If you’re going gluten-free these days, be prepared to spend more on groceries. According to a New York Times article, it costs three times as much to eat gluten-free as it does to eat foods containing gluten. But let’s consider the alternative: the enormous health care costs of having osteoporosis or Type 1 Diabetes, two chronic conditions often seen in people with celiac disease or gluten-intolerance.

Those who claim that following a gluten-free diet is more costly are assuming that everyone following a gluten-free diet will be buying every specialty product under the sun. This is why my past three articles have contained gluten-free recipes you can easily make yourself for a fraction of the cost of prepackaged items.

Following a gluten-free diet does not mean that you have to stockpile your pantry with specialty foods; instead, this may just be the motivation that many of us need to eat more fresh vegetables, fruits, fiber-rich legumes (beans) and alternative grains.

All grains contain some type of gluten but wheat, rye and barley are the only grains which have the specific type of gluten that gives some people a problem. You can still consume brown rice and quinoa on a regular basis as well as teff, amaranth, millet and buckwheat that surprisingly is not wheat. However, bulgur is cracked wheat so beware. Oats are questionable because they may be manufactured in a facility that processes wheat. Spelt, seitan and semolina are all derived from wheat, and triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye so they’re all out. Glutinous rice, also known as sticky rice, is safe. Corn is a gluten-free grain, not a vegetable, sorry. Yellow corn is loaded with zeaxanthin and lutein, two antioxidants which promote eye health, all the more reason to add it to your diet. Plus it’s cheap.

The list of potential gluten offenders goes on and on. There are many Web sites about celiac disease, such as www.celiacdisease.about.com, which provide lists of the hidden sources of gluten. Even salad dressings can be harmful, but not my recipe — so enjoy being gluten-safe!

Please visit Elizabeth’s Web site for more recipes and “nutritious” information: www.TheKitchenVixen.com

Salad Niçoise (nee-swahz) (A French composed salad similar to a Cobb Salad)

2 small red potatoes, small dice

High heat canola cooking spray (Spectrum brand)

1 cup corn, fresh or frozen, thawed

1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces

6 gluten-free fish sticks or a 6-ounce can of canned tuna (Wild Caught or American brand)

1/4 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives

1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

1 roasted red pepper, cut into 1-inch long, thin slices

1 head romaine lettuce, washed and chopped

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat potatoes with high heat canola cooking spray and spread on a baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden brown. To roast the corn, add to the baking sheet with the potatoes for the last ten minutes. While corn and potatoes are cooking, blanch green beans. Add to boiling water until they turn bright green. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. For each serving, place romaine on a plate. Place fish sticks or tuna in the center of the lettuce. Place other ingredients around the tuna to make a colorful salad chock full of nutrients. Place 2 tablespoons of Thousand Island dressing a opposite ends of the plate. Dip your fork in the dressing before taking a fork full of salad. That way you get some creaminess with every bite.

Thousand Island Dressing

1 cup Greek yogurt (Fage brand)

1 tablespoon canola-based mayonnaise

1/4 cup ketchup

3 tablespoons sweet pickle relish (Whole Foods 360 brand)

Combine ingredients in a bowl and mix with a fork. Perfect for adding creaminess to salads or as a dip for fish.

Fish Sticks

1 pound white fish such as cod, snapper or tilapia

4 slices gluten-free bread such as brown rice bread

1/2 cup almond milk or milk of your choice

1 whole egg

1 cup millet or brown rice flour

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toast bread in the oven for 10 minutes to dry it out. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or spray with non-stick cooking spray. Pour milk into a bowl and beat with the egg. In another bowl add flour, sea salt and pepper. When the bread is toasted crisp, break into pieces and add to food processor to process into crumbs. Cut fish into finger-sized pieces about one half inch thick and 2 to 3 inches long. Dip fish into milk/egg mixture, then flour mixture, then roll in bread crumbs. Set on baking sheet and bake for 7 minutes then flip and bake for 5 more minutes to promote even cooking. Serve with Thousand Island dressing for dipping.