetarian Diet

While a vegetarian diet is typically lower in saturated fats and cholesterol, it should be planned carefully to provide all essential nutrients available in a diet containing meat. Below are the essential nutrients to pay attention while on a vegan/vegetarian diet as well as food sources of these nutrients that can be found in the dining halls.

Protein is found in most plant foods as well as animal foods. It is fairly easy to meet protein requirements in a vegan diet as long as the food sources are varied and intake is adequate. Soy protein is an ideal plant protein source because it has the same animo acid profile as most animal proteins. Other good sources include dairy products, eggs, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts.

Vegetarians may have a greater risk of iron deficiency than non vegetarians. Vegetarians should consume a variety of iron-rich foods to meet daily requirements along with a good source of vitamin C (like citrus fruits, orange juice, or tomatoes) to increase iron absorption. Vegetarian-friendly iron sources include fortified cereals, soybeans, dark leafy greens like spinach and chard, beans, and eggs.

Vitamin B-12
Vegetarian sources of B12 include Vitamin B12-fortified foods such as nutritional yeast, soy milk, meat analogs and ready-to-eat cereals, dairy products, and eggs. Because vitamin B-12 comes naturally only from animal sources, vegans need a reliable source of vitamin B-12 added to their diets.

Vitamin D
While a vegetarian diet that includes dairy products and eggs should be able to provide adequate amounts of vitamin D, a vegan should include a reliable source of vitamin D. Adequate sunlight exposure provides vitamin D, but vegans who do not get much sunlight may need a supplement.


Dairy products are a rich source of calcium. For vegans, calcium can be obtained from some plant-based foods, including fortified soy or almond milk, fortified cereals, tofu, broccoli, leafy green vegetables (like kale), and beans (like soybeans chickpeas, black beans).


Zinc is widely available in many foods, so deficiency is rare in North Americans, even among vegetarians. Vegan sources of zinc include legumes, soy products, nuts, seeds, and whole grains such as oats.


Cal Dining has made it a priority to label food items that contain the Big-8 food allergens, sesame, gluten, pork, and alcohol. 

For those with food allergies or gluten-intolerance, we would like to gently remind you to always read the allergen labels on menu items posted in dining halls and online. When in doubt, always ask. For better meal planning, we highly encourage you to schedule an appointment with Jaylene Tang, MS. RD, Cal Dining’s staff Dietitian. She will meet with you in person to learn your dietary needs, and connect you with the chef in charge of the preparation of your meals. You may also download, complete, and return the Food Allergy and Special Diet Notification Form to our Dietitian. She can be reached at dietitian@berkeley.edu

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