A Cost-Saving Strategy to Weather the Economic Crisis & Tough Financial Times

Are you experiencing anxiety about the worldwide economic crisis and wondering how you can tighten your budget? One simple way is to slash the number and amount of gluten-free products you buy. Gluten-free foods aren’t available at most stores so people have to spend more money to drive to locations farther away to purchase them. Even worse, gluten-free products are two to three times more expensive than regular products, according to a 2007 study. That’s a hefty price to pay for people experiencing tough financial times.

Consider also that it’s not just the cost of gluten-free products – it’s the cost of those products to our health. Few people in the gluten-free community or natural food industry like to talk about it, but many gluten-free products are simply junk foods that happen to be gluten-free.

In college classes at which I guest-lecture about eating for optimal health, I tell students about the foods we absolutely know cause disease (specifically foods that promote insulin resistance and all the degenerative conditions that stem from insulin resistance, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease). The “disease-causers,” as I call them, include:

  1. White sugar and other refined sweeteners, including high-fructose corn syrup
  2. Refined flour (especially refined wheat flour, but also white rice flour and root starches such as potato flour)
  3. Refined vegetable oils (including corn, soybean, and cottonseed oils)
  4. Partially hydrogenated oil

If you look at most gluten-free baked goods and snack foods (as well as most wheat-containing food products), they have at least one of these disease-promoting ingredients, if not several. One of smartest things you can do is not spend your money on gluten-free products that contain any of these harmful ingredients. By strictly following this policy, you not only will save a lot of money, but you will protect yourself from weight gain (which I discussed in my first post) and from health conditions that prompt many people to visit their doctors and start taking medications – for example, high blood pressure, unhealthy cholesterol ratios, high triglycerides, or prediabetic blood sugar levels. We all know that the cost of seeing doctors and taking drugs is high and rising these days. So, in a very real sense, dropping unhealthy gluten-free products from your diet can dramatically decrease your health care costs.

The longstanding health trouble that results from eating refined gluten-free foods is a basic nutrition concept that many people who eat a gluten-free diet have never heard from their local celiac support group, celiac conventions they attend, or dietitians who counsel them. So, it bears repeating: Disease-promoting foods are disease-promoting foods, whether gluten-free or not, and whether organic or not.

At one of my book signings, I saw a woman who recently lost twenty unwanted pounds. She said: “Things had gotten financially tough for my husband and me, and I couldn’t afford gluten-free baked goods anymore. I wasn’t ready to give them up before, but our finances left me no choice. It was difficult at first but it worked out great: I lost the extra weight I’ve had for years and my blood sugar and blood pressure dropped to normal levels. Avoiding those expensive products has saved me money in more ways than one because I don’t need to keep going to the doctor anymore!”

In this day and age when we’re all trying to use our money wisely, follow this woman’s example. Save money by not buying gluten-free foods with disease-promoting ingredients. You’ll save yourself from the outrageous hidden health costs of those foods.


Lee AR, Ng DL, Zivin J, et al. Economic burden of a gluten-free diet. Journal of Human Nutrition & Dietitics, 2007;20:423-430.

Maillot M, Ferguson EL, Drewnowski A, et al. Nutrient profiling can help identify foods of a good nutritional quality for their price: A validation study with linear programming. The Journal of Nutrition, 2008;138:1107-1113.

Smith MD. Going Against the Grain: How Reducing and Avoiding Grains Can Revitalize Your Health. McGraw-Hill/Contemporary Books, 2002

Stevens L, Rashid M. Gluten-free and regular foods: a cost comparison. Canadian Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, 2008;69(3):147-50.

Melissa’s Comments:

I am in no way saying that all gluten-free foods are bad or you should avoid them all. On the contrary, I use gluten-free products in my diet and recommend them to my clients. The key is to use the healthy gluten-free products and avoid the unhealthy ones. When you buy gluten-free products, support companies that make high-quality products that contain real foods and none of the fake ingredients mentioned above. And, of course, spend most of your money on fresh foods: meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, and nuts. You’ll be putting your hard-earned dollars toward an investment that pays off years and decades down the road – your health!

For more on being a smart consumer to help your health, you might also want to read my post, Focus on Real Food Instead of Trendy Imitation Food Products.

© Copyright 2008 Melissa Diane Smith

2 Comments to “A Cost-Saving Strategy to Weather the Economic Crisis & Tough Financial Times”

  • Eating real foods has another advantage: it makes eating gluten-free foods easier. Why? Very little label reading, since fresh meats, veggies, and fruits don’t come with ingredients labels!

    It seems that most people who follow a gluten-free diet think it would be too challenging to eat only real foods. In my experience, it’s more of a challenge to read labels and call manufacturers than it is to buy products that are naturally gluten-free.

    Comment by: AmyA   on October 22, 2008

  • Amy,

    This is a really good point — something some of my other clients have realized, too (but one that few people who eat gluten-free clue in on). Thanks for sharing it!

    Whether it’s from a shopping angle, a financial angle, or a health angle, there are lots of reasons to eat FURTHER against the grain (both figuratively and literally) than many gluten-free eaters do.

    Comment by: Melissa   on October 22, 2008

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