Nutrition, exercise, adequate rest and stress management are the cornerstones of optimal health. Unfortunately, misconceptions about certain foods can often cause consumers to make dietary choices that don’t truly support their health and wellness goals. Consumers believing myths about popular foods directly impacts owners and operators when patrons look at a menu and feel as if they have few options, or rather, few options they can feel confident about enjoying.
Bread is one of many foods that has long endured cycles of public misunderstanding. It’s time to arm patrons with the knowledge they need to better understand bread, as it can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. Below we explore three of the most common misconceptions about bread and offer ways for owners and operators to address each.
Myth 1: Bread makes you gain weight
For many consumers who do not have a wheat allergy, gluten sensitivity or intolerance, but choose to forgo carbohydrates, their avoidance is rooted in the false belief that consumption of pasta, bread, rice and similar foods inherently leads to weight gain. One study of women ages 25-65 found that “43% avoid bread when trying to lose weight and one in five feel guilty about eating it.” Owners and operators can combat these attitudes in a few ways.
First, through social media. It may be worthwhile to launch a campaign that includes scientifically-backed nutritional insights about the type of breads used in house and their ingredients. One tactic in such a campaign might be an eye-catching GIF showing a whole grain bread sandwich offering, including an insight about it (e.g., “In one study, people who ate whole grains (such as whole grain bread) lost more belly fat than those who ate refined grains; [source]”).
Offline, including health claims and call outs directly on the menu, near the sandwich and/or hamburger section, is an on-site strategy to help assuage consumers’ weight gain concerns about eating bread. Looking to Canada’s Food Guide, grain products are indeed part of healthy strategy to effectively help prevent chronic diseases, including obesity.
Myth 2: Gluten-free bread is better for you than bread containing gluten
Over the last few years, Canadians have become more aware of celiac disease, leading to a greater number of diagnosed consumers; however, this awareness has also coloured the majority of consumers’ attitudes toward foods containing gluten. The fact that “gluten-free” was the number one health claim across Canadian menus as of December 2016 (Canadian Foodservice Digest, December 2016, Technomic Inc.) points to owner and operator awareness of this perception shift.
Another popular myth about bread is that gluten-free varieties are “better for you”. Gluten-free bread is a consumer’s better choice only if they have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity or intolerance. There is little to no scientifically proven benefit to consuming gluten-free versions of foods traditionally containing gluten if no gluten allergy is present.
For consumers who have been diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity or intolerance, comprehensive menu labelling is critical. Take it a step further by adding a page to your website that outlines the steps your restaurant takes to safely deliver gluten-free foods to diners (e.g., cross-contamination elimination strategies). Coupled with offering a comprehensive menu, your website can boost confidence among those with celiac disease by allowing them to gather the information they need ahead of coming to your establishment.
Myth 3: Bread causes digestive discomfort
Bread does not inherently cause upset stomach or digestive issues. If a consumer has a gluten sensitivity or intolerance and eats foods containing gluten, or fails to practice moderation, he or she may experience digestive discomfort.
Diligently labelling gluten-free items and alternatives on menus and all signage can help consumers with celiac disease feel confident about choosing options that support their wellness. Most importantly, it protects consumers with diagnosed intolerances and sensitivities, as well as your business.
Pairing bread with ingredients that offer digestive support (e.g., kimchi or sauerkraut), and/or stomach soothing properties (e.g., fennel and cumin) – and promoting these ingredients’ anti-bloat and stomach-settling attributes – is one strategy for minimizing concerns about digestive discomfort among weary patrons who do not have a diagnosed insensitivity or intolerance. This can be as simple as adding kimchi or sauerkraut to grilled burgers, creating a fennel slaw to use as a charcuterie accoutrement, or making a cumin-infused hummus for vegetarian wraps.
By arming consumers with new information, they are better able to move past myths, re-evaluate their choices, and choose offerings that align with their needs and desires. Misconceptions often get in the way of progress and we want to be sure our customers have the information they need to effectively communicate and market their offerings to their customers. Bread can be part of healthy, balanced eating and can be positioned as such on your menu. Empower consumers with information that allows them to make choices that are right for them, their tastes and their health. With a food as versatile as this, it is to your benefit and the patron’s to consider the ways your restaurant can clear up confusion surrounding this kitchen staple.