How to Choose Healthier Store-bought Bread

by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
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How to Choose Healthier Store-bought Bread

Photo by Chiots Run 

Peanut butter & jelly, turkey and cheese, roast beef with horseradish -there’s something for everyone when it comes to sandwiches. But with hundreds of different packaged breads to choose from in the grocery store, leaving with a healthy loaf can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you navigate the bread aisle to help you choose healthier store-bought breads.

1. Be wary of breads that don’t have “100%” on the label. You’ve probably heard whole grains provide more vitamins, minerals and important nutrients than refined grains. It’s unfortunate but since there are no regulations on whole grain labeling, bread manufacturers can place healthy sounding words on their packaging that may mislead consumers, many times mixing a small amount of whole wheat with regular all-purpose flour.

Don’t be deceived by bread packaging that claims to be:

  • Whole grain, whole wheat or white wheat – it probably only contains a small amount if the package doesn’t say 100%
  • 100% natural – natural does not mean whole wheat or whole grain
  • 7-grain – it might have 7 grains but may contain a fair amount of refined flour as well

If you’re not a fan of regular whole wheat, look for 100% white whole wheat which is made with a different type of wheat that bakes up softer and with a milder flavor but still has the healthy components of traditional whole wheat.

2. Look for a 10:1 carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio on the nutrition label. For every 10 grams of carbohydrates in a serving, there should be at least 1 gram of fiber. Thus, if there are 30 grams of carbohydrate in 1 slice of bread, that slice should contain at least 3 grams of fiber.

3. Choose breads with little or no added sugars. Traditional homemade bread does not contain sugar but it’s added to many packaged breads to retain moisture, add softness and a mild sweetness. If you’re having trouble finding a loaf without added sugar, keep in mind that ingredients are listed by weight. The farther down sugar is listed on the ingredient list, the less the bread will contain.

When you look at the ingredient label, keep in mind sugar may be disguised as: 

  • corn sweetener
  • (high fructose) corn syrup
  • (evaporated) cane juice
  • cane juice syrup
  • brown rice syrup
  • most words ending in -ose (dextrose, maltose, sucrose, fructose, glucose…)
  • honey
  • molasses
  • brown sugar

4. Avoid all breads with trans fats. Whole grains contain healthy fats but some bread manufacturers are still adding trans fats in the form of partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats are associated with increased LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and increased serum triglycride levels, so we want to avoid these in all foods we eat. If you see the word “partially hydrogenated” anywhere in the ingredient list, put the loaf down and keep looking.

In general, the average slice of 100% whole grain bread will provide 80-110 calories, 3-5 grams of protein and  3-5 grams of fiber per slice. Take 2 and you’ll certainly have a solid foundation for a satisfying sandwich!

Got a favorite brand of whole grain bread to recommend? Share it in the comments below! 


  • Mary Estep

    I always go for spelt

  • roundgal

    Great post. It’s also very easy and cheap to make homemade bread using the no-knead method or the stretch-and-fold method (both lazy and fairly fool-proof ways of making bread). At its simplest, bread is four ingredients: flour, water, salt and yeast. Nothing else is needed. You can add all sorts of whole grain goodness to homemade bread by throwing in things like rolled oats, flax seed, etc. An inexpensive bread made from grocery-store flour and generic oatmeal is surprisingly good and better for you than the highly processed breads on the grocery store shelves.

    • MzKindra

      I’ve often thought about making my own bread, but got discouraged when I found recipes that looked too difficult or require me to be Julia Childs. If I found something as easy as what you describe, I’d give it a go!

    • Rebecca Johnson

      Could you please share the basic bread recipe with me??

      • Connie Nicklis

        This is what I do….

        4 Cups Flour
        2 tsp Salt
        1 tsp Yeast
        2 cups Water

        Mix all dry together

        Add Water and mix well

        Let sit 8+ hours loosely covered

        Bake covered with tinfoil 30 mins
        Uncover and Bake another 30 mins
        Bake at 425

        I’ve only done it with white flour so far, I am looking to try different types of flour like whole wheat and oat, or a mix of the two.

