October 23


The Four Types of Gluten-Free Living

By Sue Ingebretson

October 23, 2012


If I were to hear you say, “I’m gluten-free,” or “I’m going gluten-free” you may think the news would spur me to do a happy dance.

Not so fast, Tonto….

Before any dancing takes place, I’d have to ask, “What does gluten-free mean to you?”

There are as many answers to that question as there are people on this planet. To simplify, I’ve defined four basic categories or stages of going gluten-free.

To you, does going gluten-free mean:

1)      I’m switching my regular breads, pastas, cereals, wraps, cookies, brownies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, chips, crackers, baked snacks, etc. to gluten-free breads, pastas, cereals, wraps, cookies, brownies, cakes, pancakes, waffles, chips, crackers, baked snacks, etc. And, by the way, I rarely eat fresh, live foods (although I tell others that I do).

See a pattern here?

(I refer to packed gluten-free foods as Bridge Foods as they can help in the transition from a typical diet to a gluten-free diet. More on what I call Bridge Foods HERE.)

2)      I don’t eat as much gluten containing foods as I used to, but I wouldn’t know what to eat if I didn’t have bread, pasta, crackers, etc. (gluten-free or not) in my regular diet. I probably eat “regular” foods and Bridge Foods in equal measure. I do consume a few veggies and fruits here and there.

3)      I’m incorporating more veggies and “living foods” into my diet and relying less on packaged Bridge Foods. I eat healthy sources of proteins and fats as well as some fruits.

4)      I live gluten-free by not consuming foods that contain gluten. Bridge foods hold little or no interest for me. I eat mostly fresh veggies, healthy proteins and fats, an some fruits – especially berries. I avoid grains in general.

What stage are you in? What do the above stages make you think of? Do some make you smile while others make you feel angry or threatened? Don’t worry! There’s no right or wrong. Here are a few things to consider:

— While these stages can progress from one to the next naturally, don’t put expectations on yourself that you have to “achieve” Stage 4 in order to be healthy. There’s no judgment here. Depending on your particular health challenges, Stage 4 isn’t “better” than Stage 3. The latter stages may achieve greater health benefits than the earlier ones, but they’re all part of the process.

— Being “in the process” is more important than not starting the process at all.

— Be kind to yourself while in transition. Be patient. It’s a constant process … not one with a definitive end.

— And an additional note on Bridge Foods: You probably already know this, but there’s no magic solution. Just because a box or package declares it to be “Gluten-Free” does NOT mean it’s a health food. While gluten may be removed, other ingredients are added to compensate. It may be equally harmful – just in different ways. Read labels. While there are wonderfully healthy gluten-free foods out there, many are far from it. Remember the fat-free fad? While fat was pulled out — sugar and chemical additives poured in. Again, there’s no magic solution.

Are you ready to go gluten-free? What stage are you in? Let me know so I can start practicing my happy dance!


  1. I’m somewhere in between 3 and 4. I still eat whole grains but rarely anything pre-packaged (although I confess I love Udi’s gluten-free cinnamon raisin bread and I eat a slice once or twice a week). Having only recently discovered the yummy-ness of millet, quinoa, and buckwheat, I’m not in any hurry to progress to stage 4!

    1. Thanks for chiming in, Trisha — and maybe Stage 4 wouldn’t be progress for you? You may be perfectly healthy and fine where you are. No confessions needed! For some, grains may prove problematic — even the GF varieties such as millet and amaranth. I happen to love quinoa also, but must eat it sparingly. It simply makes me gain weight (darn it) among other symptoms.

  2. I’m probably a 2. Much of my food shopping takes place at a “healthy” “natural” food market (Sprouts) where products that are gluten-free are clearly marked…this has led me to pay more attention and make choices that are gluten-free. One step at a time, right?

    1. And I’d also point out for my readers, Gerry, that you don’t happen to have either fibromyalgia or autoimmune conditions that predispose people to this wheat/gluten sensitivity issue. You’re doing well and making healthier decisions is always a journey in itself. The key is starting on that journey and good for you!

  3. Excellent article about the stages! SO very true about the progression, it is very much a learning process.
    I have arrived and am happily sitting squarely in stage 4!
    Its a beautiful place to be.


  4. I’m #4 though I wouldn’t say that “bridge foods” hold no interest for me. I would gladly eat bridge foods in moderation if I could tolerate them well. Heck, I’d eat gluten if I could. I’m totally gluten free, but NOT by choice. I was diagnosed with celiac 6 years ago and I still don’t tolerate most grains well. Can’t handle any dairy/casein at all so I pretty much live off of whole foods. It’s a good lifestyle though. This disease forces me to eat healthy, and I do enjoy it. (Eating healthy, not celiac!!!)

    1. Tonya — it sounds like you really have things under control. It becomes a way of life that seems second nature and I’m glad you’ve been able to find the path that works the best for you.

  5. Hi Sue,

    I enjoyed reading your message above. I have celiac disease and it took me several years to get to stage 3. I had to learn for myself what additional things were bothering me. I did have a gastro who tested me for fructose malabsorption, which I have, and that brought me to add many fruits and vegetables to my GF, soy free, corn free diet. I don’t eat much dairy because my husband has a casein free, GF diet. We are working on stage 4, but do indulge in a bit of chocolate or bread from Little Aussie Bakery (www.thelittleaussiebakery.com) sometimes. I would like permission to put this article, with credits, in our GIG- Central and South Texas newsletter. (See http://www.gigcstx.org). I have a hard time being nice to new people who eat so much GF junk food. Your article says it well.

    All these limitations took the serendipity travel away from my husband and me, but now we choose to host others with dietary restrictions by having a GF B&B. http://www.chickenparadise.com . We have many guests with additional restrictions. Just this morning we made GF, DF waffles, fresh omelet, and bacon for the unrestricted husband. His wife had a steak, butternut squash and green beans. They were thrilled and this is their third visit with us. It is nice to know how to deal with all dietary restrictions.


    1. Anne, what an awesome service you provide! It sounds wonderful. As you would know, it’s so wonderful to meet people who really “get” your interests and needs when it comes to foods so that’s why your offerings are so well-received. It’s nice to be appreciated! Of course you can re-post and I’d love to have my name and website included. Thanks so much and let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you or your group.

  6. I think I’m at 3.5
    I don’t really want to go completely grain free – I do love me some good grains, especially oats! Certified GF oats that I make my own granola with. And I love to have rice with beans and lots of good spices in a homemade corn tortilla.

    After being diagnosed with celiac 4 years ago, I progressed/evolved/mutated from the “What? No more pizza ever?” to what do I want to prepare for dinner. I have a stash of fresh and home preserved veggies and fruits, and buy fresh meats from local sources, and I get fats from nuts and avocados and fish.

    There is a time and place for “junk” food – a good homemade GF chocolate cake for my birthday is not going to harm me, and will really make me smile. And every now and then you just really need a candy bar or popcorn or potato chips. Just not every day, or even (for me) every week.

    As I have posted on other blogs, the best treatment for celiac disease is eating healthy, not just GF. And eating healthy is so much easier if you make it at home. Cheaper too!

    1. Love your comment, Andrea — perfect sentiment! I certainly don’t eat perfectly all the time and enjoy my treats now & then. Grains just don’t happen to agree with me (although I love oatmeal and quinoa especially). Of course, quinoa is actually a seed, but that’s another post 😉

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"True Healing requires a combination of healthy nutrition, healthy body movements, and emotional wellness. This is what I call the Restoration Trio" ~ Sue Ingebretson