WHAT DO BRIDGE FOODS HAVE TO DO WITH GOING GLUTEN FREE?
If you’ve dabbled in the world of gluten free foods for more than the last five years or so, you’ve witnessed a tremendous shift in their popularity and availability. Back when I was first tip toeing into the wheat/gluten free world, I’d ask a waitress if a particular salad dressing had any gluten and she’d stare at me like I was speaking in tongues.
At this date, at least most people have heard of it,
even if they don’t know what going gluten free means.
One way to think of it, is that going gluten free means eating more vegetables. Really. Removing wheat/gluten means removing commonly processed/packaged foods and most grains (some exceptions being quinoa, millet, and amaranth). If you remove processed foods, that means spending more time in the produce section of your grocery store. In my book, FibroWHYalgia, I mention perimeter shopping. Shopping around the outside edges of your grocery store (and avoiding the interior aisles) is a good idea. The perimeter is where the veggies and fresh foods live!
My personal world of nutrition is very simple. I eat veggies, some proteins (I do happen to eat animal proteins but that’s a personal choice), and healthy fats. It’s not rocket science.
Sometimes people like to make simple things complicated.
That’s where bridge foods come in to play. Nowadays, you can go into any grocery store and find a whole section, if not a whole aisle, of packaged gluten free foods. These foods made their way into stores to help people transition from – or bridge from – foods that contain gluten to foods that do not contain gluten. For example, you may find a gluten free bread made from a gluten free flour. It might be a “sometimes food” that can help you reduce your bread eating habit. In general, bridge foods aren’t meant to eat all day every day. That’s sort of like jumping from the fire to the frying pan. Have you read the labels on many of the newer gluten free foods? Be careful! Many contain worse ingredients than the original packaged foods they’re intended to replace.
Thinking of gluten free packaged foods as bridge foods can help you to make the transition to a healthy gluten free lifestyle.
Like I said before, sometimes people want to make simple things difficult.
I had a friend from my hometown who emailed me often. She complained bitterly of GERD, indigestion, and significant IBS problems. She also suffered from fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. We discussed – at length – what she ate, and she planned to remove wheat/gluten from her diet. I sent her lists of foods that contained wheat/gluten. She seemed to ignore those lists and instead constantly asked me what I ate. Our conversations would go like this:
FRIEND: “I was up all night with reflux. It was awful! I’m going to go gluten free. I know you say you eat veggies, proteins, and fats, but like what, exactly? Like, what did you have for dinner last night?”
SUE: “Sorry you had a bad night. Reflux can stem from all the foods we’ve mentioned. Wheat/gluten can cause lots of problems including heart palpitations/chest pain, joint pain, and mental fuzziness besides the typical acid issues. Last night for dinner I had salmon, asparagus, and a spinach salad with a homemade olive oil and lemon dressing.”
One week later:
FRIEND: “HELP! I had another terrible night. In fact, I’ve never been able to get rid of the GERD. What should I eat?”
SUE: “Try eating veggies, proteins, and healthy, quality fats like olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados.”
Two weeks later:
FRIEND: “I just can’t seem to get rid of this awful GERD. What did you have for dinner last night?”
SUE: “I had chicken, broccoli, and half of a sweet potato that I topped with coconut oil and ground cinnamon.”
FRIEND: “I just don’t understand what you eat.”
SUE: “I eat veggies, proteins, and healthy fats.”
One week later.
FRIEND: “I had GERD so bad last night, I considered going to the ER. I’m just not getting any better. I don’t know what to do. What should I eat?”
As you can see from the above scenario, this friend was making her mealtime quandaries much more difficult than they needed to be. I’ve truncated our conversations for the purposes of this blog, but our conversations really did go in circles. She’d tell me that she had sourdough bread and pasta alfredo for dinner and then had terrible GERD. She’d tell me she had pizza and then had terrible GERD. She said that she ate frozen dinners from Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, and others and still couldn’t get rid of her GERD.
Do you see a pattern here?
She said she wanted to go gluten free, but didn’t make any changes to her eating habits. Bridge foods could be one way to help, but ultimately, going gluten free is pretty simple. Focus on adding healthier foods and eliminating the rest. If you’re eating more veggies, you’re on the right track!