Top Ten Reasons (Plus One) to Live GFE

This post was originally shared as a guest post over at one of my friend’s blogs, Kim Bouldin’s Gluten-Free is Life. With lots of new gfe readers and folks who don’t always have time to follow all the links to other blogs, I thought it was time to bring this one home to gfe! I’ve made a few small updates from the original.

I share my gfe approach here on gfe—gluten free easily (and also on Facebook and Twitter) via recipes and discussion posts. The gfe approach means that one eats real food, first and foremost; some mainstream processed foods that are gluten free (like tortilla chips); and only a few gluten-free specialty products (like gluten-free pasta) on occasion. Now that might sound intimidating to some folks—like way too much cooking—but really it’s not. However, it is definitely a shift in thinking if you are currently loading your grocery cart with only packaged foods. But, consider that the old adage is true, “Less IS more.”

Shopping the perimeter of the grocery store will give you your fruits, veggies, dairy/non-dairy products, meat, and seafood. From those alone, you can make a multitude of phenomenal meals … you will not just have one choice which is typically what packaged foods offer you. Brief trips into the inner aisle of the grocery store here and there will yield products that are naturally gluten free or come from a manufacturer that offers a gluten-free product, like balsamic vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, gluten-free soy sauce, etc.

How do I apply my gfe approach to real life? Well, today, I’ve enjoyed a leftover pizza omelet (eggs, almond milk, pizza sauce, and pepperoni) for breakfast and a small amount of tuna salad with pecans for a light lunch. I’ll be meeting friends for afternoon tea so I’ll enjoy a mixed greens salad topped with chicken salad at the local tea room. Our dinner is marinating as we speak—London Broil. The main ingredient is the beef, of course, but the marinade consists of soy sauce (gluten-free soy sauce, of course), honey, vinegar (or wine), oil, ginger, garlic, and Worcestershire sauce (again, a gluten-free brand; you can see the marinade recipe here). I’ll serve oven fries and green beans as our sides. As you can see, there’s nothing difficult about my day of food. It included food I’ve made (omelet, tuna salad, London Broil, oven fries), purchased products (soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, frozen green beans), and eating out, and exemplifies my gfe approach.

Here are my Top 10 (+) Reasons for Living GFE:
(Click here for a printable version.)

1.  I don’t have to shop at a special grocery store and usually not even in a special gluten-free section. I can almost always find something to eat while I’m out and about.

2.  I don’t have to keep tons of gluten-free specialty products stashed in my pantry, in my freezer, or under my bed. More importantly, I don’t break into a cold sweat if I find out that a specialty product is no longer being carried by my store or even produced.

3.  I only cook one meal for dinners, parties, etc., but still everyone is happy—gluten-free and non-gluten free folks. If you have to cook two meals because everyone doesn’t like your gluten-free food or you say it’s too expensive to feed everyone gluten free, then you are not following the gfe approach. Please read on.

4.  With few exceptions (and those typically occur when I eat out), I know what’s in my food. I don’t have to stress over reading lots of labels and learn what castoreum extract is (check out Melissa’s explanation at Gluten Free for Good here) or what carmine or cochineal extract (the pink coloring in pink-colored products like Good &Plenty candy) really is. I don’t have to worry about other ingredients like sorbitan monostearate. Even if such ingredients are gluten free, I don’t want to eat them.

5.  I almost never face disappointment with the quality or cost of gluten-free specialty products because I use so few of them. Whole, real food is the best and, again, I don’t have to read labels when I’m eating real food. An apple is an apple. An artichoke is an artichoke. Shrimp is shrimp. And so on. When I combine those foods to make a meal, I not only know what’s in the meal, but I also know that it will taste good to all. There are no textural and flavor differences for others to adapt to; gfe food and meals taste great!

6.  When sticking to my gfe approach, I don’t often get “glutened”—either when eating out or at home. When eating out, I’m going for foods that are naturally gluten free and, therefore, will have the least chance of containing gluten. At home, on the extremely rare occasion that I do get glutened, it’s always due to a processed product and it’s pretty easy to do the detective work, figure out the culprit/cause, and banish it from my gfe life.

7.  Because my desserts are often flourless and crustless (like flourless peanut butter cookies or crustless apple pie)—and even dairy free as well using coconut milk (like this pumpkin pie)—they tend to taste like the decadent ones you’d eat at an upscale restaurant. They are super easy to make and a small portion satisfies in every way, and that’s not just true for the gluten-free eaters, but it’s true for everyone.

