Going Gluten-free: The Dilemma

Eating vegan poses it’s own set of challenges.

{Hey!  I’ve decided to start a new series in which I share some insights & tips, photos, & ideas for gluten-free cooking, since it seems to be a topic of interest for many of you.  While my personal recipes that I share with you will always be vegan (& almost always gluten free–my family, except for my youngest daughter & myself, still eat gluten), I may occasionally share non-vegan links to gluten-free resources or blogs that I think are useful.  Hope that’s cool with you.}


I don’t really see them as challenges anymore, as I’ve been vegan for 6 years, & the way I eat is now second nature.

Not only that, in the past 6 years since I made the leap, I’ve noticed an explosion of vegan friendly foods (like non-dairy yogurt & cheese, for example, that actually taste great!) & these foods are no longer isolated to health food stores or order-by-mail programs.

The same goes for gluten-free foods.

Have you noticed it, too?  Most restaurants, if they are in any way forward thinking, having joined the gluten-free movement & offer at least a few menu items that cater to the GF crowd.

However, vegan AND gluten-free?  This is where it get’s a bit sticky.

Remember last week, when I got glutened*?

Part of the reason I chose to have some wheat bread (remember, I’m not Celiac, just have an intolerance) is because in our new interim location, there are three stores–a Wal-mart, a Latin-catered grocery store, & a Safeway, a pacific northwest based grocer.  Only one of these stores carries gluten-free bread, but they only carry one brand.  While this brand is dairy-free, it is not vegan because it contains egg whites.

I decided for now, I’d buy & eat this bread, despite the egg whites, because that’s my best option for now.  Sure, I can live without bread.  I don’t like to, mind you. My diet is still 99.33% vegan.

I know it becomes a bit of a slippery slope if you say you’re vegan & then start letting the eggs, milk, cheese, & other animal products start creeping into your diet.  Before you know it, your diet hardly resembles a plant-based diet.  Fortunately, since so many foods are naturally gluten-free & vegan, I don’t have to make this choice very often.

Since I have an intolerance to gluten, but not necessarily eggs, I’d take the gluten-free bread with the egg over the vegan wheat bread.  I will always buy the gluten-free & vegan bread if possible, but if not, I’m not going to sweat it.

And so, here comes the hard questions.

If you’re “really” vegan, would you eat bread with eggs in it?

What if you eat cake with milk in it, at a party?

I think this is why many of us hate labels & why many people think they can’t ever eat vegan or become vegan because it seems too restricting.  They don’t want to live up to impossibly high standards.

This is just my take on the issue, but I’ve always believed it’s about the principles.

If you choose to go vegan, great.  That doesn’t mean you have to be a “perfect” vegan.  I think if 95% of your diet is plant-based, animal free food, you’re pretty vegan as they come.  I know some vegans would disaree, but there it is.  That’s the way I see it.

If we want more people to join the movement of eating more plants, less animals, for health &/or ethical reasons, we’ve got to set the example that living this lifestyle is not only do-able, but enjoyable.  That it’s not about nit-picking, but about the total, holistic approach to a wholesome, flexible diet based on each person’s health, background & needs.

*Term used in GF culture to describe encounters with gluten, that more often than not, result in circumstances that aren’t pretty, not to mention life threatening if you happen to be Celiac.


Are you gluten-free & vegan?  Just vegan?  Or just gluten-free?  Have you ever had to choose between vegan or gluten-free?  



  1. Gena
    on July 17, 2012 at 3:08 pm said:

    I agree wholeheartedly that the principles matter most. That said, for me personally, I think there’s value in the label and the wholesale embrace of the lifestyle. It’s a political statement and an outcry against something as well as a personal choice, for me, and so the label fits. I’m vegan because I love it, it loves me, and I believe it’s the right choice to make in the world we live in. I abide by the details tell people I’m vegan because I want to share the lifestyle with others in an advocacy-driven way. So that’s why the label matters to me.

    That said, I do respect and understand a lot of the commentary here, and I don’t think that labels are easy, nor do they always fit snugly the things we want them to say. So it shouldn’t be forced.

  2. Katie
    on July 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm said:

    I really like this post as it makes me feel less guilty. I decided to be a “part-time” vegan to simplify my life. I have two kids (2yo and 4mo) and I was already so stressed with day-to-day life that I decided to be a little lax in my food endeavors. Now everything we have at home is vegan, but if we go to someone else’s home or out to eat, we relax and just eat what sounds good and what will feel good too. This had made my life so much easier and I am STILL eating a million times better then what I used to!

