windmill bread dutch

Dietary Mysteries of the Dutch Revealed

How do they stay so thin and eat so much bread?

Do you love bread and cake? If you live in the Netherlands, consider yourself lucky. The Dutch consume a lot of breads and cakes AND remain thin. Two meals are considered bread meals consisting of rolls or sliced bread with an assortment of toppings. For example, wheat bread with butter, candy sprinkles or jam and two or three cups of black coffee, a glass of, milk or hot cocoa is standard breakfast fare. Dutch bread ranges from sweet to salty.

Traditionally, Dutch breads were unpackaged. Nowadays, they are turning to the consumption of already packaged bread. This increase in the consumption of industrially manufactured bread has not increased waist lines or health risks in the Netherlands.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular Dutch Bakeries producing breads and cakes today.

  • Van der Mulen the Masterbakers is one of the most popular bakeries in the Netherlands. You might be familiar with the company’s main product, Melba toast. It manufactures Melba toast more than any other bakery in the world.
  • Soma is another Dutch bakery which has produced bread for more than 130 years. The most popular product of this bakery is the roggerbrood sliced rye bread. Soma bakes several types of bread such as  Limburg’s rye bread, blackbread, raisins-krentenwegge and speltkorn.
  • In the northern part of Netherlands, Bollotje is one of the bakeries that dominates the market.  The word “Bolletje” comes from the round balls of dough used to prepare beschuit. Beschuit is a round, hard, dry biscuit that is made from twice-baked bread. The bakery products range from whole grain biscuit, crisp breads, crackers, cereals, gingerbread, cakes, and pretzels. The website covers many suggestions on toppings and ways to enjoy breads and crackers.

Although the brands mentioned above are commonly consumed in Netherlands, the gluten-free craze is slowly revolutionizing the market. One of the companies offering gluten-free products in the Dutch market is Consenza. This bakery offers wheat and lactose-free products. Their products range from bread, cakes, biscuits and flour and much more. Having started in 2006, it is currently the largest seller of gluten-free products (Barbara Zec, 2016).

These are just a few examples of breads commonly consumed in Netherlands. These products are rich in carbohydrates.

However, the dutch are considered the least obese in Europe.

How is it that when they consume 2 bread based meals and snacks in-between?  According to this article, they remain slim because of the following:

Portion control – supersizing is not a common practice in the Netherlands. Portion control is a well-known weight management tool employed with great success by the Dutch.

Milk consumption – they consume a lot milk which is high in nutrients and low in calories. Milk is considered good for reducing weight.

Low-fat foods – are the dominant snacking choice. For the most part breads and crackers are low to fat free. Indulging in high fats sweets is reserved for special occasions not a daily routine.

Exercise – they like riding bicycles. In comparison to the US the Dutch ride their bikes 30 times more. They also walk twice as much as the average US citizen. See the table below for comparisons to other countries.

Percent of Trips by Travel Mode (all trip purposes)
Country bicycle walking public transit car other
Netherlands 30 18 5 45 2
Denmark 20 21 14 42 3
Germany 12 22 16 49 1
Switzerland 10 29 20 38 1
Sweden 10 39 11 36 4
Austria 9 31 13 39 8
England/Wales 8 12 14 62 4
France 5 30 12 47 6
Italy 5 28 16 42 9
Canada 1 10 14 74 1
United States 1 9 3 84 3
Source: John Pucher, Transportation Quarterly, 98-1 (from various transport ministries and depts., latest avail. year)

It seems as though the Dutch have perfected the right balance of eating what they want with the right amount of exercise. In a country where bicycles seem to  outnumber cars this should not be a big surprise. Let this serve as inspiration for those of us not lucky enough to live in the Netherlands. We can carb up on crackers, breads, and biscuits as we ride our bicycles to the next café!


  1. Zec, Barbara. “The Netherlands: The Sweet Side of Bread.” Joomag. European Baker, 26 Sept. 2016. Accessed 21 June 2017.
  2. Dunlop, Mandy. “How the Dutch Stay Slim.” Insider Views  | Expatica the Netherlands.  Accessed 21  June 2017.

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