Many people are reducing or eliminating their intake of gluten, a form of protein found in products made from wheat, barley, rye and a few similar grains: Some suffer from celiac disease, preventing them from safely eating any gluten; others are avoiding gluten for potential benefits related to arthritis, autism or other issues. While the science may not be completely resolved on these matters, it’s clear that plenty of people feel a strong enough desire to avoid gluten so that a new niche market in the food industry has opened up rapidly.
In many cases, foods specifically marked “gluten free” carry a surcharge for the convenience of seeing this on the label. People living a gluten-free lifestyle are unfortunately led into the belief that they will have to pay premium prices in order to eat their favorite foods. Frequently though, there are gluten-free alternatives that have always existed, and these are often at a distinctly lower price. Here are some key things to consider when shopping and cooking for a gluten-free diet (and you wouldn’t mind saving some cash too):
- Rice noodles. Ditch the specialty brand in favor of the ones you’ll find on the Asian aisle. They’ll often be marked as “pho” noodles and they’re typically quite inexpensive. This is a great example of a non-gluten product that was designed from the beginning with rice as the main ingredient, rather than a “substitute” product that tastes like a substitute.
- Corn tortillas. Check the packaging to be sure, but most traditional corn tortillas have only a few ingredients and no gluten. Plus, they often come with tons per pack, last a long time on the shelf and are cheaper than either regular flour or gluten-free tortillas.
- Potato pancakes. These may not go as well with chocolate and blueberries like regular pancakes, but they’re hearty, tasty and definitely cravable.
- Kosher staples. Many of the foods produced for Passover and other Jewish holidays are naturally gluten-free. Once again, sometimes a product that is inherently gluten-free can be a better alternative than the expensive boutique brands. Nobody should have to spend an arm and a leg on crackers.
- A dash of white wine vinegar. Gourmet chefs know a secret when it comes to cooking gluten-free dishes. In almost any setting, if you’re cooking from scratch with gluten-free ingredients, a dash of white wine vinegar will improve the consistency and get rid of any unwanted aftertaste often associated with these dishes.
It’s a shame that emerging markets are often exploited for profits, especially when the market has to do with a dietary condition or health issue. Those of us living with celiac or other digestive problems have enough to worry about already, and an open mind and a keen eye at the grocery store can help you manage your menu without having to spend more than anybody else.