Buy a Better Bread

Published: November 15th, 2012 |
Author: Sally Kuzemchak

Here's how to pick the best loaf.

It seems easy enough: Toss a loaf of bread in your grocery cart and push on. Like the pasta aisle, the bread aisle is a surprisingly tricky place, full of sneaky labeling and other ploys that can lead you astray. Watch out for these four:

  • The phrase “made with whole grain:” Whole grains are good because they haven’t been stripped of their nutrient-loaded outer coating. But this claim doesn’t mean the bread is 100% whole grain or even mostly made of whole grain. The whole grain it's "made" with may appear halfway down the ingredient list–which means there's less of it than there should be.
  • The term “multi-grain:” This claim simply means it’s made with more than one kind of grain–not that any of them are whole.
  • A brown color: Brown bread doesn’t equal whole wheat bread. Some manufacturers use coloring to give their bread a more wholesome appearance. And rye bread, which can be dark brown, is very low in fiber.
  • Crumbled oats and seeds on top: It’s a nice touch (and makes it seem like the bread was just baked by a team of kindly grandmothers in the back of the store). But that topping is just decoration and doesn’t signal that the bread is whole grain or high in fiber.

Bottom Line: If you're looking for the healthiest loaf, choose bread that's labeled “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat.” Make sure a “whole” grain is listed as the first ingredient, and avoid loaves with “enriched flour” or even “enriched wheat flour” as the first ingredient.

--Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD

Keywords: bread, food labels, grocery shopping