How to Eat Gluten Free Without Breaking Your Food Budget

  • author name Marie E. Acebo, RD, CDE, LDN
Lady preparing a meal

Gluten-free eating can be a life-changing adjustment. Not only do you need to avoid some favorite foods that contain wheat, rye and barley, but if you purchase foods labeled gluten-free, your budget can take a big hit.

However, by following 3 simple guidelines, you can save money and increase the quality of the food you’re eating:

Gluten-free Foods That May Surprise You

People are often surprised by the foods that contain gluten and in fear; hunt down foods labeled gluten-free as substitutes for staples in their diet. Many of these products are close to three times the cost of the similar gluten-containing item. And, usually this practice is not necessary.

Many healthy and nutritious foods like potatoes, rice, and beans have always been gluten free. Eating brown rice, sweet potatoes, and beans can add beneficial vitamins and fiber to your diet and replace lower nutrient items like pasta and breads.

Starchy vegetables such as corn, peas, and winter squash make a hearty replacement for pre-packaged gluten-free items. Grains like quinoa are easy to prepare and can be served a variety of ways, both sweet and savory, to appeal to all tastes and meals.

Many gluten-containing foods are the more processed and pre-prepared foods. Avoiding mixes and pre-made frozen entrees which often contain gluten may result in eating fresher, whole foods, and improve your nutrition.

Tips for Gluten-free Shopping

While eating more simply with less processed foods may improve the quality of your diet, it might require a change in how much time you spend in the grocery store. Many products on the market are not specifically labeled gluten free but do not contain gluten, and are very useful in the everyday diet.

There’s an App For That

Gluten-free grocery store guides are available in both book form and as an app for smartphones. Spaghetti sauces, condiments, cereals, and many snack items can be found in these resources. Name brands and food specifics impact whether foods are gluten free, so be sure to purchase the exact item recommended. Double-check the label even when listed in the gluten-free grocery guides, as formulations can change. Often these foods have manufacturers’ coupons, further reducing the cost.

Batch Cooking

Often families attempt to convert completely to the gluten-free diet for all members. While this can streamline meal preparation, it can significantly increase food cost. Consider making “family meals” gluten free, and continue using gluten-containing items for meals eaten individually by those without dietary restrictions.

Batch-style cooking allows you to eat healthy foods without having to prepare them daily, and is also an efficient way to handle specialty items such as breads, cookies and muffins.

Making a large batch of gluten-free items and freezing them individually allows for quick packing of lunches and travel meals for work or school. Some foods work especially well for this. Soups and stews freeze well. Shepherd’s pie and other potato-based casseroles, whole grains like quinoa pilaf, and gluten-free enchiladas can be proportioned and frozen for quick and easy meals.

Better in the Long Run

While initially a gluten-free diet can be both physically and financially overwhelming, with the help of a dietitian and some simple techniques, many people find they feel better and eat better than they did before making the change.

author name

Marie E. Acebo, RD, CDE, LDN

Marie E. Acebo, RD, CDE, LDN, is a registered dietitian with the Diabetes & Nutrition Center at Lancaster General Health.

Education: After earning a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from Eastern Michigan University, she completed a clinical dietitian internship at the University of Michigan Medical Center. Acebo specializes in the care and management of pediatric type 1 and type 2 diabetes. She is also an expert in treating eating disorders through nutrition.

Call: 717-544-5923

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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