Breaking Bread When You’re Grain Free

We would’ve never dreamed of pushing food to the other side of our plate in protest or allowing the petulant sulk of childhood tastes take precedence over being a good guest. After all, I was born with the trifecta of gracious eating. Asian ancestry, missionary childhood, and community living.

As an Asian, food is about community and respect and eating together serves a purpose much greater than filling the stomach or pleasing the palette. It communicates love, pride, honor, and fellowship.

Raised as a missionary kid living most of my early childhood in community, we ate what was presented. I’m sure there were things we ate that most kids would turn their noses up at but we grew up on dahl and rice, and the occasional meat curry that was pressure cooked to kill all of the parasites and tough to chew. In the morning we would eat bread. It was impossible to keep the tiny ants out of the flour so they were simply baked in and we thought nothing of sitting around the table in the morning digging what we could out of each slice of bread.


And so began my experiences with food. I’m not picky. Sure, I have my favorites as do most of us, but invite me over to a shared meal and I would gladly eat whatever was served.

Blessed with an international pallette, my father’s tastes paved many roads to foreign missions because he would eat with the people. Whatever people. Indian, Mexican, Hawaiian, even Tibetan salted tea with fermented goats milk passed his lips as a sign of respect and honor. And nothing says I am engaging your culture more than a shared love and respect for their food.

Almost every culure has at its heart the shared meal. It goes back to our most basic forms of community, a shared table and the breaking of bread, so to speak.

So my aversion to the picky eater has always been somewhat prevalent in my prejudices. If only because it  closes doors to community and relationship. And lets just admit it, the best people are those who love food. Give me a friend who knows how to eat over one who picks and pokes at things and has the calorie content of everything memorized.

And so I find myself in a tricky place. I have found that for me, the “semi-Paleo” diet has done wonders for me in terms of eliminating my constant migraines, irritable bowel, and constant fatigue. But, this leaves me with very limited food choices. Pretty much all grains are out, all refined sugars, and most dairy. Hmmmm. Sounds like the makings of a picky eater.

wheat field

Not only that, but the Paleo/ Caveman diet is the latest rage in a series of fad diets that have been touted recently. I will admit that I was extremely resistant to try it primarily for that reason. Because yeah, I’m stubborn that way. But after reading some very interesting books about the subject and suggestions from my doctor to eliminate certain foods to help control IBS and some of the hormonal problems associated with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome, I finally went grain free. And felt really good.

Except that I miss bakeries, and potlucks, and being able to eat freely in fellowship. I don’t want to be the high maintenance one who carries around her own Tupperware of cucumbers, mashed cauliflower, and chicken breast. I want to be able to break bread in fellowship and I haven’t learned how to do that yet.

I have asked God to help me develop a heart that is open to hospitality and although I know I will never be the extroverted socialite who has an open door and constant guests, I do want to extend my hand to envelop those who long for community. I have also asked, more like begged and pleaded, with God to help me with the areas of food addiction, gluttony, and comfort eating.

I’m not sure how Paleo will fit into all this yet. I just know that I need to do something.

How do you handle food restrictions and dietary issues when you are in community?


  1. says

    Excellent post, friend! And 17 days in, I know already what you mean. We went to 10Barrel on a double date last week, and we were “those” people—you know, the ones who have to ask the waiter what everything is cooked in and asking them to “hold off the _” several times. Good times. We love eating out, so we’re talking about how post-Whole30, we’ll probably lax a bit on date nights. I want to stay mostly Paleo because I feel REALLY GOOD, like you. But then there’s also real life. And I don’t want to be a slave to ingredient obsession.

    And oh yes, we’ve already talked about the challenges when we travel internationally—I can hardly think of any culture we’ve lived in where bread wasn’t extremely significant, both communally and symbolically. A challenge, for sure. One thing we’ve noticed, however, is that food outside the U.S. doesn’t rip up our insides quite like food from the good ol’ motherland. I’m pretty sure most places ban many of the things we freely allow in our foods. Sadly.