  3. Jess
    on July 14, 2012 at 11:14 am said:

    I’m newly vegan (a month and counting) and aiming for the holistic approach. I’m kind of a born rebel, so I’m cautious to be militant about anything in my life, because it’s a set-up for failure. At home I don’t eat anything that has animal products in it, not even a little bit. At other people’s homes I aim to please, especially when they are trying to meet me halfway. And when I stayed at the beach for a week after just becoming vegan two weeks prior, I did indulge in some seafood. But like you said, it’s about the whole experience, and I figure if I eat seafood just once a year, I’m still not-eating soooo many animals, and therefore come out on the positive side of reducing suffering.
    Anyhow, great topic! I loved reading all the responses.

    • Janae Wise
      on July 16, 2012 at 9:52 am said:

      Jess, wonderful approach. I think you are the perfect example of what I think more people need to see & know about. You’re taking the principle of reducing animal consumption & fitting it into your life in a way that works for you. Thanks for sharing!

  4. JLo
    on July 12, 2012 at 8:10 pm said:

    Talking about bread : I’ve been using breadmaker for years now. It’s so easy – just through in the ingredients and the machine does the job. Highly recommended! Fresh, cheep, yummy and gluten/egg white free every time 🙂

    • Anna
      on July 12, 2012 at 8:34 pm said:

      ooh, good idea! I have a bread machine too but its in storage, maybe I should get it out 🙂 Could you share your recipe? It would be very much appreciated!

      • Janae Wise
        on July 16, 2012 at 10:22 am said:

        Yes, JLO, really, I’d love to know what recipe you use. I haven’t ventured into gluten-free bread making yet. Perhaps this is the answer! (although time is always a factor..)

  5. Anna
    on July 10, 2012 at 10:49 pm said:

    We tell everyone that asks that we are at-home-vegans. When we are at home we eat only vegan food and try our best when we are out at restaurants as well but if friends invite us to their homes for dinner we eat whatever they are serving. We just recently took on this plant-based lifestyle and it’s been hard trying to figure out what to tell people. I totally agree with your statement:
    That’s the way I see it too 🙂

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 10:59 pm said:

      Glad to hear that Anna.

  6. Michaela
    on July 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm said:

    Great post Janae! I became vegetarian for health reasons (while taking my first nutrition class in college) when I was 17 and quickly thereafter became vegan. I used to be very strict about everything and would read labels and even obsess a bit about what went into my body. Unfortunately, the stress over what I was eating proved to be counterproductive and it clicked that aiming for overall health is a good thing, but being overly stringent about it is not. Now I am more lenient and still find that most of what I eat is vegan and health-promoting. It’s a much better way to live!

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 10:26 pm said:

      Michaela, it makes me so happy to know that you’re vegan! I knew there was a reason I really liked you :).

      I can relate to your experience. My first few years I was very strict about highly restricting anything higher fat, but I didn’t enjoy life as much. I didn’t eat this, I didn’t eat that, it felt very restrictive, & I didn’t like it.

      After having my 4th baby & doing Weight Watchers for a few months, I realized, hey, I CAN eat nuts & lose weight. I can eat peanut butter. I can have cookies. I just have to account for what I’m eating, & make sure I’m eating less calories than I’m burning (for weight loss). I may be a few pounds heavier than when I was at my strictest, but I’m enjoying life so much more.

      Thanks for the lovely comment, Michaela.

  7. Tina @ Best Body Fitness
    on July 10, 2012 at 6:42 pm said:

    I’ve never been big on labels. I eat mostly vegetarian, but don’t call myself one because I know myself. With my history of binge eating, as soon as I put a label that “restricts” anything to my mind, it’s all I want and I will go overboard. I agree with you that it’s more about the practice and choosing to be more cautious and more aware of food choices. I don’t strive for perfection, but do strive to be educated and balanced and do my best to nourish my body. Great post!!!

  8. Jane
    on July 10, 2012 at 4:52 pm said:

    I am gluten free (and grain free), but not necessarily vegan. It is hard to do both! I agree with Joya … I eat for my health too, and I hate labels! In fact, I hardly label my recipes as “vegan” or “gluten free” because I think it is easy to dismiss things that don’t fit in your label. Labels in general I think are very restricting!!!

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm said:

      Grain free, too? Do you eat sweet potatoes & potatoes?

