Home > Health > Gluten Free Potato Chips Do Not Make You Healthy

Gluten Free Potato Chips Do Not Make You Healthy

gluten free without breaking the bank

My friend and I took a road trip with our kids a few weeks ago to spend the day at the Ouray Hot Springs Pool. After a full day of swimming, sun, and realizing our brown bag food was all gone, we stopped at a small market for snacks . I was craving potato chips, a treat I love but try to avoid. Anyway, we decided junk food was going to be a sweet splurge for the ride home and began to search the potato chip aisle. I was amazed at all the bags of chips trying to disguise themselves as healthy; organic, all natural, and especially the ones marked gluten free. I’m sorry but gluten free potato chips do not make you healthy.

Gluten Free is a Multi-Billion Dollar Industry

Americans spent seven billion dollars on gluten free foods last year. For the one percent of the population who suffer from celiac disease, a gluten free diet is necessary to prevent gastrointestinal distress and other inflammatory problems. However, while only a small percentage of people are truly gluten intolerant, almost 30 percent of people say they are trying to eat gluten free.

I do agree that eating copious amounts of bread and pasta can make anyone feel bloated and lethargic, but does that mean we are sensitive to gluten or that we ate too much? Spending double the price to buy gluten free chips, cookies, crackers, and lasagna isn’t going to make anyone healthier if they don’t control portion size and have a variety of nutritious foods to go along with all the gluten free goodies.

Gluten Free Deja Vu

I am maybe a bit more sensitive to the diet of the day bandwagon because my mother jumped on every diet fad imaginable when I was a child. From sugar free to low fat to Slim Fast, you never knew when our whole pantry might be replaced with the latest diet craze. More recently, we’ve seen low carb, Paleo, and even raw foods become popular. Gluten free is not original in concept but does seem to offer a new bonanza of marketing options for companies taking advantage of the latest trend.

Being Gluten Free Without Breaking the Bank

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness estimates that eventually 50 to 60 percent of the population will be diagnosed with celiac disease. If that holds true, many more of us might be looking to go gluten free.

If you’ve done the homework and feel a gluten free diet might benefit you, keep in mind that vegetables, fruits, dairy, and non-processed meats are all naturally gluten free. Snack foods are generally not healthy, whether they are gluten free or not. Filling your kitchen up with processed, gluten free foods is going to cost a fortune and probably isn’t going to make you any healthier. A balanced diet with a few snacks thrown in here and there is the best way to achieve lifelong nutritional health.

If you do suffer from true gluten intolerance, I know many groceries offer gluten free flour. While it might not be as convenient, preparing food from scratch is almost always cheaper than buying processed. Anyone can save money by cooking at home.

Will Gluten Free Last?

It remains to be seen if gluten free will become a long term way of eating or go the way of the Atkin’s or Scarsdale diets. If you believe some researchers, more and more people will be diagnosed as gluten intolerant. Others believe gluten has been here for a long time, and it’s our processed diets that are causing the problem. Either way, don’t jump on the gluten free bandwagon just because it’s popular. If you want to eat a healthy diet, limiting wheat might be part of that plan, but make sure the foods you put into your body are nutritious and not potato chips disguised as healthy because of a gluten free label.

Have you enjoyed benefits of a gluten free diet? Do you think people associate gluten free with being healthy? 


About Kim Parr

Kim Parr is a private practice optometrist, freelance writer, and personal financial blogger. You can follow her journey to 20/20 financial vision at Eyes on the Dollar.


  1. This is the first I have heard about gluten-free diet. I find it easy when I know the ground rule. From now on, I’d eat more grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. So excited what it can bring to my health.

  2. All things in moderation. I feel like people hear these “gluten free” and “organic” buzzwords in the media and just jump on the bandwagon. Honestly – if you just turn over the bag and read the nutritional stats you learn everything you need to know about an item before you put it in your mouth.

  3. Jon @ Money Smart Guides

    I think people see gluten free an assume it is healthier. A few months ago my wife and I went on a Paleo diet and it really opened my eyes up regarding our diet. I ate mostly fruits and veggies all day long and found that I was never hungry/craving for sweets and I also found that I had to eat a ton of these things just to eat enough calories. After eating 3 basic meals and 2 snacks, I was still way under my calorie goal for the day. It just shows you how much junk is in junk food and why it makes you fat.

  4. Personally I think it’s kind of a fad but I agree that if you eat TONS of grain products almost everyone will feel bloated. I know more vegetarians who felt awful and gained weight when they went that route. Now don’t get me wrong, those diets are personal choices, but you STILL have to make healthy choices no matter what diet path you follow. Fries are vegetarian too. 🙂

  5. Like Tonya said, I think much of it is a fad. People think, for some reason, that anything that GF is guaranteed to be healthy and it certainly doesn’t help that marketers spin it that way. I say go for moderation and use a little common sense.