    • Alia Joy says

      I’m not nearly as strict as I was back when I did Whole30 in September but even so, it does make it difficult for spur of the moment things and get togethers, and definitely for date night. I have yet to find a happy hour that can accommodate Paleo. And I hate being one of “those” people. We don’t eat out much and I can eat pretty simply at home but going out or having people over changes things. We can’t just do burgers or order pizza when I’m exhausted. Everything requires a lot more intention and forethought. Neither of which are my strong suit.
      I know I just need to figure out some simple recipes to have on hand but since we’ve been cooking this way, I haven’t quite learned staple recipes yet. The recipes to go back to over and over that work well with our family. We’ve had some hits but we’ve also had some misses.
      And yeah, I’m interested to see how your travel diet will be affected by the types of grains available in other places.

    • Irene says

      Really interesting posts! My family has not yet encountered health issues related to gluten or grains, but I can really appreciate the challenges, especially the social/relational ones. On a side note, we recently encountered a very interesting article that may at least partially explain why grain products in foreign countries often don’t produce the same health problems as the ones made in the US:

  2. says

    Oh sweet friend! I get this… recently – I went on a juice fast… (me? no coffee? I anticipated it being brutal!) However – after about Day 4 I thought – I could keep this up! I could do this for longer than 7 days… I want to try it again. I have kept at the juicing for breakfast and lunch for the most part and it is amazing how when you feed your body what it actually needs – you do feel amazing! However – I haven’t restarted it again because it was very restricting in. I too LIKE the fellowship of eating a meal together and while juicing would not replace ‘normal eating’ long term – I know how it can feel so confining.

    I changed the way I ate in 2008 and dropped 75 pounds… it was tough… those closest to me supported it – and yet I was surprised at the ones who really didn’t. That’s a whole different blog post/comment deal – but the point is – if it is a lifestyle change – not a fad… the people who mean the most will rally around you and help you stick with it! You have to give yourself grace and permission to make exceptions from time to time but here’s the trick: the longer you fuel your body with good foods – the more when you feed it not so good foods – well, let’s just say the temptations to ‘cheat’ are less enticing!

    You are not in this alone my friend!
    Praying with you!

    PS – it looks like we’ll be heading through your town on March 30th… (and possibly heading back that same way several days later? If we go home that way – we may stay in town a day or two… contemplating more time in Redding/over night in OR… or less time in Redding/trip over to the CA Coast then back up to home!)

    • Alia Joy says

      We did juicing in the summer and it was a great fit for me. I replaced juice in the morning and at lunch a lot. But I still had to make food for my kids. The good thing was that at dinner, I ate whatever. So we could have people over for dinner and I could just cook regular foods. I know what you mean about good foods. I get horrendous migraines and was hitting a major exhaustion slump every afternoon which I don’t get when I cut grains out. It’s just hard because I’m never sure what to eat in a pinch and I’ve got to relearn how to cook, travel, and eat out. It’s a pretty big learning curve. Let me know when you are in town and maybe we can get together. We’re planning on traveling during Spring Break but not sure on dates yet so we may be in town, I’d love to get together if we are.

  3. says

    I’m not grain free, but gluten free, and I love baking my own special goodies to bring over to share at other people’s homes. There are paleo-friendly desserts you could make, and then it’s not so much of a me-and-my-own-food-issues, but exposing and inviting others to good food!

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, I think you have a good way of doing things. My daughter was GF for a long time when she was little because of extremely sever eczema which she has mostly grown out of but when we used to have to cook for her, we just brought her special foods everywhere. We always had cupcakes to take for birthday parties or potlucks so she wouldn’t miss out on goodies. I just haven’t gotten enough good recipes under my belt yet to have go to recipes but I know that I need to do that if we plan to be able to eat with other people.

  4. Lori says

    It is difficult for sure. Three years with a GF daughter and I’m not sure it gets any easier , only different. We adapt. Now the whole family is GF, so the adaptation is bigger. Social functions more challenging,etc. I am just dipping my ties into the whole30 concept, so I cannot say for sure what that will be like. But like you, I have to do something. I am sick and tired of being sick and tired. Thanks for posting.