8.  You can teach others to feed you safely using the gfe method. And again, they won’t turn up their noses at your “special” food; they’ll want to eat what you are eating. With proper instruction, there should be no need to make you a separate meal. I’ve taught both family members and very good friends how to feed me safely. Of course, this instruction comes more easily when your family members and friends are already focusing on real foods. With the holidays coming up sooner than we can imagine, consider dishes like ham, turkey (hold the gluten-full stuffing and gravy or sub gluten-free stuffing and gravy!), mashed potatoes, deviled eggs, and corn pudding—all of which are naturally gluten free or can easily be made gluten free.

9.  If you have other food intolerances, it’s fairly easy to make adjustments for those as well, instead of looking endlessly for products that are free of a, b, c, d, x, y, and z. Many of my gfe recipes are gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free, soy free, and peanut free, and it’s pretty easy to make adjustments for other allergens like corn and tree nuts. There are truly so many possibilities when you are at the helm so to speak, and not relying on a food manufacturer to produce a product that safely meets your needs.

10. My food bill is no higher than that of the average gluten-eating person. That’s always a good thing, but especially during these economic times. It breaks my heart when folks tell me that they are cooking two separate meals because they can’t afford to feed their entire families gluten free. Using the gfe approach, one meal that satisfies everyone and keeps all the gluten-free folks safe is perfectly “doable.” But you do have to “do it” …. as long as you keep relying on higher cost gluten-free specialty items and/or cooking separate meals, you won’t be taking the gfe approach. If you stop buying tons of specialty products and start focusing on real food, the gfe approach will slowly fall into place for you and your whole family. The focus does not have to be on the fact that the food is gluten free; just that it’s good.

11. I am healthier eating the gfe way. One of the primary health issues related to celiac/gluten intolerance is inflammation. It causes or contributes to so many of the symptoms related to gluten issues. Packaged products, even gluten-free ones, contribute to inflammation and many other health issues. They are high in refined ingredients and carbs, often high in sugar and bad fat, low in fiber, tend to have a high glycemic index, and usually just don’t offer much in the way of nutrition. Frankly, when I eat such products, I don’t feel great. Real food that’s naturally gluten free gives you all the good stuff and combats inflammation and so much more. Don’t misunderstand me. I am not perfect with my eating and, therefore, my health is not perfect. I’m a work in progress. I love to bake, so while I do use alternative sweeteners like stevia and coconut sugar, still, too much cane sugar often finds its way into my diet. That cane sugar and other refined ingredients (e.g., white rice flour) cause their own issues, including the aforementioned inflammation. But I am in control of everything that I consume with my gfe approach. With the gfe approach, that doesn’t mean just choosing one product over another. To reiterate, it means focusing on real, whole foods; adding in some mainstream foods that are gluten free; and using very few gluten-free specialty items.

For more specific foods and meal ideas, you may also want to check out gfe’s tip sheets now located via the Getting Started with GFE tab under my blog header. There you’ll find printable resource sheets (PDF) including 50 meals that are gfe, 50 foods you can eat today, 50 gfe sweet treats, and the gfe pantry (with some more pantry and meal guidance here).

Not just gf, but gfe!

Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: This post may contain one or more affiliate links. If you purchase through them, your cost will always be the same, but I will receive a small commission. Thanks for the support! Read the full disclaimer here.


26 Responses to “Top Ten Reasons (Plus One) to Live GFE”

  1. glutenfreeforgood on September 21st, 2011 7:27 am

    Thanks for the friendly link-love, Shirley! You’re so right, choosing whole, nourishing foods without cryptic labels and weird ingredients makes staying healthy so much easier. Some of these ingredients being used in processed foods here in the US aren’t even allowed in other countries!

    Love your comment about being “a work in progress.” Aren’t we all!? We just do the best we can, learn from blog posts like this one of yours, and keep on trying. We can start with baby steps and make great strides in the long run. Thanks for a great list of gfe ideas!


    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:11 pm

      Hi Melissa–I’m always happy to link to your excellent posts! It’s only been the last several years that I’ve really learned about ingredients and that what passes in the U.S. doesn’t meet European standards. i wish everyone would start taking a look.

      Some of us are more “works in progress” than others. ;-) But I do appreciate your encouragement and support as always!


  2. Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) on September 21st, 2011 9:28 am

    Hip, hip, hooray! What a great post! I love this post as it raises a lot of important issues and advice I have also learned in my 2.5 year journey of being GFE (and dairy, and — trying valiantly, anyway — sugar-free. That’s a tough one, as you mention here). I especially appreciated what you wrote about inflammation. It’s the number one way I know when a food is bothering me: symptoms of inflammation all over, including overnight weight gain. Thanks for posting this, Shirley! I’ll pass it along…

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:27 pm

      Hi Karin–It’s so good to see you again. :-) Thank you for the kind feedback! We all deserve to be free of inflammation. It makes such a dramatic impact (as you’ve shared as well) on our health! I really appreciate you passing on my listing, Karin. I can’t imagine living gluten free any other way, even if I’m not perfect. ;-)


  3. SherriS. on September 21st, 2011 10:37 am

    I’m so glad you posted this on your website Shirley! I agree 100%. When I first realized I was wheat allergic I ate very simply and lost weight! Then I found more and more of GF substitutes of foods that I “missed” and gained that weight back.

