It’s been almost 10 years since the peak of the incredibly popular Atkins Diet, which also sparked the growing hatred for carbohydrates—sending bakers everywhere into a state of depression and making it okay to call deli meat between two leaves of lettuce a “sandwich.”
Although there is still a strong following of bread-haters, Her Campus is here to tell you that it is not the enemy! You and bread can still lead a healthy lifestyle together. But be forewarned—there are a lot of hearty breads out there that create an illusion of being packed with all the good stuff, but in actuality, are just super high in calories. I mean, is it really possible to cram 12 grains into one slice?!
With all the crazy types of bread out there, use this guide to ease your anxiety when traveling into the bread aisle at the grocery store, and guiltlessly enjoy a sandwich the way nature intended!
Bread That Should Be Dead
Before we go into what you should be ingesting to fill up that base of your nutritional pyramid, let’s go over what you should stay away from so you can start with a clean slate – or plate, if you will.
If the first ingredient listed in the nutritional facts of your loaf of bread reads “bleached” or “unbleached, enriched flour,” put the bread down, and slowly walk away. This is not okay to put in your body! Enriched flour is just a shorter, more devious name for “we-removed-all-of-the-beneficial-parts-of-flour-like-vitamins-and-minerals-and-only-added-a-few-back-for-you” flour.
For example, Pepperidge Farm’s Raisin Cinnamon Swirl Bread may sound pretty delicious, but look at the list of ingredients and the first one you’ll find is “Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour.”
Also, beware of breads that list sugars as one of their first ingredients (like glucose, lactose, sucrose, sugar or corn syrup). Sara Lee’s Whole Grain Country White Bakery Bread sounds like the best of both worlds if you’re a white bread lover, but lists “High-Fructose Corn Syrup” as their fourth ingredient! Nice try, Sara Lee.
Lately, I’ve seen some brands advertise “sugar-free” on their label, so even though you might not associate the sweet ingredient with bread, keep an eye out for it!
Let’s move on to a little thing called hydrogenation. Use it in a sentence? Sure. “My bread is made with partially hydrogenated soybean oil.” Okay, not only does this person need to get out a little more, but they also need to find a new bread. Hydrogenation means that during food processing, the fats used in the bread became saturated – a horrible thing that raises blood cholesterol if you have too much of it.
What To Look For
Here is just a brief list of some of the main qualities you should look for in a bread. And if you’re already feeling overwhelmed, don’t worry – it’s easier to find all the right qualities in bread than it is in a boy!
- High Fiber (Shoot for about five grams per serving. And be careful—some say one slice is one serving, some say two slices are. Calculate accordingly.)
- Good Fats (Yes! They exist. Look for monosaturated fats, like canola or olive oil, or polyunsaturated fats, like corn, peanut or sesame oil.)
- Fortified-ness (That’s not a real word, but fortified means vitamins and minerals were added! Very real!)
- ONE-HUNDRED PERCENT (This just might be the most important thing to look for, so let’s go into it a little more…)
100% Whole Wheat
The key to buying this type of bread is making sure it literally says “100% Whole Wheat” or looking for “whole-wheat flour” as the first ingredient listed in the nutrition facts. If it claims to be wheat but doesn’t say it’s 100 percent, chances are white flour is what makes up most of it.
Even “wheat flour” isn’t good enough. If it doesn’t say “whole,” it’s no good. For example, Nature’s Pride 100% Honey Wheat bread sounds perfectly nutritious right? Wrong! It’s made with mostly wheat flour, not whole wheat.
Some good whole wheat brands to try are Oroweat Country 100% WholeWheat, and Nature’s Pride 100% WholeWheat.
100% Whole Grain
Once again, when buying whole grain bread, try to find brands that say 100 percent on their label. Whole grains should contain just that—all of the grain, (the bran, the germ and the endosperm). They’re good for you not only because they’re naturally low in fat and cholesterol-free, but also because they offer lots of healthy fiber and protein.
If you’re in a hurry while shopping or just don’t feel like looking through all the labels, look for the “Whole Grain Stamp” on its packaging. This means the Whole Grain Council (who knew, right?!) guarantees that there is at least a half serving of whole grains per portion.
Try these brands next time you’ve got grain on the brain: Milton’s Whole Grain PlusBread or Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious 100%Multi-Grain.
Bakers Who Are Fakers!
Claims are often made that mislead the average bread consumer into thinking they are making the healthy choice. Lucky for you, you are now informed to go to the grocery store with confidence! But just in case you are a little nervous you’ll be fooled, here are some of those “knock-off” healthy breads.
Arnold Carb-Counting Multi Grain
Sounds okay right? And also kind of impossible…but regardless, it’s trickery! “Wheat flour” is the first ingredient. You need to see “Whole wheat flour!”
Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse Hearty Slices Harvest 7-Grain Bread
This is a tough one—with all those grains, how can you say no? Maybe when you find out that it contains less than two percent of six of the grains, and a little over 98 percent of just one—the dreaded white flour.
This same little trick is used for Oroweat’s (or Arnold’s) seven-grain and 12-grain Bread (which also lists “unbleached enriched flour” as their first ingredient), and Roman Meal 12-grain. Remember: seeing 100 percent and whole wheat flour is key.
Great Go-To Breads
Here are the best bread choices you can find in chain supermarkets according to Elaine Magee, the “Recipe Doctor” for WebMD. All of the following have 4 grams of fiber per 2-slice serving, 100% whole wheat flour as the first ingredient on the label, less than 401 mg sodium per 2-slice serving, and 1 gram saturated fat or less per 2-slice serving.
Sliced Bread (2 slices) Calories Fiber Sodium Carbs Protein
Milton’s Whole Grain Plus
Bread(76 g) 180 10 250 32 8
Oroweat Country 100% Whole
Wheat(76 g) 200 6 360 36 8
Oroweat Protein Health(86 g) 200 6 360 36 12
Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious 100%
Multi-Grain(86 g) 240 6 400 42 10
Nature’s Pride 100% Whole
Wheat(56 g) 140 4 2230 26 6
For more tips from Magee on other types of bread like English muffins, bagels, and pita pockets, go here!
And if you’re not feeling the wheat-bread, here is a chart comparing grains in other types of bread, like pumpernickel, and rye (even pumpkin!) so you don’t have to live a sad, bread-less life.
The only bad news is that you might have to feed that fake-me-out “healthy” bread in your fridge to the birds. But the good news? You’ve just read another informative Her Campus article and are ready to get out there and get yourself some Cred-Bread! Or…bread that is credible…Enjoy!
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, “Recipe Doctor” for WebMD, and author of numerous books on nutrition and health.