Healthy Gluten-Free Eating on a Budget
Is it possible to eat on a budget while also eating gluten-free? Since 2008 I have been eating gluten free for health reasons. At first I was overwhelmed but now know that you can eat a healthy gluten-free diet without breaking the bank.
As a nutritionist who specializes in gluten and other food sensitivities, I work with clients every day who need to eliminate gluten. When they first go to the grocery store to purchase gluten-free foods they are in for a shock. Gluten-free bread, pasta, cookies and cereals cost anywhere from 3 to 5 times more than similar foods made with wheat flour.
So how can you and your family eat gluten-free on a budget?
Learn all you can about eating healthy on a budget and implement what you learn.
There are lots of articles on this site about saving money on healthy food. One good place to start is Erin Odom’s article How to Save Money Without Clipping Coupons. I also have an article on my site called Five Tips to Save Money on Healthy Food that will give you some additional ideas.
Eat a Naturally Gluten-Free Diet.
A dinner of chicken, vegetables and rice is naturally gluten-free. So is a breakfast of scrambled eggs, fruit and sautéed potatoes. Eating five or more servings of vegetables per day will reduce your chances of getting many diseases, including cancer, and vegetables don’t contain gluten.
Most frozen vegetables are reasonably priced. Dried beans and rice are extremely inexpensive and are a complete source of protein and fiber when combined. In fact, all vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and animal proteins are gluten-free! Only grains contain gluten proteins.
Go through your cookbooks and identify recipes that are naturally gluten-free and that your family likes. Then make those meals on a regular basis.
Buy and use a spiralizer.
My family loves spaghetti and it is a quick and easy dinner. Gluten-free pasta is available but it is at least three times more expensive than wheat pasta. Pasta is also a high-glycemic food with low nutritional value, so it should not be eaten very often. You can increase your vegetable intake by using a spiralizer to make veggie “noodles”. When topped with spaghetti sauce, you can get the pickiest eaters to eat their vegetables and their intake of fiber and micronutrients.
Eat salads for lunch instead of sandwiches.
Let me let you in on a secret. Gluten-free bread is expensive. Most gluten-free bread does not taste very good either. My solution has been to eliminate eating bread for the most part. I started eating a large salad topped with some type of protein almost every day for lunch. I easily get three or more servings of vegetables from the salad, increase my fiber intake and reduce my intake of high glycemic carbs because of eliminating bread.
I make homemade salad dressings to further increase nutrition and reduce cost. Typical bottled dressings are made with highly inflammatory soybean oil. The best organic and nutritious salad dressings can cost as much as $10 per bottle. The salad dressings I make at home such as this Creamy Vinaigrette Dressing made with extra virgin olive oil, apple cider vinegar and flax seeds is very economical.
Make your own gluten-free treats.
There are many healthy gluten-free snacks and desserts such as Larabars and Hail Merry snacks. These are convenient but at $1 or more per bar for Larabars and $4 or more for a package of 8 small Hail Merry bites, these treats are too expensive to have on a daily basis for most families.
I have recipes for Carrot Cake Energy Balls, Nutty Flax Balls and Chocolate Truffles on my web site. Erin has a recipe for Date-Nut Fudge on this site. All of these recipes are healthy AND much less expensive than pre-packaged treats.
Find the best prices on gluten-free packaged goods and stock up.
While it is best to avoid packaged gluten-free products to the extent you can, sometimes we need to use them to save time. Other times, we miss a particular food we used to eat and want to have a similar treat.
I used to love bagels. The chewy texture of a toasted bagel with cream cheese was a treat for me that I missed. I thought I might never enjoy a bagel again. Then I found gluten-free bagels at Aldi’s. These are the least expensive gluten-free bagels I have seen in any store and they taste a lot like wheat bagels when toasted. I don’t want to eat too much at a time so I purchase a package, then freeze most of it with parchment paper between the slices. Then individual pieces can be used without unfreezing the entire package.