    • Alia Joy says

      Yes, I know health wise it is worth it for me. I do feel so much better and this from someone who was out with migraines several times a month and exhausted every afternoon. But still, it’s not easy. I have noticed that over the years, there are now more and more GF options. When my daughter had to do GF years ago, there was nothing! Now even major restaurants often have some GF options. I wonder if Paleo will be like that in time. Less stuff made with grains and more with coconut and almond flours. Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’d love to hear how it goes for you if you do decide to do whole30.

    • Alia Joy says

      Oh I know! I have been wanting to read it because I’ve heard it is amazing. But at the same time, I am reluctant. I had to give up red wine years ago because of the insane migraines I would get after and that was a very sad parting for sure. I can drink white, but haven’t developed the taste for it. I can only imagine how hard it must be for you, don’t your kids also have other allergies? It is a choice, feel good enough to actually have community and company and therefore eat foods that limit it, or feel like crap but be able to hang out and eat whatever. Not a fun choice. Although, I loved the solidarity I felt with you guys at Influence as we scoured the menu for things we could eat! You, me, and V made it so much less awkward to be picking and scraping and waving goodbye to the chocolate cakes!

  5. says

    I’m gluten-free but not coeliac so try to stick to GF as much as possible. Occasionally I do eat some gluten and have some fall back if there is no alternative at gatherings. Learning one or two irresistible dishes to take to gatherings is also a good move. But yeah I miss bread & GF are definitely cakes are not so good.
    At communion in our church one of the elders knows all the gluten free people and takes round a tray of wafers (one of of the things I noticed the first week we went there, even though I wasn’t GF at the time)

    • Alia Joy says

      I’d much rather mess up eating dairy or even pure sugar than gluten. It makes me so much sicker with even a bit of gluten. I’ve heard it takes longer to get out of your system as well, although I don’t remember where I read that now. That’s nice they have an option at church for communion. I have a friend with celiac’s and she can’t even have cross contaminated things or she gets violently ill. I’m not nearly that bad but have been trying to stick to basic grain free eating.

  6. says

    Right there with ya. Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Beef Free, Banana, Cranberry, Peanut and Almond Free. I am the girl who takes her bento box everywhere and pulls it out to eat her food. I look like a freak but I feel GOOOOOOOOOOD. I’m over it. I know how I need to eat and some days it totally stinks cuz all I want is a maple doughnut. But, alas, no can do. So if you ever come to my house (you are invited anytime) I will have something yummy and probably paleo for you. At least a killa green smoothie. Fight on. THINKING GIRLS eat what they need, not what they want. ROCK ON!!

    • says

      Yes, today a maple doughnut sounds divine. Probably because I’m hormonal and overtired and that would put me into a sugar/carb coma for a few days. I don’t have that many restrictions so I guess I can be glad almonds are my friends still. Hmmm, yummy and paleo stuff at your house, huh? Tempting. 😉

  7. Tamrah says

    I’m just beginning to learn the restriction of GF eating. My endocrinologist surprised meover a week ago with a prediagnosis for celiac. Opened my eyes. I’m 40 and just now discovering that these PCOS/PMDD and always tired symptoms just might have a root cause…gluten?! I’m on day 9 GF diet and have noticed my skin is softer already and still waiting on the other positive effects. Meanwhile, I’m happy to see products labeled better than years ago so I can start this journey easier. I’ve always been one to make my family’s meals from scratch, thankfully. But sandwich bread, I do not. I so miss gluten for just this. It holds together a sandwich…even unfrozen. Case and point, last night’s hamburger. Let’s just say the lettuce was a better way to eat it 😉 So, I’m learning along the way. There’s one certain truth in that if I continue this journey, the Lord will take care of these small twists and turns. PTL! for His direction in my life.

    • says

      Yes, I eat most of my sandwiches with just lettuce as well. I haven’t found a good recipe for grain free bread yet. Although I have tried some muffin recipes that were pretty good. But a lot of work. I wish I loved cooking but I do not. I used to do freezer cooking and get it all out of the way in one super long day and have enough meals to last the month but I haven’t been able to adapt Paleo recipes to do this well. But it does make a huge difference in my PCOS symptoms so I know it’s worth it in the long run.

