Gluten-Free on a Budget

 If you think being a college student with limited income is hard, try being a college student who is gluten-free.

Junior and Middle School Education major, Rachel Hale, is doing just that.

While most college students save money by buying cheap staples like Ramen and Macaroni and Cheese, Hale has to carefully plan out what she will eat and where she will find the ingredients.

Hale has been gluten-free since May 2011. She started to notice that she was getting really sick after she had eaten certain foods.

“I’ve never really been diagnosed with any disease,” she says, “but I know that eating gluten affects my body more than it does for other people.”

What is gluten anyway?

Dictionary.com says that gluten is “the tough…substance remaining when the flour of wheat or other grain is washed to remove the starch.”

University of Toledo Senior Kaitlin Krakowiak says, “gluten is evil,” she laughs, “But seriously, evil. It is the thing I had every day of my life until one day it decided to not like my body. It is anything and everything wheat, bread, bread products, pasta, cereals, fillers, and can contaminate otherwise gluten free foods.”

People going gluten free like Rachel Hale have to be especially careful about what they buy and where.

“I usually like to shop at Martin’s because it has a great selection unlike some other stores,” says Hale. “Sometimes regular grocery stores don’t have what I need, so I’ll go to a specialty shop like Kate’s Natural Products or The Friendly City Co-op.”

Hale says that eating on campus at J-M-U is especially difficult.

“They like to say that they have gluten-free options, but they suck,” she says, “There’s a gluten-free option at the Nacho Bar in Dukes, but I can’t eat nachos every day.”

Hale also worries about cross-contamination from the different foods, so she doesn’t eat anything on campus.

Besides some specialty food stores, there are very few places in Harrisonburg that cater to those who are gluten-free.

Vito’s pizza has gluten-free crust and it’s delicious,” says Rachel Hale, “And Chick-fil-A has come out with bread-less chicken nuggets that are pretty good.”

Hale also mentioned that Five Guys has the option to order burgers without the bun and Jimmy Johns has the option to get the “Unwich”, one of their sandwiches without the bread.

Rachel Hale misses some of the foods that she used to eat before she was gluten-free.

“Chinese food,” she says, “and doughnuts. They haven’t done too well making those things gluten-free.”

Owner of local Kate’s Natural Products store, Ralph Magri, says that people have been becoming more and more gluten-intolerant in the recent years. He says that Kate’s specializes in alternatives for those people.

“We have things here that people can tolerate or things that people are lacking in,” says Magri.

He made the point that most of the time when people are sick, they go to the doctor and get pills for whatever is wrong. He says that the problem with food intolerance is in the gut.

“Gut health is important and leads to the healing of other seemingly unrelated symptoms,” He says.

Magri encourages anyone to be gluten-free as gluten is not a necessary thing. The problem with being gluten-free, however, is that the price of an otherwise normal product is twice as expensive without the gluten.

One example is that a regular box of Betty Crocker cake mix is $1.35 at the grocery store versus the gluten-free kind which is $3.99.

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Comparison

“My parents help me pay for a lot more than the average student because the food I get is so expensive,” says Rachel Hale, “Gluten-free stuff is never on sale.”

Another gluten-free woman is wife and mother, Corrin Mirch. She says that she finds deals on gluten-free food in a magazine called “Living Without”.

“Even with the savings I can find, I spend about $1000 a month on food alone,” says Mirch who is gluten-free with her husband Steve.

Although prices are high now as awareness rises the future of gluten-free food looks to become less of a hassle which gives hope to college students going gluten-free. 

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Raising the Bar on Breakfast

As kids we wanted chocolate for breakfast, but mom always said no. She’d say that chocolate was for dessert and would just get us hyper and let us down in the school day. But what if I told you that you could have chocolate for breakfast and it wouldn’t ruin your whole day? It’s true!

There is a great blog with a delicious recipe for double banana chocolate chip breakfast bars that are simply to die for.

I first heard about these bars from my friend Lauren who loves to bake. She makes these for her friends a lot because they’re super easy. She sent me the link to the blog she got the recipe from and I can’t wait to make them!

So let’s make them together shall we?

*Disclaimer: I didn’t get the banana chips 😦 so my bars aren’t complete…but they’re still really yummy!*

For these treats you’ll need the following:

  • 1 very ripe banana
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup chopped banana chips
  • 2/3 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 cups quick cooking oats

now, a lot of these things I already had in my kitchen, and for the remaining ingredients I spent about $10 so this is an inexpensive baking adventure!

Here’s how we make them…

  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mash the banana with a fork and then add the canola oil and brown sugar. Mix well until there are no sugar lumps left.
  3. In another (smaller) bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and oats. Mix into wet ingredients and add banana chips and chocolate chips.
  4. Pat batter down into a greased square 8-inch pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until edges are golden. Let cool before cutting into squares.

