September 13


What Do Bridge Foods Have To Do With Going Gluten Free?

By Sue Ingebretson

September 13, 2011

Bridge Foods, Gluten Free, Jenny Craig, NutriSystem, packaged foods, pizza, Processed Foods


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!

  1. This is a great explanation of going gluten free and a great reminder to get back on track – too many cups of tea and gluten free bread lately. But seriously what do you eat? (JOKE)

    1. You made me laugh and that’s a great way to start the day, thanks! What’s really funny is that the conversation I mentioned in my post was MUCH longer than I noted and it did go ’round and ’round. There was never any resolution on her part to make a change. Thanks for chiming in!

  2. This is a wonderful post, Sue. I have had so many similar conversations with people. Why not fill up on all those lovely vegetables, fruits and good fats? I don’t ever miss gluten enough for many of those “bridge foods” anyway.

    Thanks for helping us all stay as healthy as we are able!


    1. Thanks Robin for your great comment! That means a lot coming from you as I know you’ve got a lot of experience in this as well. It’s all about staying healthy, right? Thanks for being such a great leader!

  3. Sue,

    Thanks for post. She has a gnarly part that does not want to give up what she thinks she wants, even if it is making her miserable.
    Try saying back to her. You ate pizza and you have GERD, how does that make you feel? or what do you make of that? Like a person who struggles with her weight, her connection to what she eats and how she feels isn’t working.
    EFT and or hypnosis would help her. And you are a saint. Thanks for sharing this information and opening so many eyes and hearts. This dear woman really reflects a stubborn national attitude that food is food, and a calorie is a calorie.
    OK…off my soap box. Thanks again for being you,

    1. Lisa — thanks for the great reply! You’re so right — a calorie is NOT a calorie and all foods are NOT created equal. Educating is what we do and we’ll just keep on doing it. This person has to be open to change and I pray she’ll do so when ready. At this point, she still wants to believe her GERD issues have nothing to do with her own actions. Thanks again!

  4. This post made me laugh because I am not only gluten-free, but grain and sugar free also. I’ve been struggling with severe chronic illness for several years and have had several occasions where I’ve tried to find something I could eat in restaurants, get-togethers, or someone has offered to bring me a meal, but they can’t seem to grasp the concept of “what I eat.” It seems VERY simple to me that I can eat plain meats and veggies seasoned with only salt and pepper, cooked in real butter or EVOO but that seems to blow people’s minds. I would think that sending over a plain salad or a baked chicken with steamed veggies would be much less complicated than most meals but it’s like I’m speaking in a foreign language. Your dialogue with your friend was very familiar to me!

    1. So glad you “get me!” It does sound like we sing the same tune. It is very simple to eat “real” food rather than concoctions of man made ingredients. I eat very simply and am happy to do so. No grains/sugar for me, either. But, I do recognize that it was a process 😉

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