What I know about bread (not the musical group, not the benjamins)

I'm slightly obsessed with bread. Problem is I love it but most of it isn't that great for you. When I was a kid, we never had that gooey Wonder Bread that all my friends had. We had the kind of bread with sticks and thorns protruding from the loaf. Turns out, that was a good call by my folks because now we know that when it comes to the white stuff, you're probably better off eating paste than the bread (well, they aren't all that different).

As an adult, I came to love bread even more. I was just starting to earn some real money when bread machines burst onto the carbo-scene. I made the bread, I made the pizza dough, I made the bagels, I developed a serious case of junk in the trunk. I won't go into details but let's just say that I blame enriched flour and a lack of cardio activity for the fact that I even have a personal trainer right now. Darn all those bread shops in Chicago that blow that smell right out onto the sidewalk. Sourdough toast is like crack to me (and no, I have never tried crack).  I'm in carbo rehab. Withdrawal was tough.

Good thing that I actually like all the real whole wheat stuff. Right now, the only white thing I ingest is milk (or non-dairy, sugar free creamer...fun, huh?). Nothing with white flour, nothing with sugar (or honey), nothing with potatoes (except that one bite of mashed potatoes that I accidentally ate with out thinking last week...darn it!).  You're all just dying to come over to my house for dinner, right? I'm back to the thorns and sticks routine...healthy carbs...but I feel awesome. Don't tell James, my trainer, because he'll torture me just a little extra if he thinks I'm feeling good.

When it comes to grocery shopping, I'm a label watcher. I have the most boring shopping cart around...nothing that stays crispy in milk, nothing that you can dip into anything made of cheese product, no "fried", no "ranch flavor", no beer (oh, boo!), no even anything with corn. I've even developed a taste for celery as long as there's a decent amount of sugar free peanut butter accompanying it.

So Seth Godin's post about how some bread companies are trying to make you think you are eating healthier than you are rang true. Their sales are down so they want to lure you in with claims of "whole wheat!" when they spike the stuff with "enriched flour" (note: if something has nutritional value, you don't necessarily need to enrich it). There's even "whole wheat" bread that is white....it's like magic! If you want the stuff that's really good for you, you look for "whole grain" on the label and no "flour", "wheat flour" (flour is made of wheat...surprise!) or "enriched" anything. No gummy stuff. When in doubt, rye or pumpernickel are usually good choices (scared that I know all this? It's not like I'm not thinking about it constantly!).

I think the thing that is disheartening is that people are trying to make wise health choices and are being mis-led by packaging. We regulate all kinds of food labels, we need to get on the boat with the wheat thing.  Erroneous health claims are all kinds of wrong (because we all know that "whole wheat" *sounds* healthy). I'm not saying that I'm never again going to eat something white (I'm pretty sure there's a ball park soft pretzel and my name written on it in mustard somewhere...it's white on the inside), just that I want to choose what I'm eating without someone trying to trick me.

Bad marketing, bad!


Comments (12)

  1. Lauren Smith says:

    No potato bread?  I weep silently for you.  🙂

    If there’s one good thing about living in Japan, it’s that they take their bread very seriously here.  Not that it’s good for you or anything, but it all tastes so good.  Even the Wonder Bread!

  2. Patblue says:

    With great training from my colleagues and friends, I have become an obsessive label watcher as well. I too have learned that most breads – even at Trader Joes contain enriched white flour (even though they are labeled whole wheat).  Have you ever tried the spelt bread from PCC?  It is actually a very true whole grain bread.  They also have spelt cookies at those shops.  I thought they would take some getting used to like all health type fare…but I actually like them.  You see my allergies to exercise have driven me to really try and watch what I eat when I can in my middle age…it’s all about the baby steps.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    lauren-I know! It pains me. I miss Hawaiian bread. Not sure why I am craving that right now. I’m actually becoming good at making stuff with whole wheat flour, but really, there’s no way to make soft, yummy potato bread. I also miss regular tortillas (like the hand made restarant kind). But I have to say that what I can substitute for them isn’t that bad…helps me get past the cravings.

  4. Pablo Estrada says:

    I totally know what you mean about the wafting-bread smells in the air in Chicago….especially when it’s cold

  5. TC Loy says:

    I was at expatriate in Vietnam for three years and have the delightful experience of having fresh french bread everyday. Vietnam was greatly influenced by the French.

    Oh..it is white bread ..I guess…not healthy…oh well..who cares..tasted great and no preservative.

  6. Tim says:

    I realize it’s hard for consumers to keep up with the marketers, because they sometime are always just trying to confuse you.

    I stopped becoming upset by this when I realized how eerily it mimicked Nature itself.

    Birds eat butterflies, so the Monarchs gradually develop a bad taste, so the birds won’t eat them. Then a nearby butterfly starts gradually looking like a Monarch (but still tastes good) and lo and behold, the birds stay away from them, too.

    If that’s not survival marketing, I don’t know what is.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Pablo-there was one place on Lincoln in Old Town (near the Treasure Island) that got me every time.

    TC-sounds yummy.

    Tim-I guess I would call that  reverse feature strategy; developing the features you need to in order to make your consumers stay away. Hmm, I wonder if some companies are already doing this…

  8. Maurice says:

    I’m with you Heather but you sound much more committed. Have you tired Ezekiel 4:9 bread? It’s awesome. No wonder (…and no pun intended) since it’s God’s recipe.

    My wife buys it at our local Whole Foods Market.

  9. HeatherLeigh says:

    Uh, OK, religious stuff aside (God has time to bake?), my mom likes Ezekiel bread. There are a ton of whole grain choices here so I usually try different things to mix it up. Ezekiel is good.

  10. Greg Steinkamp says:

    Bread is confusing.  I found myself standing in the bread aisle with a serious dilemma.  I normally get whole wheat but I was instructed to pick up "whole grain".  The question is – how many grains does one need.  There was five grain (the cheapest), nine grain, and twelve grain.  I was holding the five grain when I started to feel…well…a little inadequate.  Is there such a thing as grainally challenged?  I started to reach for the nine grain  because that was the middle of the so called grain road but I was still eyeing the top shelf twelve grain.  Screw the bread companies – I grabbed whole wheat 😉

  11. HeatherLeigh says:

    Haha! Love it Greg! We’ve come so far in 15 years haven’t we? To even care about this. Was there a twelve grain? For some reason, I’ve only seen odd-numbered grained breads. I suspect that you pay extra if your grains are divisible by two.

    Well, I guess that the right answer is to get what the person who "instructed" you to get would have bought. And I bet that is what you did. Smart man.

  12. mark says:

    Black bread from Germany is very healthy!

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