One of the questions I get from my clients most often is “what about bread?”. There is a lot of confusion about bread today thanks to the diet crazes of the late 90s/early 00s like South Beach and Atkins and the current keto diet rage. Many people think that bread makes you fat and that it is bad for you while others prefer to stick with a reduced calorie bread. Really, it seems everyone has an opinion on bread. So in this post, I’m hoping to answer your bread questions.
Do I need to stop eating bread?
The short answer is no. As a certified health coach, I really do not advocate for any diet that completely eliminates a healthy food group, with obvious exceptions being if you have a food intolerance or allergy or are trying to determine a food intolerance. What I do advocate for is balance and making the right choices.
Whole grains play a very important role in our diet. They are a good source of fiber and nutrients and they support our heart health. So my answer is no, you should not completely cut bread out of your diet.
How do I choose the right bread to eat?
To start, white bread is a no-no right out of the gate. White bread is over processed and essentially devoid of any nutritional benefit. So step number 1 is select a whole grain bread.
Here’s where we get into food labeling laws: just because a bread package says “whole grain” doesn’t make it so and doesn’t make it healthy. I’ve actually seen a package of white bread labeled “whole grain white bread” which isn’t even possible. It’s an oxymoron.
So, when you’re bread shopping, flip that package over to the nutrition facts side and this is what you want to look for: 3-5-3. At least 3 grams of protein, less than 5 grams of sugar, and at least 3 grams of fiber. If you can find even more fiber and protein, even better.
How much bread should I eat?
Not all calories are created equal, but bread can be a very calorie-dense food adding up to just too much. Depending on the bread you choose, you could be adding over 200 calories to a meal just by adding two slices of bread. I recommend incorporating just one slice of bread with a meal to avoid overdoing it. If you want to have a full sandwich, be cognizant of how many calories are adding up with that filling or opt for something like whole grain pita or flatbread.
The majority of what you should be eating every day is plants and lean proteins. Whole grains should be a complement to that.
What bread do you recommend?
I am a big fan of sprouted whole grain breads. The process of sprouting the grains used to make the bread increases the amount of certain nutrients in them. Sprouted grain breads also contain fewer carbohydrates and more protein than non-sprouted bread. Those who are sensitive to gluten may also find that they have an easier time with sprouted grains as they contain less gluten and more soluble fiber than non-sprouted grains.
There are 2 brands of sprouted whole grain bread that I recommend. The first is Ezekiel and I like the 7 Sprouted Grains Variety (found at Market Basket and Whole Foods). It contains 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, and just 1 gram of sugar and one slice contains 80 calories. The texture and density of Ezekiel bread can be a bit tough, especially if you are used to eating a white or lighter bread. If that’s the case, then you might like Mack’s Flax Bread from Silver Hills Sprouted Bakery (found at Whole Foods and slightly cheaper than Ezekiel) . This variety clocks in at 5 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 1 gram of sugar and contains 110 calories per slice. The slices of this bread are thicker and fluffier than those of Ezekiel, but are more caloric. Another option that I like though don’t recommend as highly is the Trader Joe’s generic sprouted grain bread. It’s cheaper and also has a lighter texture than Ezekiel bread but it only contains 2 grams of fiber per slice though it has 5 grams of protein.