        I have mixed Italian seasonings in one batch and it came out GREAT!
        I tried cinnamon in a different batch and it was just ok but I did not try a second time yet to get it just right……

        Good Luck!

    • Vera

      How do I make it without a bread maker? I’d love to make home made bread ❤️⁉️

  • Sarah

    Ezekial Bread!!!!!

  • Herb Andler

    we use pepridge farm 15 grain

  • snowdance1

    It’s funny how this blog post serves to validate my choices. I have a quick trip to the bread aisle and buying the same 100% whole grain or Ezekiel bread products. Purely selfish reasons, though: other than it being the healthiest choice, it also makes my food logging expedient!

  • Rodger

    Even when not trying to loose weight my fav bread is the sara lee diet bread. Not only does it have less calories, but it never goes bad :-~ When is good for me as I don’t eat much bread.

    • Jen

      The longer the shelf life the short yours.

    • weighinginwithmy02

      Bread that never goes bad is loaded with additives and preservatives, hence it not going bad. That’s not necessarily a good trade off for lower cals.

    • Bambi McElroy

      Mine too, I like the Sara Lee 35 calorie wheat bread. Works for me.

    • shade

      I keep MY bread in the freezer and take what I need and put it back in the freezer it takes all of 5 minutes to defrost and you can even make your sandwich on the frozen bread adds some refrigeration to your bagged lunch) frozen bread makes perfect toast !!;-)

  • k

    buy a bread machine and make your own bread. I have been doing this for 10 years and it is time to replace the machine

  • 1hilda1

    everyone should try Silver Hills Sprouted bread…I get it at Costco….it’s the one in the blue bag….it has 110 cal and 19 carbs in 2 slices and is the most satisfying bread I have ever eaten … I am one of the worlds biggest carb addicts and this bread has help change my life….I am eating low carb now and have been able to lose 48.4 lbs in 8 months and got my sugar levels down to perfect now and I will be able to get off my diabetes meds soon

  • pearlmorning

    Thank you for sharing this, it was very interesting and informative!

  • KSel

    Anyone else eat the 35 calorie Healthy Life wheat bread? It’s 70 calories for 2 pieces and that sounds good to me, plus it’s got good stuff in it. 🙂

    • poorlittlesickgirl

      Ive tried it but didnt care for the taste or texture. I too buy Nature’s Own breads.

  • Kathy Jones Campbell

    I have been eating Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat with 14 grams of Whole grain per slice. It has 50 calories per slice and seems to meet the criteria. Not thrilled that brown sugar was the 3rd ingredient but each slice has 10 carbs and 2g fiber with 1 g sugar so hoping not too bad. it doesn’t provide quite as much fiber per slice but I like the taste and hope it meets my needs. I only recently started caring about all of this. Trying to lower my cholesterol by changing my eating habits.

    • Dolores

      Congratulations!! Good luck..been veg over 20 yrs and always feeling great about it! Keep up the good work

    • Peerx2

      Nature’s Own also makes a 100%whole wheat with no added sugar. It’s the one I buy.

      • KGiss

        Yep. I buy Nature’s Own 100% Whole wheat 100% whole grain that is sugar free.

  • Lis

    Silver hills Little Big Bread is good 🙂

  • Denise

    Avoid the gluten that causes a “wheat belly” and buy The Essential Baking Companies multi seeded and grain gluten free bread – sold at Costco. It’s terrific!

  • Sandy Hache

    Stonemill Bakehouse from Costco Flax & Chia. Excellent! 1 slic is 100 calories,
    16 grams of carbs, 3 grams of fibre

  • shade

    reg. super market bread Nature,s Promise, 90 cal.–5 gr fiber–4 protein–total carb 18 no trans fat

  • Julie

    I eat Ezekiel bread, cereal and English muffins.

