Allow me to first give credit to the opening photo that I share with you here. If you look closely you will see London's Tower Bridge made from runner beans, celery, pineapple and shredded wheat by London photographer Carl Warren.
During the course of countless nutrition counseling sessions over the years, it is quite common for a patient or client to ask "what do you think of ________?" and the blank is often filled with a food, a brand of food, a diet program or a supplement.
My response begins with another question that seeks to know the context of the food, brand, diet or supplement. I don't have the heart to be the Simon Cowell of these interactions.
First, when someone works up the courage to ask a question, if I want to keep the dialogue going, I don't want to shut it down with a swift and critical response.
Secondly, my explanation evolves into one that includes the concept of bridges versus destinations. A bridge is something that provides passage over a gap or barrier. It is a means to an end. A destination is an ultimate end or purpose. It is the end.
I am not a fan of diet sodas, artificially sweetened food or packaged meal programs. I don't recommend these things when providing nutritional advice.
Yet, if someone tells me the context of their choice is that they enjoy one diet soda in the middle of the afternoon with their snack because it feels like an indulgence that helps them follow the rest of their program, I see it as a bridge.
I express that I understand their desire and I continue with my "bridges versus destinations" approach and ultimately end up recommending that their final destination not include diet soda. It is my professional responsibility to suggest other safer destinations.
Packaged meal programs are a perfect example of food bridges. They generally provide calorie controlled meals that are pre-packaged, delivered and easy to reheat.
There are many people for which this description is an improvement over the endless buffet of cheese, crackers and wine they might otherwise consume.
Yet, packaged meal programs get boring and lose their patina over time. They don't fit well with family eating and they can contain low quality ingredients.
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Unless you are a single person who has admitted you have no interest in cooking or preparing your own food, there are very few people who find packaged meal programs a final destination in eating.
Examples of food bridges: diet soda, diet food, packaged food programs, strict diet guidelines to speed up initial weight loss
Examples of food destinations: unprocessed food without artificial ingredients, cooking your own food, strategies for including favorites occasionally
Bridges can often be rickety routes to get to the other side. They often include desperate measures to get to one's final destination sooner and when danger is eminent, I point that out.
But some bridges are relatively harmless measures that can make many people feel a sense of commitment to the overall destination.
Some colleagues may fault my "liberal" view on food bridges but I will remain steadfast that sometimes it is the only path to one's destination.
I am the co-pilot in this journey and I need to work with the pilot. Without understanding and cooperation, we'll never get anywhere.
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