    Thankfully I have gone back to simple foods and have lost weight, saved money, etc.

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:31 pm

      Hey Sherri–I love that you’ve shared what you learned here with others. I’m sure it will help many to know that it’s not just “talk,” but reality, that whole, simple foods benefit us so. :-) I’m so happy that you’ve experienced this success living gfe!


  4. Ina Gawne on September 21st, 2011 10:40 am

    Great post Shirley! There is nothing better than, whole, real food. My family loves the gluten free lifestyle, and on occasion when I do bake, they like it better than eating the gluten foods. Eating real food is the only way to go!

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:51 pm

      Thanks, Ina. Your blog is a testament to whole, real food. :-) I love it! Gluten-free baked goods done right are wonderful, and folks feel so much better after eating them. ;-)


  5. Raj @ Flip Cookbook on September 21st, 2011 2:43 pm

    Love it! Real food == Real health is an equation that resonates well with me.

    A lot of what you’ve listed is really true with any sort of diet. For example – a lot of people think that being vegetarian (which I was for most of my life until recently) means eating carbs – pasta pasta pasta.

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:54 pm

      Hi Raj–Thank you for your feedback and I love how you simply stated, Real food == Real health! :-) Yes, you’re right … the ideas can apply to other lifestyles.


  6. Linda on September 21st, 2011 3:27 pm

    All great reasons to live gfe! Wanted to let you know your PDF links at the end of the post aren’t working. I want to pass them on to my newly diagnosed friends and seeing the links reminded me of them.

    • Shirley on September 21st, 2011 4:08 pm

      Linda–You my dear are a lifesaver! Links are fixed now. I had two URLs back to back in each one! LOL That’s what happens when one stays up too late and doesn’t do the usual link check before hitting “Publish.” Thanks for saving the day, for the nice feedback, and for sharing the gfe tip sheets with your friends who are new to living gf! :-)


  7. Desi@ThePalatePeacemaker on September 22nd, 2011 10:21 am

    I’m so glad you posted this, Shirley! You really busted through a lot of myths (excuses) that so many people have regarding gluten-free(dom). :) No one has any excuse NOT to go gluten-free now! Considering all the benefits, I would venture to say that a gluten-free diet truly is easier in so many ways than the average American diet! :)
    Much love,

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:57 pm

      Hi dear Desi!–i love your emphasis on gluten-freedom. :-) And I think you’ve hit on something really phenomenal with your final comment. Eating gluten free with an approach like gfe can definitely make it a diet that’s much easier to follow than other diets. ;-)


  8. Erin Elberson Lyon-GF Fitness on September 22nd, 2011 7:20 pm

    Shirley, as you know I LOVE the gfe approach! (And your lovely ability to convey it :)

    • Shirley on September 22nd, 2011 9:59 pm

      Hi Erin–Thank you … thank you. I always appreciate your amazing support! :-)


  9. Stephanie on September 25th, 2011 1:12 pm

    Thanks Shirley for the reminder that we can “easily” do this!

    • Shirley on September 26th, 2011 12:06 am

      Hi Stephanie–Thanks so much for taking the time to comment with positive feedback! :-)


  10. Carol, Simply...Gluten-free on September 26th, 2011 8:53 am

    People always think it is going to be hard and expensive to go gluten free – I think your points prove that is not always the case!

    • Shirley on September 27th, 2011 10:36 am

      Hi Carol–Thanks for backing me up! Have fun at the Dallas GFAF Expo this weekend! I know you’ll be great as usual. :-)


  11. Alta on October 3rd, 2011 5:16 pm

    Great post, Shirley. I’m definitely a subscriber of the gfe approach! In a way, I was sharing some of that this weekend at the Dallas GFAF Expo – talking about how it’s so much easier to keep cross-contamination down in your not-entirely-GF kitchen when you’re making a naturally GF meal (and they’re the easiest to cook, IMHO!). Same as your #6!

    • Shirley on October 4th, 2011 12:48 pm

      Hey there, Alta!–Thanks, dear. :-) I’m so glad this approach was part of your presentation at the Expo this past weekend. It really can simplify the gluten-free life for folks as well as keep them safer. I’m looking forward to hearing more about your presentation and time at the Expo. I bet your presentation helped all who were present so much!


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