LittleRye

What one small loaf of rye bread tells me

So I was planning to make my once-a-year corned beef and thinking, oh, a sandwich or two with the leftovers would be so nice later.

But, most days I follow a low-carb diet, which means, among other things, no bread. And no, I didn’t want one of the low-carb varieties. I wanted plain ol’ rye bread.

I thought about driving over to the bakery where I buy pumpernickel for my brother and getting myself some. But that is a huge (and excellent) loaf, and I knew if it were in my house, I’d eat slice after slice. (I follow a low-carb diet because I am a diabetic and it results in good blood sugar readings for me, NOT because I don’t enjoy the taste of carbs like a tasty bread slathered in butter.)

Well, lo and behold, I got to my butcher, Holzkopf’s  and there on a rack were these mini loaves of rye bread. (Besides the great fresh meat, poultry and fish there, you can get condiments, eggs, cole slaw and a slew of other things.) Just enough for a few sandwiches! Of course I bought one.

When I was the food editor at the Sun-Times, I often would bug manufacturers to expand their lines to include smaller loaves, in particular what I’ll call specialty breads such as sourdough or rye. I wrote about what a great idea for smaller households — more than once. That didn’t seem to interest them. Never got them to budge.

But here was this small loaf (1 pound) of rye, perfect for a low-carber. And then it hit me, that’s WHY this is being done. Not for smaller families or those living alone. Those segments of the population have been recognized as having their own needs and desires food-wise and manufacturers didn’t expand the offerings then. I was seeing this small loaf because manufacturers see a segment of the population has gotten the message that an overload of carbohydrates — particularly the refined and/or highly processed ones — is not a good eating plan.

So if people are eating low-carb, they are going to bypass the traditional larger loaves of bread. Yes, I know, they can freeze the rest, but I bet many are like me and don’t want the temptation in their homes. A small loaf limits the exposure.

I wondered if it were happening elsewhere, so when I went to the supermarket this week, I walked down the bread aisle. (I usually skip it because well, I don’t buy anything there anymore.) Sure enough there were several brands offering smaller loaves.

There is this subtle shift in eating styles, with more of an emphasis on protein and produce, less on carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, rice. It’s taken hold more on the coasts than here in The Middle, but I’m telling you — as someone paying attention to the food world for almost two decades — it is happening, albeit not as quickly as I’d like.  (Just last week I saw a food demo and for the first time the chef was referring to “protein,” not meat, during the presentation.) And it’s nice to see  food manufacturers taking notice and making some changes.

Which is why it all the more disappointing that it looks like these changes will not be reflected in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines issued by the government, from what the initial report showed. The recommendations likely will remain very high in carbs. Given that two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese — that this eating regimen only keeps one-third of us thin and healthy — you’d think, or well I thought, some meaningful changes had to happen when it comes to carbs (even the good ones such as fruit). But it didn’t. Very disappointing.