  9. Jeanine
    on July 10, 2012 at 4:34 pm said:

    nice post… I feel like there’s an unwritten competition between vegans and gluten-free-ers which is why the specialty products never cater to both :). I try to lay low on the bread/gluten… but I tend to lean more toward the vegan side b/c I’m lactose intolerant (which still doesn’t mean I won’t splurge on a little bit of dairy – only if it’s something really good – and in pretty extreme moderation). Eggs… all bets are off, I like eggs.

    I’m with you on the labels… I *almost* went vegan one year, but then I started traveling a lot and realized I was always starving – there wasn’t always a vegan option around and sometimes it would force me to make less healthy (albeit, vegan) choices.

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 5:00 pm said:

      I don’t eat a lot of bread, but I would like to be able to eat a sandwich if I want one, or a piece of toast. Something very satisfying about eating bread…& it’s not just the carbs, it’s the texture, maybe memories of eating bread as a kid (we had toast with nearly every meal, I think my mom used it as a way to make the meal stretch a bit further).

  10. lfwfv
    on July 10, 2012 at 4:31 pm said:

    I am gluten-free (by necessity) and I also eat a plant-based diet. I really never consciously eat animal products, but I still don’t really label myself as vegan.

    To me, “veganism” is a whole philosophy….I still wear leather shoes and use products tested on animals. Also, I honestly don’t see anything wrong with killing and eating animals if it’s done in a humane way (like hunting….my dad hunts and they eat and share all of the meat. It’s also a heck of a lot healthier than grocery store meat). I do think factory farming is disgusting, and hormones in meat are horrible for our health, so if i do ever eat meat again, i will be very picky about what i choose to ingest.

    I choose to avoid dairy because it makes me ill, and i don’t eat meat, fish, or eggs because I believe I am healthier without them. That said, my husband will eat some turkey or other meat at a “feast meal” (several times per year…thanksgiving, christmas etc.), even though he eats exclusively plant-based most of the time, and he has no guilt about it from a moral standpoint. He also avoids animal products primarily because of health concerns (with the exception of also having a problem with factory farming).

    I find the gluten-free/vegan combo to be the simplest if i eat exclusively whole foods. Processed foods are a minefield! Especially since I try to avoid oil like the plague. That said, i very occasionally (twice in pregnancy) have eaten marshmallows (just couldn’t get those darn things out of my mind!) which i know are not technically vegan, but i think the sugar bothered my conscience more than the animal products it contained.

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 4:57 pm said:


      Makes me happy to know you’re giving into your pregnancy cravings, lfwfv. For me, with my last pregnancy, it was a whole slew of things I couldn’t get out of my mind–buffalo chicken wings, Hawaiian pizza from Pizza hut, Maverick frozen yogurt. Oh this last pregnancy was a doozy, that’s for sure, so a few marshmallows? I’d say you’re completely normal & fine :).

  11. Gabby @ the veggie nook
    on July 10, 2012 at 1:52 pm said:

    I’m with you- I don’t like labels because if you slip up or make a tiny exception, you end up feeling guilty. I tend to tell people I eat a vegan diet for simplicity’s sake, but those who know me well know I’m not perfect nor do I strive to be. I do the best I can and I know that is better for me than stressing over being perfect!

  12. Lindsay
    on July 10, 2012 at 11:59 am said:

    I agree with the label thing. I tell people I eat mostly vegan. I slip up more than you, especially having desserts with dairy and eggs. And then when I’m pregnant, there is definitely meat and cheese several times a month. I would say those are about once or twice a month when I’m not pregnant. I have been very strict in the past, but I feel better being a little flexible. I cannot imagine trying to be gluten free, you are amazing!

  13. Joya
    on July 10, 2012 at 11:32 am said:

    I despise labels. I eat for my health and stay away from things I know will make me feel bad. Simple..

    • Janae Wise
      on July 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm said:

      I love this, Joya! What a simple, straightforward way to put it.

  14. Ashley F.
    on July 10, 2012 at 9:49 am said:

    Very thoughtful post! This is something I think about quite often, actually. I think if I had an intolerance to gluten it would be a harder decision for me to make, but I generally believe that if I can avoid animal products, I will – even if it means skipping the cake at a party or not eating something that I’m unsure of the ingredients for.

    But, I’m not a perfect vegan either and I definitely slip up sometimes – usually when I have very few options. When it happens I just remind myself that it’s progress, not perfection, and I move on.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic – I’m interested to hear what others think!