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What Do Vegans Eat When You Are Gluten Free?

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When Vegans Eat What asked me to write a blog post about being a gluten-free vegan, I was honored. I adore their site and am always happy to help other vegans.  After a couple of drafts, I just wasn’t happy with what was flowing from my keyboard and then it hit me – this wasn’t just a post about being a gluten-free vegan, this was a post about making adjustments, surviving change and continuing to live a vibrant, vegan life, despite struggling with “withouts”, like my living without gluten.

I gave up gluten long before it was trendy, in the dark ages before  I was vegan and before decent gluten-free goodies and gluten-free menu options even existed. I gave it up because I felt better. Am I Celiac? I don’t know.  I opted to forgo painful, expensive biopsies because there is no cure or treatment for Celiac disease other than shunning gluten. I already knew gluten made me feel terrible, so I decided to avoid it as if I was Celiac.  Are there days when I wish I didn’t need to be gluten-free? Absolutely.  But there are so many things I can eat and life is just fine without gluten. Even living as a vegan.

Choosing to be vegan means giving up too.  Some people would say vegans are “extreme” and living without dairy, meat, eggs, honey, leather, wool, silk, down, and all animal derived products is a restricted life. But ask just about any vegan, me included, and we’d all say we’ve gained so much more than we’ve given up.  As an ethical, environmental and health vegan, I know I’m doing something to help animals, repair the planet and heal myself.  When you give up something by choice and from the heart, it’s easier to stay true to your decision.

When you give up things by necessity, it’s harder. One of my darkest days happened during the summer of 2013 when my doctor referred me to a specialist because my thyroid was enlarged. My mom had thyroid cancer.  I tried not to panic and hopped on Google to learn what I could.  After a bit of research, I suspected I had a goiter when I discovered almost everything I was eating made it difficult for my body to absorb iodine, causing the deficiency and growth.  Kale, strawberries, peaches, tempeh, tofu, chic peas, spinach, dates, almonds, cashews…. the list of goitrogenic foods was overwhelming and I sat and sobbed, thinking of all the foods I couldn’t have.

Giving up my vegan lifestyle wasn’t an option. But giving up almost all my favorite foods, in addition to staying vegan and gluten-free was almost too much to handle. Almost. I wiped away the tears, cleared my head and asked myself, “OK, what CAN I eat?”  Quinoa, most berries, squash, tomatoes, pinto beans, rice, sunflower seeds, romaine… the list was do-able.  I added kelp supplements to replace the iodine I wasn’t absorbing.  By the time I visited the specialist, my diagnosis was confirmed, but the goiter was already starting to heal.  I avoided the goitrogenic food list for about six month and was eventually able to add my favorite staples back into my diet again.

This experience cemented my belief that you can be vegan despite your dietary requirements. I know vegans who are, either by choice or by necessity, also oil free, soy free, nut free, gluten-free… but they all eat great foods. They all stay vegan. They live life fully.

Everyone has to make sacrifices at times. When you think about yours, especially when considering a vegan lifestyle, remember that making any change can be as hard or as easy as you decide to make it. Get creative. Learn about your options and seek friends and resources to help you. There are many blogs, Meetup groups and Facebook pages dedicated to all sorts of variations on the vegan lifestyle. Whatever you’re working through – you’re not alone.  Ask for help and be a seeker. If you’re so inclined, be a trailblazer and share ideas to help others struggling in shoes like yours. I started my blog because I knew there were others like me who needed help, ideas and support.

You CAN make the changes you need to make and there are many friends you haven’t met yet to help you on your journey.

When people tell me they can’t be vegan because they could never give up ________, I wish they would listen to their heart and not their head. And when someone tells me they can’t be vegan because they’re gluten-free, I smile, share my story, hand them my card with a link to my blog, filled with delicious, gluten-free, vegan recipes and say “Sure you CAN!”

What are your vegan or veg-curious struggles? Have you successfully switched from “can’t” to “can”? I’d love to hear what helped you succeed or what’s holding you back! Please share your thoughts or question below.

After living many years gluten-free, and deciding to adopt the vegan lifestyle in 2011, Janie Gianotsos, at the pleading of her hungry hubby, decided to start writing down the “good” recipes so she could make them again.  Starting a blog to share this wonderful, energizing and compassionate way of eating just made sense. On  Gluten Free Vegan, Janie shares her “good” recipes as well as tips and musings on living gluten-free and vegan.

Categories: Food

Author: Janie Gianotos

Janie Gianotos' adventure as a gluten-free vegan began in 2011. At Gluten-Free Vegan Me, Janie shares recipes and insights that are useful whether you’re a gluten-free vegan or just learning about different ways to eat. Janie can be reached at or via