How Calories in Gluten-Free Foods Stack Up

See the carbohydrate and calorie count in these types of food

As the popularity of the gluten-free diet as a weight-loss tool grows, some dietitians have pushed back, saying that gluten-free foods tend to be higher in calories, carbohydrates, and fat (and therefore less suitable for weight loss) than regular, wheat-based foods. But is that assertion really true?

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Gluten Free: Calories, Carbs, and Fat

Generally speaking, no, it's not true that gluten-free foods are higher in calories, carbs, and fat. When compared head to head, common gluten-free products such as bread, snacks, cookies, and cakes actually have roughly the same number of calories, fat, and carbs as their gluten-filled counterparts. Some have less and some have more, but on average, it's about equal.

As with any type of product (say, chocolate chip cookies), there's going to be a great deal of variation between brands and types. As a result, buyer beware, and always read the labels.

But if you choose commonly available brands of gluten-free foods—and, most importantly, don't eat any more of them than you would if they were gluten-filled — you shouldn't be consuming any more calories than you would have if you stayed on a conventional diet.

Here's how the various products break down in calories, fat, carbs, and fiber, with specific examples of each. When available, I've tried to compare gluten-filled and gluten-free products from the same brand (i.e., Betty Crocker) in order to make the comparisons as valid as possible.

Bread

Bread likely is the most common replacement gluten-free product purchased, so its calorie count is especially important. My research shows that gluten-free bread may be slightly more calorie-dense than its gluten-containing counterparts—in the range of 20 to 30 calories for a two-slice sandwich—but it shouldn't be enough to concern you unless you spend your entire day eating sandwiches.

Below are three popular gluten-free breads compared to similar gluten-based breads.

Canyon Bakehouse 7-Grain Bread

A 34-gram serving (one slice) of Canyon Bakehouse 7-Grain Bread contains:

  • 90 calories
  • 1 gram of fat
  • 18 grams of carbohydrate
  • 2 grams of fiber

Compare that to the same-sized serving of Roman Meal All-Natural 12-grain bread (a wheat-based bread), which contains:

  • 82 calories
  • 1.4 grams of fat
  • 14 grams of carbohydrates
  • 1.4 grams of fiber

The Canyon Bakehouse product contains 16 more calories for two slices but has slightly less fat and slightly more fiber.

Udi's Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread

About 24 grams (one slice) of Udi's Gluten-Free White Sandwich Bread contains:

  • 70 calories
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 11 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber

Meanwhile, one slice of gluten-filled Nature's Own Whitewheat Bread (about 26 grams) contains:

  • 55 calories
  • Less than 1 gram of fat
  • 12 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of fiber

The Udi's product definitely contains more calories and more fat, but it contains fewer carbs (important if you're following a low-carb diet program).

Rudi's Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread

A 37-gram slice of Rudi's Gluten-Free Cinnamon Raisin Bread contains:

  • 100 calories
  • 2.5 grams of fat
  • 18 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of fiber 

Meanwhile, the wheat-based version of the same product (Rudi's Organic Cinnamon Raisin Bread) contains:

  • 90 calories
  • 1.5 grams of fat
  • 19 grams carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

The gluten-free variety does contain 10 extra calories and 1 extra gram of fat per slice, but it also has more fiber.

The Bottom Line: If you choose your gluten-free bread carefully, you probably can find one that pretty much matches your previous favorite gluten-filled selection in calories, fat and fiber content.

Cereal

Many commonly available kinds of cereal are gluten-free—think Chex and Post Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles. Therefore, the calories in a bowl of naturally gluten-free cereal will be the same regardless of whether you're following the gluten-free diet or not. 

Here's how the gluten-containing and gluten-free versions of two common cereals compare.

Nature's Path Whole O's vs. Nestle's Cheerios

Cheerios are technically considered gluten-free because they're made with oats. However, oats are often contaminated with gluten through contact with other grains, so Cheerios may contain some gluten.

Nature's Path Whole-O's is similar to Cheerios but is gluten-free and doesn't contain oats. Per ounce, it contains:

  • 104 calories
  • 1.5 grams fat
  • 25 grams carbs
  • 3 grams fiber

An ounce of Cheerios contains:

  • 100 calories
  • 2 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbs
  • 3 grams fiber

That's a difference of 4 calories and 0.5 grams of fat per serving, not something you're likely to notice.

Nature's Path Crispy Rice vs. Kellogg's Original Rice Krispies

Nature's Path Crispy Rice Cereal is an alternative to the now-discontinued gluten-free version of Kellogg's Rice Krispies.

A 30-gram serving of Nature's Path Crispy Rice contains:

  • 110 calories
  • 1.5 grams of fat
  • 24 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of fiber

A 30-gram serving of regular Risk Krispies contains:

  • 118 calories
  • O grams fat
  • 26 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber

So in this case, the gluten-free cereal has slightly fewer calories, a bit more fat and a bit more fiber than its gluten-filled competitor.

The Bottom Line: Gluten-free and gluten-filled cereals are pretty comparable in terms of calories, fat, carbs, and fiber content.

Snack Foods

Some snack foods—potato chips, for example—are naturally gluten-free. Other snack food choices, such as pretzels and crackers, come in both gluten-filled and gluten-free versions. Here's a rundown of the calories, fat, and carbs in common snack products.

