If you’ve recently been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, you’ll need to eliminate gluten – a protein found in wheat and other grains that gives dough its elastic properties.
Some people who don’t have celiac disease may also have difficulty digesting gluten, says Liz Weinandy, a registered nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center in Columbus. “Gluten intolerance is when a person simply cannot tolerate gluten for whatever reason.” In technical jargon, this gluten intolerance is referred to as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity”.
Over the past decade, gluten-free has also become more popular with people who have no medical reason to cut this sticky protein from their diet.
Whatever the reason you’re considering going gluten-free, it can be challenging for some people, especially those whose diets are high in wheat-based foods and processed products.
But Lola O’Rourke, a registered nutritionist and education coordinator for the Gluten Intolerance Group, an Auburn, Washington-based nonprofit that focuses on consumer support, advocacy and education, says: Think. While you need to be careful about avoiding gluten, there are many ways you can enjoy delicious food by taking the opportunity to discover new cuisines, ingredients, and dishes that are gluten-free. “
Expect to spend more
When switching, you should also be prepared to spend a little more money in the supermarket. “There’s no denying that shopping for gluten-free foods adds to your grocery bill,” says O’Rourke, citing a 2019 study published in Nutrients magazine that found that gluten-free products were 183% more expensive than ” normal “gluten-containing products”. “Gluten-free products from mass market manufacturers were 139% more expensive than the wheat-based version of the same product.”
GIG recently conducted its own survey and found that 78% of people said the cost of gluten-free food is their biggest challenge. “But there are ways to keep costs down. GIG is preparing to launch a new initiative to tackle food insecurity in the gluten-free community, ”says O’Rourke.
Tips for controlling your gluten-free shopping budget
While it’s not the cheapest way to eat, there are several ways you can control the cost of a gluten-free diet, O’Rourke says.
Focus on naturally gluten-free foods.
Instead of going for processed foods that are labeled gluten-free, eating naturally gluten-free whole foods will likely save you money and get better nutritional value.
- Fruits and vegetables.
- Yogurt, cheese, milk and other dairy products.
- Meat, poultry, fish and seafood.
- Beans, nuts and seeds.
“The cost increases associated with gluten-free eating are related to packaged substitutes for products traditionally made from wheat,” says O’Rourke. “You don’t have to avoid these products entirely, just keep track of how much you are buying. It is important that you can enjoy moderate amounts of your favorite foods, be it a frozen gluten-free pizza or some gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. “
Look for coupons and sales.
Shop for frozen or long-life gluten-free foods when they are on sale in the store and keep an eye on the newsletters sent to your house for coupons and promotions that can cut your spending.
Cook more at home.
If you’re used to relying more on pre-made products, cooking from scratch can take the strain off your wallet, ”says O’Rourke.
Cook in large quantities.
You can also save by buying in bulk and cooking in bulk. “If you are pressed for time or just don’t want to cook every day, set a time to cook larger amounts, use things for the following days and also freeze some food so you have your own personal freezer section of gluten-free ready meals” says O’Rourke.
Make friends with beans.
O’Rourke says “Beans are a superstar gluten-free food in terms of versatility, budget, and nutritional value.” They’re also cheap and easy to store, either in their dried or canned form. Add beans to soups, salads, chilli, tacos, and many other dishes. Experiment and see where this cheap and healthy source of protein and fiber can take you.
Replace gluten-free cereals.
Going gluten-free means removing some of the cheapest items from your shopping list – grains, grains, and other products that contain wheat, rye, barely any, and all derivatives thereof. But there are plenty of other gluten-free, grain-based foods that you can eat, such as:
- Andean millet.
If you’re a pasta lover, switching to gluten can also be a difficult transition, as dried noodles are easy to make, store well, and are inexpensive. But Emily Rice, a registered nutritionist at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, says that “pasta alternatives made from lentils or beans are great sources of fiber and protein, especially for those on a gluten-free diet.”
Tips for transitioning to a gluten-free diet
While a gluten-free diet can get your shopping bills high, consider it a long-term investment in your health and wellbeing.
The following tips can also make the switch a little easier:
Meet with an expert.
O’Rourke says that if you are diagnosed with celiac disease and you develop gluten sensitivity or otherwise need to remove gluten from your diet, “the best way is to meet with a registered nutritionist who is knowledgeable about gluten-free diets and can be customized and give detailed instructions. “
Fill your plate with vegetables.
“To maintain a healthy weight while eating gluten-free, focus on naturally gluten-free foods and try to fill half your plate with vegetables that are healthy and relatively low in calories,” says O’Rourke.
Read the labels.
O’Rourke warns, “You should always make sure that the food you buy and eat doesn’t contain any ingredients that could contain gluten.” Gluten can be sneaky and often shows up in unexpected places in packaged foods, such as salad dressings and sauces.
Do your homework.
In addition to working with someone who is knowledgeable in the field, you should also do your own research so that “you can learn the ins and outs of a gluten-free diet by accessing a reputable resource such as the Gluten Intolerance Group website”. O’Rourke says. The website has many resources on “everything from reading food labels to cooking gluten-free grains to eating a healthy gluten-free diet”.
Choose certified products to be safe.
“If you live gluten-free, choose packaged foods that are labeled or, better yet, certified gluten-free,” says O’Rourke. GIG’s gluten-free certification organization provides an independent assurance of gluten-free status supported by a “rigorous certification process”. There are more than 60,000 GFCO certified gluten-free products on the market today, making it easier to find gluten-free versions of all of your favorite foods, ”she adds.
Discover other kitchens.
Make your transition to a gluten-free life a cultural exploration by experimenting with recipes from world cuisine “that contain many naturally gluten-free ingredients and dishes such as Indian, Mexican, Thai and Vietnamese,” says O’Rourke.
Finally, O’Rourke says that no matter how difficult it may seem to go gluten-free, you are not alone: “GIG studies show that 23% of adult shoppers in the US report avoiding gluten in their home. Reach out to others you may know who have a gluten-free lifestyle to build a trusted gluten-free network to shop together or exchange recipes. “
She adds that if you need more guidance, you may also want to join a gluten-free support group to “connect and learn from others who are gluten-free too. GIG has more than 80 gluten-free support groups across the country and new ones are formed regularly. “