Eating Gluten-Free on a Budget

Many of you may know someone who has been diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  What was once considered an incredibly rare and often undiagnosed disease has gained more attention by clinicians, food manufacturers, and the media. 

The only treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet (harder than it sounds), so as a dietitian I’ve counseled clients with celiac disease.  Additionally, a close family member was recently diagnosed with the disease.  While I’ve never experiened what it’s like to live with celiac disease, I do have a sense of how difficult it can be to follow a gluten-free diet.  Some of the frustrations include skipping out on foods you love (forever), finding gluten-free options while dining out, and the extra cost of buying special gluten-free products.

I recently came across a great article in the New York Times that addresses the last issue, the expense of eating gluten-free.  Here are the tips they offer:
1.) Avoid stocking up on special gluten-free products.  Try to base your diet on foods that are naturally gluten-free.
2.) Do your research.  It takes time and patience to find products that do not contain ingredients with gluten.
3.) Try making your own gluten-free products such as breads and cakes.
4.) Check out this great website: Gluten Free on a Shoestring
5.) Look for well-priced bulk items at chain stores.  Trader Joes carries a fantastic brown rice pasta and Wal-Mart stocks Alf’s puffed brown rice cereal for $1/bag.
6.) Join a support group.  You’ll get great cost-saving tips and vendors often come and provide samples.
7.) Itemize your tax return.  If your expenses exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income it qualifies as a write off.  “You can deduct the excess cost of a gluten-free product over a comparable gluten-containing product.”
 8.) If you have a flexible spending account at work, ask your plan’s adminstrator if you can use it to buy gluten-free products.

Also, be sure to check out Shelley Case’s website and consider buying her book “Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource.” She is an RD with Celiac Disease and her book is the Bible for Celiac Disease.  You can also sign-up for her free newsletter, check out her blog, and listen to her podcasts.  Because food and food products are always changing, it’s essential to stay current.