  • brisondav

    Why hasn’t anyone mentioned Joseph’s Flax Oat Bran & Whole Wheat Pita Bread? It has 0 sugar 8 carbs and 4 fiber. I use these for breakfast burritos. I spray with pam or olive oil in oven to make chips. They are awesome.

  • GiGi

    Dimpilmeier (sac Bleu) 100% Sauerteig ROGGENBROT 100% PLUS RYE BREAD
    Nutrition Facts | Valeur nutritive
    Per 1 slice (46 g)/pour 1 tranche (46 g)
    Teneur% Dally Value
    % valeur quotidienne
    Calories/Calories 110
    Fat/Lipides 0 g
    Saturated/satures 0 g
    + Trans/trans 0 g
    Cholesterol/Cholesterol 0 mg
    Sodium/Sodium 210 mg
    Carbohydrate/Glucides 24 g
    Fibre/Fibres 2 g
    Sugars/Sucres 0 g
    Protein/Proteines 2 g
    Vitamin A/Vitamine A
    Vitamin C/Vitamine C

  • bill

    Arnold multigrain 20 grams carbs but 4grams fiber main ingredient whole wheat floor

  • Dorothy

    I love oat/nut bread – but wonder if it meets criteria

  • dc

    Trying to cut back on sugar.. Everything has it.

  • Name

    My husband and I love Dave’s Killer Bread, and our favorite is the Good Seed. It’s healthy for you, and we really like the crunchiness of the bread with all the seeds. First found it at Costco, and then found it at our local Winco. It’s expensive, but well worth the cost.

  • VR

    What abt sourdough breads? Are they in the lower glycemic category ?

  • Benjamin Kohl

    Somewhere along the way, I read that a lot of wheat bread is baked with bleached flour then the molasses is added to give it back that dark color. Is that something to look out for too or is it not worth worrying about?

    • Constance

      Yes, it is not really wheat bread, it is dyed white bread. Look for 100% wheat bread.

    • Constance

      Yes, it is not really wheat bread, it is dyed white bread. Look for 100% wheat bread.

    • Constance

      Yes, it is not really wheat bread, it is dyed white bread. Look for 100% wheat bread.

  • Ralph W.

    Also, a lot of so called healthy bread have high salt content!

  • Barb Brandenburg

    Alvarado Street Bakery Sprouted Whole Grain Breads. I use California Style Complete Protein Bread.
    Alvarado Street Bakery is the country’s longest-running cooperatively owned organic bakery. They are reasonably priced & sprouting breaks down grains without refining or removing any of the fiber or
    protein, which improves both nutrient content and digestibility. It also
    keeps the glycemic index nice and low.
    They have several different varieties.

  • Woodcarver

    “Alvarado St. Bakery” Flax Bread is tasty and not too dry, as some can be. They have several other flavors too.

  • Mary Conn

    Great Harvest Bread Company: Their whole wheat and honey whole wheat bread has five simple ingredients. And p.s. I’t’s the wheat that’s messed up. Even if it says 100% whole wheat much of the weat and flour that we have today is sprayed with crap that makes it easier to grind. Making your own bread just isn’t that hard. Get a Kitchen aid mixer with a dough hook and have at it.

  • Pat Hubbard

    All the bread at Rotella’s Italian bakery. Love it.

  • adam

    lately, i’ve been on the next level……nature’s own from sam’s club seems to be a good hit here…’s 100 percent wheat… least i can get my fiance to eat it…lol. i buy the 100 percent whole wheat pan-size bread though, with the nuts/flax/etc…on the top lol. it’s only 100 calories per slice, and the slices are so big that i only need 2 slices….rather than 4…..for my sandwiches lol. and it’s funny, cause i walked into ALDI and their bread seems to have identical nutrition facts to that of nature’s own…..and far cheaper! and yes, no high fructose corn syrup……my next goto, to try is this new ‘sprouted grain bread’ i’ve seen in the freezer section….i’ve read and heard good stuff about ezekiel bread…..but this was another brand…..i found in the walmart freezer section….