  8. says

    My family of three was diagnosed celiac about 6 years ago. It’s been a long journey of discovery (and frustration and heartache to be honest.) Raising a celiac child is a challenge all its own. My workplace is very social and eating a meal together is a vital part of the way I build teams and relationships with most anyone I care to be around.

    One of the ways I deal with eating primal / paleo or just traditional gluten free in a modern world is to be the social butterfly who instigates and organizes. I am the first one to suggest we go out with a list of delicious restaurants where I know I can eat (fairly) safely ready to offer up to the group. If we are going somewhere new, I do my best to research a bit before we get there, even calling the restaurant or the host, asking for suggestions and to see if they know what “gluten free” really means for a celiac. I also find my lifestyle is conduit for educating people who are curious and many of my friends and coworkers have since explored gluten free and paleo eating on their own, asking for my advice and input on how to navigate the waters and break out of the Standard American Diet themselves.

    In the comment of a blog post I read this morning about parenting young children, a grandmother with young grandchildren made the observation that it doesn’t get easier, but you get better at it. The same goes for finding new ways to eat. Not being able to literally break bread with friends and family will never be easy, but you do get better at it!

    (P.S. Thanks Tsh from SimpleMom for bringing me here and to The Actual Pastor’s post on those small children!)

    • says

      Thanks for visiting Rainya. I think your approach of being proactive is something I’ve just never really done. I’ve always been so easygoing and laid back with my approach to eating that it’s a whole new reality to have to think ahead about every meal and community event. I know it’s something I’ll have to practice to get better at. We had to go gluten free for my daughter when she was little because she had such extreme eczema. And we always planned ahead to bring a gluten free cupcake for her to birthday parties or to have her own snacks available whenever we went out but over the years, she grew out of it and we reintroduced gluten. But she still gets upset stomach if she eats too much gluten. It’s a better diet for all of us to be gluten free and even grain free but it’s definitely not easy.

  9. says

    I’m so with you on this–I’ve always been proud of my flexible eating habits and see the foods I don’t enjoy as my loss. But in January, desperate to lose the baby weight, I started the (now) old-fashioned Atkin’s way of eating and had wonderful results for a while. Maintaining it was a different matter. I’m a mother of two young children, writing a dissertation, teaching college classes, etc, etc, so my health (eating and exercise) tend to suffer. I’m surrounded by people with their own eating needs (must have meat, vegetarian, etc. etc.) so it’s hard to be social without feeling like a short-order cook (it feels so rude to serve friends food that I know they can’t eat). Taking my dietary needs out of the equation is one way to make it easier on myself.

    At the same time, it becomes clearer and clearer to me that my eating issues are bordering on addiction. In that case, it’s not very helpful to just partake moderately 20% of the time (or whatever compromise works for some people) because the nature of addiction is lack of control! I so wish a moderate approach worked for me, but it doesn’t. BUT neither do I want to be that rigid, picky eater–just like the people that I’ve sighed and rolled my eyes over (on the inside, of course). Argh! I really need some answers! My one hope is that the situation will improve once I stop breastfeeding altogether (although I’m only doing it about twice a day right now so it seems to disproportionately affect my appetite). Last time my addictive eating tendencies definitely diminished after I weaned completely so if that doesn’t help this time, I’ll have to figure something else out.

    • says

      Yes, I’ve heard of doing it 80% and in some ways I do because I still eat rice. I am Asian and although I did cut rice out of my diet for the two months I did #whole30 very strictly, I couldn’t do that for life. But I have cut down on how much and how often I eat it. I was constantly “starving” while nursing so that may definitely be a contributing factor to appetite but I also know for me, I eat even when I’m not hungry. I eat because I’m bored, or lonely, or tired, or excited. Pretty much for any reason, so I’m also having to retrain myself to enjoy food but not focus all of my energy around it. I find that if I don’t eat carbs like flours and grains, my cravings are way less. It’s hard to want to overeat zucchini and strawberries. For me anyway.

  10. says

    I hear ya!!! I was 1 year strict paleo. It cleared up my chronic health issues but I burnt out on the cooking. I have never liked to cook so this was extremly hard. But it worked and I am thankful because 6 years of that health issue was horrid plus I lost 25 lbs!! Now however I am back to mostly normal eating but am very tired and need to shed some lbs again for my low back disk pain and heartburn. It is tougher going back paleo without the more major health issues.Part of me thinks I can deal with the extra weight and heartburn for convinece sake… Im not sure where I am going with that, other than making exercise a priority right now. The time consumption and yes missing out on communion is so hard. I wrote about this exact thing last week on my blog. So many many hugs!!!!