  6. My sister-in-law was diagnosed with Celiac’s last year and her daughters tested positive for a gluten sensitivity as well so she switched their household to a gluten-free household and I have to say that they all have gained weight and don’t look healthy and I think the problem is that they indulge too much in the packaged goods and not enough on the fresh foods. It’s sad to see because not only do they seem less healthy but I know it’s taken a huge toll on their food budgets.

    • When you substitute high starch, high glycemic-index (GI) “gluten free foods” made from potato starch, rice flour, tapioca starch, etc. for the old gluten containing foods (like bread and crackers), you will gain weight. The reason people gain weight on such foods is because high starch foods are the only food that have a higher GI than wheat products and are actually worse on your blood sugar levels. Giving up all gluten free junk foods (breads, crackers, pizzas, etc) and living on a more grain-free diet would actually lead them to losing weight and saving money.

  7. the problem with wheat is that the version that is mass produced now is starkly different than the wheat we ate 100 years ago due to industrial hybridization of the wheat plant. The book Wheat Belly gives great insight into why wheat is a problem for many people, not only those who test positive for Celiac Sprue.

    But you’re right—gluten free crackers and bread are just as bad as wheat-based foods because they are high in carbohydrates that raise blood sugar too quickly. Mass consumption of high carbohydrate foods can lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, high triglycerides, etc. so people who eat those trying to be healthy are just as far off as someone switching to trans-fat filled margarine to avoid butter.

  8. LOL — potato chips are almost all gluten-free anyway. So funny that some feel the need to market themselves that way!

    One of us has celiac, so we are gluten-free by necessity, and it’s a funny time: on one hand, it’s great that there are so many new GF options, but on the other hand, because it’s a marketing gimmick, they’re so much more expensive. Ugh! We mostly try to eat foods that are naturally gluten free, but sometimes you just want some premade cookies, and we get annoyed that “regular” cookies cost $2 while the GF options cost $6 or $7.

  9. I think many people do use it as an excuse because Atkins is no longer “popular” but gluten-free is. Because it also a real disease it gives a certain validity to their preference. I do watch my carbs but not due to having Celiac disease. It’s a personal preference to help me maintain weight. A lot of gluten-free packaged food is heavily processed and they would likely be better off eating fresh foods and avoiding gluten naturally. In the end, potato chips are potato chips! 🙂

  10. It may be a fad, but my best friend was diagnosed with celiac fifteen years ago and back then it was nearly impossible to find any convenience foods that were gluten free. So for celiacs, the gluten free bonanza in the supermarket has made life a lot easier. Lower cal, probably not. But easier to get a fast meal!

  11. My sister is glutent-intolerant, so I’m a bit more sensitive to the diet needs of people who truly can’t have gluten. While I do not think eating gluten-free chips makes you “healthy” per se, I do think that if more and more people are diagnosed and found to be glutent-intolerant, it’s probably a good idea to at least be aware of some foods/recipes they can eat so that you can be accommodating to them.

  12. Thank you for writing this, Kim! I think we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to our bodies/environment that Celiac instances are rising so sharply. I’ve heard that it’s due to the Roundup in our wheat. Not sure if that’s true, but obviously something is wrong with our food supply or something that these folks are suffering more and more from Celiac. I personally have trouble with wheat, so I by and large just don’t eat it. Eating whole foods like veggies (primarily), fresh fruit, nuts and eggs have helped ensure me optimum health. So much of the Gluten Free food out there is simply a different version of processed crap. And as someone mentioned, most potato chips are gluten free anyway! I think the food industry is duping the public, as usual.

  13. I went on a gluten-free diet for fatigue a couple of times. It did help… But I spent most of the energy worrying what I could eat. Granted, this was 15 and 10 years ago before the diet truly took off and products were widely available. Still, it’s a lot of work even today.

    You’re right that most people won’t see — but may imagine — a big benefit. I think it’s probably more due to eating fewer carbs. Sounds like that’s going to change as gluten-free snacks become more widely available.

    And yes, people shouldn’t equate gluten-free with healthy. Dark chocolate is gluten-free. There is a great brownie mix that’s gluten free. Doesn’t mean they’re good for you.

  14. I’ve noticed a ton of food that says “gluten free” is actually pretty unhealthy. People would be quite shocked to hear that, especially since everyone believes gluten free diets are the new way to lose weight.

  15. The problem is not on the food at all but to someone who partakes it. I consider your opinion about “Don’t jump on the gluten free bandwagon just because it’s popular.” We really have to be careful on the food we eat. After all, we are the one who could benefit it. We need for us to maintain more healthier than eating gluten foods. No need to be worry when you get weaken, gluten- free is more favorable to boost our metabolism. In regards to weight problems? Well, “It’s gluttony rather than gluten that is to blame for weight problems.”

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