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How to Shop Gluten Free and Low Calorie

Author: Cara Walsh

October 19, 2017

How to Shop Gluten Free and Low Calorie

Author: Cara Walsh

October 19, 2017

There are a number of reasons why someone might decide to avoid eating gluten. People with celiac disease have an absolute medical reason to avoid gluten as they are completely unable to digest or use the protein found in wheat products. Many other people follow a gluten-free lifestyle because they feel healthier or they believe that it might help them lose weight.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the protein found in wheat and wheat products. In people who are sensitive to this substance, it may cause brain fog, fatigue, headaches, depression, abdominal pain and bloating, diarrhea or constipation. Gluten sensitive people tend to test negative for celiac disease but still have similar symptoms shortly after eating foods containing gluten.

Going gluten-free

No matter the reason for following a gluten-free diet, it can take a little bit of time to adjust to finding products that fit in with your new lifestyle. It is important to be able to recognize foods that are and are not gluten free.

Gluten is naturally found in wheat and wheat products. It is very important to look at nutritional labels very closely when following this type of lifestyle. The label won’t directly say “gluten.” The ingredients that you’d likely see—and want to avoid— include:

  • Wheat
  • Durum
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Farina
  • Faro
  • Graham
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Malt (includes malted barley flour, malted milk)
  • Brewer’s yeast

Foods that tend to contain gluten include pasta, noodles, breads and pastries, crackers, cookies and other processed products, breakfast cereals, breadcrumbs, beer, soy sauce and some salad dressings.

Finding gluten free products used to be very difficult for people who weren’t able to eat gluten or wheat products. However, the recent attention to the benefits of a gluten free lifestyle has led to the increasing popularity of this lifestyle. As a result, purchasing gluten free products has become significantly easier.

Store shelves remain stocked with an abundance of options for those who are intolerant or simply avoiding the consumption of gluten. Nonetheless some of the best gluten free choices you can make for your health are those that are naturally gluten free—such as unprocessed foods, like fruits and vegetables, and products made with corn, potatoes and rice.

Even though some of your favorite foods and ingredients offer a variety of gluten-free options, it can still be a transition as you learn which are the right choice for you and your lifestyle.

Read on for a complete shopping guide for people both new to and experienced with a gluten-free lifestyle.


While there is an array of ‘gluten free’ all-purpose flours available at your local grocer, they don’t all perform the same way. Try experimenting with chickpea, almond or coconut flour to see how they work in your recipes. Each offers a different nutritional benefit: chickpea flour has 6 grams of protein in only a ¼ cup and coconut flour has 10 grams fiber in ¼ cup.


Corn tortillas are a great alternative while out at a restaurant or when cooking at home. Corn tortillas work in Mexican foods, for wraps, and as a great alternative for bread in many meals. You can also substitute it for traditional pasta in lasagna or a layered casserole. By opting for a tortilla over a slice of bread, you’ll be saving 30 calories and 200 mg of sodium!


There are endless varieties of rice to choose from—and they are all gluten free! Brown basmati, jasmine, red rice and sticky rice are just a few of the types readily available. Rice is great on its own or can be utilized in sweet or savory dishes, adding fiber, vitamins and minerals to every dish.

Quinoa is another grain that is safe for people who are gluten-free. Rich in protein and other vitamins and minerals, quinoa offers a slightly different flavor when you want something different from rice. You can add it to warm milk with raisins and a touch of cinnamon for a warm and comforting breakfast. Quinoa makes a great base for salads, like this fabulous and flavorful Quinoa Salad with Roasted Zucchini, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Mint.

Rice Chex

Rice Chex makes a fabulous breakfast cereal for those mornings when you want something easy. It goes beyond just cereal, however. Rice Chex is a fabulous substitute for traditional bread crumbs or panko. Break it up into powder and use it as you would breadcrumbs for that crunch found when you bread chicken or fish. Not only is it gluten free, but you’ll save 180 calories!

Calorie comparison of gluten free foods verses the original version

Shopping Gluten Free
Beware though, gluten-free does not mean low-calorie, low-sugar or low-fat. In fact, many of your favorite gluten-free alternatives may be higher in those macronutrients to improve their flavor.

  • Muffin
    • Gluten Free: 370 calories, 13 g of fat, 31 g of sugar
    • Original: 170 calories, 5 g of fat, 12 g of sugar
  • Hamburger bun
    • Gluten Free: 190 calories, 5 g of fat, 5 g of sugar
    • Original: 120 calories, 1 g of fat, 3 g of sugar
  • Plain Bagel
    • Gluten Free: 290 calories, 9 g of fat, 460 g of sodium
    • Original: 250 calories, 1.5 g of fat, 310 g of sodium
  • Vanilla Cupcake
    • Gluten Free: 480 calories, 21 g of fat, 52 g of sugar
    • Original: 370 calories, 20 g of fat, 34 g of sugar

Shopping gluten free doesn’t automatically mean you are making a healthier choice. It’s important to choose the fresh, whole foods whenever possible. As always, it is better to find products that are naturally gluten free over those that are altered to be made that way.

About the Author:

Cara Walsh
Counselor at The Carmel Mountain Ranch Medifast Weight Control Center
Cara Walsh is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Weight Control Counselor. Cara received her bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science from San Diego State University and completed her dietetic internship to become a registered dietitian through the Utah State University. Cara is currently completing her Masters in Dietetic Administration through Utah State University. Cara has always had a passion for healthy eating and cooking. She loves to focus on how food can heal and provide nutrition-while tasting delicious. Cara thrives on helping others reach their full potential nutritionally. In her spare time she enjoys reading, going to Pilates and running the boardwalk on the Pacific Ocean with her son and husband.

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