    • says

      Steph, I read your post. I agree, it is hard. For me, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks but still, it is hard to navigate the day to day. Especially on days I’m exhausted and I just don’t want to cook anything at all. All my go to easy meals are no longer options. I need to find some standby’s for days when all I want is something I can pop in the microwave. 😉

  11. Sarah Westphal says

    Curry!! Make curries as part of you regular meal with basmati rice on the side. Everyone loves it! It is both GF and paleo. As is pasta with spaghetti squash. How about breakfast? Frittata and bacon.

    I am on day 13 of Whole 30 that was inspired/encouraged by Tsh’s post and… my desperate need for a celiac blood test. This has taught us how to eat & cook differently. Can’t say that it has been easy, but it has been well worth it.

    As for breaking bread and not being able to eat it? We are having a potluck after church next week and though my hubby and I won’t be capable of eating much of what is being brought over, that is okay. Really. It is just more important to have friends OVER in community, than what you actually consume. I find people are more concerned over what THEY are eating, then what you are. Plus, if you tell peeps eating “such n such” gives you the runs or headaches…people don’t question it.

    Let me know if you need a few quick n’ dirty recipes to have people over or just for yourself!


    • says

      Yes, I would love recipes! Absolutely. I’m always up for trying new things. I actually do eat rice, even though it’s not Paleo. I’m Asian and although I did cut it out completely when I did #whole30 the first time and for about a month afterward, it doesn’t seem to cause the same problems grains do for me. Plus, I want this to be a lifestyle change and I can’t not eat rice again. Just no. 😉 So I do eat it a little bit. But not nearly as much as before. I need to get together with Tsh and pick her brain for all her yummy recipes. Or get on Pinterest and do some more pinning and experimenting. Yes, I can imagine if I said, “Ummm, can’t eat that or I will have the runs,” that would shut down the convo pretty fast. :)

  12. says

    What is it with maple bars lately. . .I want one so badly! After finding out I am gluten intolerant last year, I can’t even fudge a little, so I’ll have to work on a gluten free maple bar. My friend has a gf pumpkin donut that is pretty darn good though.
    Anyway, to answer your question, here’s how I handle eating with others
    Restaurants: actually pretty easy, as long as it’s not fast food. I’m finding that some even have an allergy alert list or something like that for their employees, and sometimes they will show this to you to help. If you frame it like an allergy, the response is much better. Knowing the restaurant and calling ahead, or googling the restaurant and give you some ideas of what to order.
    Homes: ask questions about what is being cooked, but try to make it as if you’re trying to figure out what to bring. :) Then you can actually bring something delicious and safe/appropriate for you to eat. I discovered no one was bringing a dessert to a thanksgiving meal I went to, and brought a flourless torte that was to.die.for. everyone wanted the recipe after that. :)
    I agree with what Raiyna said about being the instigator. You can have people over or have input in the meal choice so that there will be something you can eat.

    Whatever I do, I find being super gentle and humble about my choices for myself helps, as well as having ready ideas of what I can eat to help others if I’m in a situation where someone is trying to feed me. Saying “I was sick and now I feel better,” and leaving it at that inspires people to ask more and look at their own diets.

    Btw, found your post from Tsh’s weekend links.

    • says

      Thanks for visiting Danielle. I have a question. Because I think that your ideas are great. My problem is that often the invites and get togethers are spontaneous and organic. Like a group of us decide to get together after church and I have a half hour to get there. Say it’s a BBQ or everyone is getting together for Pizza or Spaghetti etc. I just feel that I tend to be caught off guard where before I’d buy a loaf of French Bread, or some side I could pick up at Costco on my way to the party but now I end up wandering around completely lost at what to take. I always end up with a veggie tray or cut up fruit which is fine, but it’s not a lot to eat when that’s all you have. What are some go to things you have on hand or can whip up quickly for occasions where you don’t have a ton of time in advance to plan or cook? All ideas welcome!