I made you all a little video to show how everything comes together…enjoy!

See? Look how easy that was… Twenty minutes of prep-time and 25 minutes of baking. So little time and effort for something super yummy!

It’s All in the Bag

In a hurry? Need a snack? Before you you grab something unhealthy, let’s think of something delicious and healthy to eat first.

It’s so easy just to grab that little bag of chips or cookies and run, right? But what if there was a way to grab something fast and not feel bad about it later?

There is! And it’s as simple as a box of Ziploc bags…

Since we’re all on busy schedules going from place to place, no time to make ourselves a tidy salad, might I suggest getting some of your favorite healthy food and keeping some in separate bags in the fridge so you can grab one and get to that meeting on time and with a happy stomach.

All it takes is a box of plastic bags and your favorite fruit and/or veggies, I suggest grapes, carrots, and celery just because those are low calorie options that won’t make a big mess in case you’re eating these while you’re driving.

Let’s compare the nutritional value of a bag of potato chips to our homemade veggie bags…

small bag of potato chips  has 115 calories and 10.6 grams of  total fat  versus our little bag of carrots  at 4 calories and NO FAT!

Eating these tasty snacks on the go instead of potato chips will help you get through whatever you’re going to–whether it’s a business meeting or a college class or even a road trip, this is a great way to tide you over until your next meal!

Another healthy alternative would be those fun 100 Calories snack packs. They have just enough goodies in each bag to satisfy your appetite without giving you the added calories! The bags might make you feel like you’re not getting much, but it’s really just enough to tide you over in the afternoon.

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Lettuce Help with Your Fajitas

Have you been wondering, “how can I make my fajitas and eat them too?”

Let’s face it, it’s almost bathing suit season and those darn tortillas are so fattening. So how can we have our fajitas without adding the fat of tortillas?

Try lettuce!

I took this idea from living with someone who has gone gluten-free. Wheat is found in most tortillas and for those going gluten-free, wheat=gluten=horrible stomach pains.

For those of us who aren’t gluten-free, tortillas only have one downside…the fat they add to our yummy fajitas.

Let’s compare two recipes: one for fajitas made with tortillas and one with lettuce leaves.

The following recipes come from the Kraft Foods recipe site.

This fajita recipe includes the use of tortillas and, with the inclusion of the other ingredients has:

  • a total fat count of 13 g/serving
  • 400 calories
  • 55 mg of cholesterol
  • and 1110 mg of sodium

Now this fajita lettuce wrap recipe includes roughly the same ingredients as the last recipe, but it replaces the tortillas with large leaves of iceberg lettuce. This recipe has:

  • 11 g of total fat/serving
  • 280 calories
  • 85 mg of cholesterol*
  • and 500 mg of sodium

*the added amount of cholesterol is due to added flavoring mentioned in the recipe

Lettuce leaves can be used in the place of the more fattening starches in other recipes as well. My aforementioned housemate made some great hamburgers for dinner one night and replaced the bun with two large lettuce leaves.

This idea of using lettuce leaves has impacted restaurants as well. At Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches they give you the option to take any of their famous sandwiches and make it an “unwich” meaning they give you all the same ingredients, but replace the bread with a large piece of lettuce. Pair one of these with a bag of Jimmy’s Thinny Chips and you’ve got yourself a low-carb meal!

But don’t just take my word for it, check out the nutrition facts for all of Jimmy John’s healthy options.

So the next time you want a healthier alternative for dinner, put down the rolls and pick up a head of lettuce!

Students’ Savings

This student is eating great and saving money!

James Madison University junior Lauren Delmerico spends time looking at coupons and sales before she goes out for groceries so she can get the best deals.

“I know that some stores have cheaper produce than others and I have bonus cards and coupons as well,” says Delmerico. “The other day I was able to get everything I needed (from three different stores) all for $16 and that was worth it.”

Delmerico says she goes to Martin’s Foods where she is a bonus card member and receives extra savings from them on certain purchases. She even adds up points with the card to save money on gas. Talk about a smart shopper!

Delmerico compares prices between Martin’s, Wal-Mart, and Food Lion and picks what she’s going to get at each one.

While most students choose to go the route of buying foods that are the cheapest and taste great, but aren’t necessarily good for us, there are students concerned about their diet and their wallet.

Rather than springing for the cheapest foods she can find like he typical college food staples of Ramen and Mac and Cheese, Lauren Delmerico buys fresh fruit and produce and doesn’t spend a fortune getting them.

It’s important for us broke college students to not only save our precious funds, but save our health by not overindulging in fatty andand carb-filled foods. Learn from super saver Lauren and get a Martin’s bonus card and keep your eye out for great deals on great food.