So, you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease and you’re told you now need to follow a gluten free diet for life? Does the word expensive jump come to mind? As a dietetic student, I’m here to share some budget friendly tips that can hopefully save your pocket and your gut!
Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition associated with long-term inflammation of the gut lining in response to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Note that coeliac disease is NOT an allergy! In an allergic response the immune system attacks the allergen, whereas in autoimmune conditions like coeliac disease the immune system attacks the body. The only treatment for coeliac disease is a life-long gluten free diet.
For many people with celiac disease, they think that they can only buy food from the ‘free from’ aisle. Although going to that ‘free from’ aisle in the supermarket can save time and effort, in reducing the need to read every label, gluten free alternatives are often more expensive than gluten containing foods.
So, the main advice is to go for foods that are naturally gluten free.
There’s also that thought that you have to completely change the food you were eating prior to diagnosis. You can still enjoy that student budget friendly baked potatoes with beans and cheese on top.
So, the main advice is to go for foods that are naturally gluten free. These are your fresh fruits and veg, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, pulses and nuts, starchy foods like potatoes and rice. Many foods are naturally gluten free and basing your meals around this can really help to save you money. You can continue to enjoy a steak, with veg/salad and chips.
And if you still want to enjoy toast or pasta etc, then many supermarkets now have their own brands of gluten free versions which are a little bit cheaper than the well-known brands. For example Sainsburys Free From Gluten Free Brown Bread loaf is priced at £1.80 and their Free from spaghetti is priced at £1.20. In comparison the popular gluten free brand Genius prices its brown bread loaf at £2.90. Therefore, don’t feel like you have to shop from the top brands.
There are so many different flours and grains out there which makes easy replacements to gluten containing flours and grains.
Additionally, there’s always the option of making your own gluten free breads, pizza bases etc using alternatives to wheat flour. For example, why not use rice or coconut flour? Or how about gram flour (made from chickpeas)? There are so many different flours and grains out there which makes easy replacements to gluten containing flours and grains.
Be aware of hidden gluten in foods! Foods that have been processed or pre-prepared may now contain gluten and it’s easy to catch you out. For example, if you buy grated cheese some companies put wheat in to stop the cheese strands from sticking together, so make sure you read labels (check labels for wheat, rye and barley which are usually in bold) or grate your own cheese. You should beware of gluten in processed meats and sauces e.g. soy sauces, crisps, pre-prepared veg, in curry jars (wheat and barley are often added to enhance the flavour).
You may choose to avoid this problem by making your own versions from scratch, which can also be healthier alternatives. Avoid foods that are labelled with ‘may contain’ e.g. ‘may contain wheat’/ ‘may contain traces of gluten’, as there is a risk that these foods have been contaminated with gluten (usually because the foods have been in a factory that handles gluten).
Consider joining Coeliac UK which is an accredited charity that helps support the coeliac community
You may be able to get some gluten free foods on prescription like bread, flour and breakfast cereals but be aware that there have been recent cuts to gluten free prescription across the UK. Check with your doctor to see if your region is still providing prescriptions for this.
Finally, consider joining Coeliac UK which is an accredited charity that helps support the coeliac community with many aspects like managing your condition, providing gluten free meal ideas and support with eating out.
I hope this helps as a start for your gluten free, university budget friendly food experience!
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