      • says

        Well, one way is to keep things in your freezer ready to go but, um, that’s not so much my strength! I used to be better at having things like banana bread in my freezer to just pull out and bring. There is a paleo banana swirl bread recipe out there that is pretty good! I sure hope these are helpful ideas, and not just taking up blog space.

        If you eat legumes, Costco has some great hummus options. Hummus plus veggie tray equals not too bad. You could also get Costco’s organic corn chips (if you eat corn), and some kind of bean dip. Three ingredient cookies are good if you want a treat: nut butter + egg + some kind of sugar (raw sugar or sucanat works here). For nut butter, if you have time you can make an almond butter dip to go with the fruit.
        I would also suggest to find a dinner salad that you love that includes eggs or some kind of protein, and either keep the ingredients on hand, or memorize the recipe so you can grab the ingredients and toss it all together. For example: olives + greens + approved cheese (goat?)(or Kerrygold Dubliner cheese) + avocado makes not too bad of a meal, and you could easily grab all those things at Costco or other stores on your way to the party. Bonus if you have time to chop up some chicken (also good to keep in freezer) or boil some eggs. Even the “gray food” quinoa could work here.

        For dinners, consider a rotisserie chicken (depending on what you’re going to). They do have some additives and of course the chicken is probably raised on a factory farm, but they are gluten free and preservative free, so I feel they are a reasonable compromise food. Add that salad we talked about, and you have a great meal to serve or bring.
        Hope that helps! I’m still getting this all figured out myself. :)

        • says

          Yes, those are great suggestions. Sometimes I just can’t pull together ideas. But a good salad is an option that goes with almost everything and I could totally do a rotisserie chicken in a pinch. I’ll remember those. I am going to try to experiment with baking and freezing some things when I get some free time. Maybe in May… lol. Thanks for sharing your ideas. It always helps to get feedback because sometimes people are eating really obvious things and you just don’t think of it. I tend to eat less salads in the winter here when our garden is dormant so I forget about all those options.

  13. Glenda says

    I’ve purchased several cookbooks that have gluten free recipes in them. The only cookbook that I found where the recipes are absolutely delicious, don’t all taste the same, and are not boring is, The Healthy Gluten-Free Life, by Tammy Credicott. The book, itself, is well worth the money; the pictures of EACH recipe are awesome. She uses a wide variety of flours, which makes for more versatility and much better taste.

  14. Crystal says

    A quick paleo meal on the go is mexican, I order carne asada, carnitas and fajita meat plus pico de gallo and guacamole with no tortillas. Chicken wings per-marinated in the freezer are good for quick meals ,with salad on the salad or quick sautéed veggies. My pressure cooker (digital) is a life saver for meals. I bring meat and cheese platters to parties, roasted veggies, olive plates, sautéed shrimp, shredded chicken ( I can always put it in salad or tossed with veggies) , devolved eggs, crab cakes ( takes just 15 mins to cook if you use canned crab and coconut flour).
    Check out nom nom paleo, paleomg , and civilized caveman cooking websites…all easy recipes, some super quick and they have great desserts to take to people’s houses or church.

    • Alia Joy says

      Thanks Crystal. We don’t eat out much so it’s not usually a huge problem dealing with restaurants in general but the ideas for quick and easy food for parties and guests are great. I’ve spent a little time on nom nom paleo and so far everything I’ve tried has been really good. Thanks for your comment and tips.

  15. says

    We have gone through diet changes for similar reasons. Two in our family have IBS and I have fibromyalgia. We have done pretty well when visiting others; eating more of the “good” things offered and skimping on the “bad” without apology. Most people don’t notice as long as we take at least a little. We stick with the salads at potlucks. It hasn’t been as bad as I expected, until. . .

    We have been at the in-laws’ for several days and my stomach is killing me! The fruits and vegetables that our systems are used to have not been in abundance, but grease and carbs have. I’m doing the best I can to just live with it and not appear picky. I’m in pain, though, and my child with IBS is sick. I will have to come up with a plan in the future. Perhaps, bring a beautiful basket of fruit to share!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *