Even just a few years ago, gluten-free shoppers were going to grocery stores with papers in hand, making sure they were reading ingredient lists correctly. In fact, in that first year after my daughter’s diagnosis, my average time at the grocery store doubled–and so did my bill.

But now, technology is making it a lot easier for us to navigate the aisles with more confidence and a lot less paper. I recently received a notification online that talked about an application for the iPhone that helps you access gluten-free ingredient lists.The software developer, Clan Thompson, also makes the software for Smartphones and pocket PCs. It is great for companies to seize on the need for easy access to gluten-free information and create software like this.

But dare I utter the words…Is the application worth it? You may be saying “how could it not be worth it? ”Well I’m personally not quite there yet. It’s not that I’m afraid of technology–although my husband might say I am. And it’s also not because I don’t have an iPhone or a Smartphone. It’s because I don’t understand why you need an application for something you can just find online using your cell phone with internet access.

I set out to get some answers. I checked in with my iPhone connections: my sister-in-law and my celiac brother. I asked them to check out the “app” –as the tech-savvy cal it– but I also gave one a link to a gluten-free ingredient list and another link to a forum that has an ongoing product list. How do they rate?

First thing they both said: “the application costs $24.99” and my sister-in-law Dani Kassner added “…which is a little spendy”. Clan Thompson developed the software, and says on its website it “…will provide new versions quarterly, but you must purchase them individually. ”From what I gather, you could be paying as much as $99.96/year for updated gluten-free lists on the iPhone.

Software for a SmartPhone is $29.95, but at least double that for a year subscription which includes updated information. No matter which one you buy, the application for the “Celiac Food Smartlist” says it “…makes it easy to find gluten information on over 18,669 products.” It is a good start. My brother, Dave Cook, who has celiac didn’t buy the application, but says in general he finds iPhone “apps” user-friendly.“If this app can put the gluten-free database at your finger tips, and make it easy to search, [we’ll probably] be buying it”, he said.

In comparison, what did my “guinea pigs” find when they checked out the regular web links I sent them? “The [ingredient] link…worked great for me…” my sister-in-law reported. My brother said the forum site with the product listings was “tedious” to get to, but it worked and he could read it.

Thankfully we live in a time when we can make the choice: pay extra for the “app”, or just stick with the good ol’ World Wide Web. What do you do? I would love to hear about your innovative ways of using technology to help you handle the gluten-free diet. As for me, I’m pretty old fashioned. I either look it up online before I leave the house or at a last resort, I print up a list and bring it with me to the store. I know…someone just get me a cane.

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