Lemon Sugar Cookies and Finding My Way Back to Center

Going through life, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to be okay with less than perfect. I’ve learned that it is better to be happy with the “right now” instead of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. I’ve learned that sometimes, simple is best. And sometimes, I don’t need to “healthify” every single thing that passes my lips.

This is a big deal in my world. I am definitely what you might call a “healthy eater”. Around the time I went gluten-free, I started becoming more aware of the food I was putting into my body. My health wasn’t so great – gluten was starting to take its toll on my digestive system and my energy levels, among other things. So gradually, along with removing gluten (and then dairy) from my diet, I also removed processed foods, and for a while, even grains, beans, and sugar, in an effort to regain my health. I’ve been gluten-free now for right at 4 years, and in the past year, I’ve finally turned the corner and really have started to feel “better”. I’ve been able to eat things in moderation that previously would set off my oh-so-delicate digestive balance for days, sometimes weeks. So gradually, I’ve expanded my “allowed” foods. I eat grains, I sometimes eat beans, and sometimes, I even eat sugar.

What I really didn’t expect when going through this process was the mental hurdles I’d have to jump. Over the past 4 years, being at odds with my body which seemed to want to reject anything, trying to stay away from “offending foods”, and feeling deprived and overindulging in “off-limits” things anyway (never gluten, but sometimes sugar or grains – and I paid the price for it) caused me to become somewhat “scared” of foods. Some foods were bad. Some were outright demonized. Any amount of sugar was certain to give me diabetes, or at the least, send me down into a spiraling-out-of-control sugar binge. I’d get cancer if I consumed anything with preservatives. I’d cause damage to my intestines if I ate grains, and at best, I wasn’t honoring my body if I didn’t give it 100% nourishing, whole, organic, healthy foods. And all the while, I was afraid my digestive system would get worse if I deviated from the world of natural, whole meats, vegetables, nuts and the occasional piece of fruit. While I certainly would never have put these kinds of restrictions on someone else, I found that I’d landed myself smack in the middle of this world. I didn’t like it. It made me a little crazy, and definitely sucked all of the joy out of food.

And the joy of food is why I started really cooking, and why I started blogging. I wanted to share that joy with others. Especially those who must eat gluten-free; I wanted to share that we can still enjoy breads, cakes, cookies, and other things and be happy and satisfied on a gluten-free diet. We are blessed with such a variety of amazing things to eat, and eating and enjoying a meal together is a lovely, sacred thing. We ought to be able to embrace that pleasure. Obviously, I was losing sight of that.

So I’m finding my way back to center. I’m learning to balance. As I’m finding that my body is healing and that I’m tolerating more and more foods, I’m learning moderation again. I certainly still eat a healthy diet – I want to nourish my body and give it the fuel it needs to power through my day, and I do the best when I’m not at war with it. But I also know that part of health is pleasure, fun, and acceptance. Pleasure and fun come from enjoying all sorts of delicious treats, and acceptance that sometimes, those treats won’t be what is defined as “healthy”, and that’s okay. Sometimes, I will eat sugar. I will eat candy. And cookies. I won’t have to over-indulge, because these things are no longer forbidden. While I still can’t eat gluten, I can eat so many other amazing things. I am grateful. I’m still learning how to be in this new place of acceptance, but so far, I love it here.

I invite you to join me in this place. After all, in this place, there are lemon sugar cookies. They’re simple, sweet, and a delight to enjoy as an afternoon treat. They are gluten and dairy-free, so they won’t upset tummies, but I made no attempts to “healthify” them. Because sometimes, you just need a real cookie. And that’s okay.


Lemon Sugar Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 stick (1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened

3/4 c + 2 T organic sugar

1 egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 t lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

1 1/2 T lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t kosher salt

3/4 c brown rice flour

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c arrowroot starch (can substitute tapioca starch as well)

1/2 t guar gum (can substitute xanthan gum)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat in until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flours, and guar gum. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat in.

Spoon into mounds on a lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on edges.

Makes about 2 dozen.


  1. says

    I’ve been gluten-free for 4 years this month, too! Thank you for sharing this beautiful post. It resonates with me. I choose what is best for me to eat right now (which is different than a year ago) and make it as healthy as I can, but am still going to have an occasional indulgence. And this week that may just be these lemon sugar cookies!

  2. says

    So great to read this, Alta. Good for you for finding that elusive balance. It sounds like you’ve got it right! And so glad to hear that you are able to eat a broader diet now without ill effects–yay for that (and sugar cookies!). 😀

  3. Jessica says

    What a great story to read especially since I have been gluten free and dairy free for the past 6 months. I too avoid processed foods but occasionally I feel the need to indulge in something sweet. My new food world has opened up the doors to some great websites and blogs such as yourself. Thank you. I will definitely make these lemon cookies.

  4. says

    Good for you Alta. That’s not an easy thing. It’s easy to get caught in the web of healthy eating and having it take over our thoughts and life. I’m guilty at times. I work really hard to allow myself a treat or an outing at a restaurant (where I don’t know where they sourced the food), eating at a friends house and not trying to grimace at the industry raised meat on my plate. What you talk about here is important. There needs to be balance.Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

  5. says

    That is awesome Alta! I think the external pressures (people commenting on blogs, other bloggers setting unrealistic expectations, etc.) can also get to us. There is certainly nothing wrong with a little something sweet in moderation! Plus, these lemon cookies look amazing. Pinned!

  6. says

    Yay Alta!
    The past year or two I have watched the gf/df/whatever/everything-free blogging community really struggle with this. I am glad to see you coming back around to moderation! When we limit ourselves so much we put ourselves at risk of developing disordered eating, as you discovered. Those of us who pay so much attention to our food intake have to be careful because it is so easy to go overboard. We all struggle with it.
    And thank you for addressing it. More need to hear it.

  7. says

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have to say that for me, the ability to let go and and let things not be “perfect” is really becoming a necessity with parenthood. There are some things I was absolutely positive I would do as a parent and expectations I had about my baby; well, she came along with her own set of rules!

    I’m so happy you are finding peace with food and enjoying it so much again. Life is too short not to :)

  8. says

    Thank you for being so honest. It’s never easy, and especially not in public. Your post is even more beautiful than your cookies (and that’s really saying something!)

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