By: Sam Lewandowski, MS RD
One day I’ll bake my own bread. And that will be all the bread we eat in our house. No more quick store trips for bread and milk. Instead it will be a run for milk and ice cream, so I can stay sane (and cool) as I bake away. Until that great baking day arrives however, I’ll be relying on some quality store brands. I’d like to be able to say that since I don’t bake my own bread, I only buy limited ingredient, wholesome bread from a local bakery, but that day has not arrived either.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with buying bread at the grocery store, but I do recommend checking the labels carefully. The bread selection has become somewhat outrageous, and the manufacturers don’t make it easy to interpret their claims. Whole grain, enriched, multi-grain, whole white wheat, refined, 12-grain, 9-grain, 7-grain, and on and on.
Whole grains make good nutritional sense, but how do you know what you’re getting?
Step 1 – Be familiar with the definition. Whole grain simply means the entire grain is intact – bran, endosperm, and germ. The primary nutritional benefit is the fiber, but also the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Whole grains have been associated with increased fullness as well as lowered risk for diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Step 2 – Know a whole grain when you see one. Go straight to the ingredient list on the Nutrition Facts label. If whole grain appears in the first ingredient, you are holding a whole grain product. The Whole Grains Council has created a whole grain stamp – yellow with black writing – that graces the packaging of many high quality whole grain products. Obviously the goal is to make the selection process easier and alert consumers to products that have met their standards. Typically I’d suggest ignoring the front of the package, with the exception of looking for the whole grain stamp.
Step 3 – Trial different types of whole grain breads. Whole wheat bread is not the only type of whole grain bread available. Oats, rye (look for whole rye), millet and spelt (again, look for whole spelt) are also whole grains commonly found in breads.
Now that the bread aisle is easier to navigate, consider whole grain options for cereal, bagels, English muffins, waffles, tortillas, crackers, rice, pasta or other grain items you enjoy.
If you’re adventurous enough to make bread at home, try the challah we blogged about last year!
Do you make bread from scratch? How important is it to you to purchase whole grain bread?