Pretzel Sticks: Glutino vs. Snyder's vs. Rold Gold

Per ounce, Glutino brand gluten-free pretzel sticks contain: '

  • 120 calories
  • 3.5 grams of fat
  • 24 grams of carbohydrate
  • 3 grams fiber

An ounce of Snyder's of Hanover gluten-free pretzel sticks contain:

  • 112 calories
  • 1.5 grams fat
  • 24 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0 fiber

Rold Gold pretzel sticks (a gluten-containing Frito-Lay product), per ounce, contains:

  • 100 calories
  • O fat
  • 23 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

An ounce of Snyder's of Hanover regular, wheat-based pretzel sticks contains:

  • 102 calories per ounce
  • 1 gram fat
  • 23 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

Gluten-free pretzels contain more calories and fat than regular pretzels, but the carbohydrates are comparable.

Schar Gluten-Free Table Crackers vs. Nabisco Original Premium Saltines

Schar Gluten-Free Table Crackers are similar to saltines. About five crackers (30 grams) contain:

  • 130 calories
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 24 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber 

About 32 grams (10 crackers) of Nabisco Original Premium Saltine Crackers (which contain gluten) have:

  • 140 calories
  • 3 grams of fat
  • 24.2 grams of carbs
  • 0 fiber

In this case, the gluten-free crackers have fewer calories but about the same amount of fat as the wheat-based type.

The Bottom Line: Gluten-free pretzels maybe a bit more fattening than the gluten-y varieties, but some gluten-free crackers may be less fattening. It's definitely a case of buyer beware.

Cake Mix

As it turns out, the calories in chocolate cake mix don't vary much at all between the gluten-free and gluten-filled versions.

King Arthur vs. Betty Crocker

When prepared, 45 grams of King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free Chocolate cake mix contains:

  • 280 calories
  • 14 grams of fat
  • 37 grams of carbs
  • 2 grams of fiber 

About 43 grams of Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Devil's Food cake mix contains:

  • 260 calories
  • 12 grams of fat
  • 36 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

The same amount of Betty Crocker Supermoist Devil's Food cake mix (the gluten-filled variety) contains:

  • 280 calories
  • 14 grams of fat
  • 35 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber

In this case, the mixes are remarkably similar, although the King Arthur gluten-free mix contains a bit more fiber.

The Bottom Line: You can't blame the calories or the fat in gluten-free chocolate cake for your weight gain since the nutritional totals are nearly identical to those in gluten-filled cake mixes.

Cookies and Cookie Mixes

Like gluten-free bread, store-bought gluten-free cookies tend to contain a few more calories than their gluten-filled counterparts, but you'll only notice a real difference if you eat the entire bag in one sitting (not recommended regardless of what diet you're following).

Gluten-free cookie mixes, however, stack up pretty favorably calorie-wise when compared to their gluten-containing counterparts.

Cookies: Aleia's vs. Pamela's vs. Chips Ahoy

Aleia's Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies (20 grams) contain:

  • 106 calories
  • 4.7 grams of fat
  • 15 grams of carbs
  • 0 grams of fiber 

The same serving of Pamela's Chunky Chocolate Chip Cookies (gluten-free to less than 5 parts per million) contains:

  • 104 calories
  • 5.2 grams of fat
  • 12 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber

Gluten-filled Chips Ahoy chocolate chip cookies, in the same serving size, contain:

  • 94 calories
  • 4.7 grams of fat
  • 12.3 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber

In this case, the gluten-y chocolate chip cookies are a little less fattening than the gluten-free varieties.

Cookie Mixes: Bob's Red Mill vs. Betty Crocker

A 25-gram serving of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip cookie mix contains:

  • 130 calories
  • 5 grams of fat
  • 20 grams of carbs
  • 1 gram of fiber 

A 27-gram serving of Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip cookie mix contains: '

  • 150 calories
  • 7 grams of fat
  • 23 grams of carbs
  • Less than one gram of fiber

A 28-gram serving of Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip cookie mix (the mainstream wheat-based mix) contains:

  • 170 calories
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 21 grams of carbs
  • Less than 1 gram of fiber

The Bottom Line: When it comes to chocolate chip cookies, the gluten-free store-bought varieties may contain more calories and fat than the gluten-filled brands, but the reverse is true for cookie mixes. If calories and fat are a concern, you may need to make your own.

Other Nutritional Concerns

Even if calories are roughly equivalent between gluten-filled and gluten-free products, other nutritional aspects may be less than equal.

For example, many gluten-filled products are made with enriched white flour (which contains iron and several important B vitamins, such as folic acid, niacin, and riboflavin), while gluten-free product manufacturers are much less likely to use vitamin-enriched flour.

This may be changing: Glutino offers its Sensible Beginnings line of fortified cereals (which contain extra iron plus multiple vitamins), and conventional gluten-free cereals such as Chex and Gluten-Free Rice Krispies come fortified with vitamins and minerals.

In addition, many gluten-free product manufacturers are crafting gluten-free bread products with just as much fiber (if not more) than the heartiest of whole wheat buns.

However, since most gluten-free products aren't fortified or enriched with vitamins and minerals right now, you'll still need to keep an eye on your nutritional intake to make sure you're getting enough important nutrients while following the gluten-free diet.

A Word From Verywell

When it comes down to it, you shouldn't worry too much about calories, fat, and carbs in gluten-free food. Some are higher and some are lower than their gluten-filled counterparts, but if you eat a variety of foods, the differences should even out.

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2 Sources
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