Pass the bread, please

Pass the bread, please

Environmental Nutrition

By Heidi McIndoo, M.S., R.D., Environmental Nutrition Newsletter

Sliced bread may seem like a mere vehicle for your sandwich fillings, but it can be much more. Bread can be a terrific source of fiber, whole grains, vitamins and minerals. Plus, it can provide delicious flavor, thanks to the wide assortment of breads now available in supermarkets. You can find breads with a variety of grains, such as wheat, oats and rye; added ingredients such as sprouted seeds and nuts; and beneficial nutritional qualities, such as high fiber.

So, with so many varieties of breads, as well as labels claiming health benefits, how can you pick the best loaf? Keep these ideas in mind the next time you’re browsing the bread aisle.

Check the ingredients list

The first ingredient should be a whole grain, such as whole wheat, oats or rye. Don’t be tricked by terms like “made with whole grains” on the package label, which doesn’t indicate the amount of whole grains in the product.

Size matters

While most sliced breads hover around the same size — around 35 grams to 40 grams (g) per slice, there are a few outliers on either end. Those closer to 25 g might not be satisfying enough, while the large ones, closer to 50 g, are more calorically dense. That’s important, especially if you tend to eat two slices at a time.

What’s inside counts, too

What you pair your bread with can help you create a nutrient-rich meal or snack. Try adding vegetables, like baby spinach, tomatoes, grated carrots and pepper slices, along with mashed avocado or hummus as a spread. Choose lean meats if you add animal proteins to your sandwich. Your favorite nut butter paired with sliced bananas, apples or pears is another delicious, nutrient-packed option.

Fiber source

While most bread gets its fiber naturally through whole grains, some of those with especially high fiber contents rely on supplemental fiber from sources like chicory root. You’ll still obtain some benefits from these supplemental sources, but make sure that you are reaping the rewards of whole grains, which have been linked to numerous health benefits, such as lower risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.

(Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.