  • omgstfualready

    I’ve been enjoying Browberry/Arnold Double Fiber bread. It isn’t the most ‘clean’ product but I do trade off for the 6g of fiber per slice.

  • mihaela

    i make my bread : with normal flour , oats Psylium and olive oil, the best ever, sometimes i put other digestive things too

  • Renee-Ann

    I have been eating Ezekiel bread as well but yesterday I bought a new one (new to me) called Little Big Bread made with whole grains. It is a vegan bread and has no dairy products as well. Havent tried it yet but can’t wait. Has anyone tried it? How did it fair for you?

  • mckenzienatosha

    I eat Healthy Life 100% whole grain and whole wheat bread. 35 calories a slice and 5 net carbs. 2.5 g of protein and 2.5 g of fiber per slice. Try it!

  • a83

    I buy just Ezekiel bread

  • Dante

    Look into bread made from fermented or sprouted grains, the fermenting or sprouting makes the grain more easily digestible

  • Maggie Cozad

    Nature’s Own 100% whole grain

  • Felicity

    Im loving this board! but are there any suggestions out there for a wholesome low calorie bread that can be bought in Australia. I’ve recently tried protein bread which tastes ok, but still 92 calories per 2 small slices 🙁

  • Ellen

    I eat “Little Big Bread” by Silver Hills. Organic cane sugar is 5th ingredient out of 9. 2 slices are 110 cal., 0.5g of fat, 5g fiber.


    Natural Ovens! They are in Wisconsin and distribute throughout the Midwest. Since we moved, we place our orders on their website and have it shipped. Bread, bagels, granola, dinner rolls, etc.

  • Patricia Lynn Fleming Robichau

    I love Silver Hills Big 16

    Nutritional Information

    Serving Size38g (1 slice)


    Total Fat1g

    OMEGA 60.2g

    OMEGA 30.1g








  • Karin

    Ezekiel is my go to bread. I like the sesame for sandwiches and the cinnamon raisin for breakfast. I dont buy anything else for myself, just wish my family would come around and try it

  • Kelly

    I really like Pepperrdge Farm Carb Style. The taste is delish and I like the texture.

  • leenelle

    I like Safeway kitchens 100%whole wheat it is the only stone ground loaf I have seen.Great for sandwichs and toast.Carbs 11 Fiber 2 protien 4g 60 calories.

  • jack alpert

    If you only use olive oil for cooking, x-virgin for everything else, with the occaisional bit of butter every few weeks, why use cocunut oil?

  • For me I choose sprouted wheat bread and grain. I felt like it’s the safest bread for me to eat and minimize my intake of fat and carbohydrates.

  • Arvella Witherspoon

    daves killer thin sliced bread

    • C Lynne

      Yes!! Dave’s Killer Breads are AWESOME! And decent priced at Sam’s Club!

  • Tricia Harnish

    Alvarado St. Bakery – Essential Flax Seed, Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread
    Sprouted Organic Whole Wheat Berries
    Sprouted Organic Whole Flax Seeds
    Soy Based Lecithin
    Filtered Water
    Organic Dates
    Wheat Gluten
    Organic Raisins
    Cultured Wheat
    Fresh Yeast
    Oat Fiber
    Sea Salt

    100 Calories in 2 slices
    2g Fat
    100mg Sodium
    18g Carbs
    5g Dietary Fiber
    1g Sugar
    6g Protein

    Taste is phenomenal!!! It has a nice, kind of nutty taste. We use it straight from the bag or toasted. I will also toast it to use as bread crumbs for in crab cakes, meatballs, etc. It is a little expensive but as always, you get what you pay for. Since you are what you eat, you don’t want to be cheap, fast or easy!

  • Karen

    Cowards! How about naming some major, nationally available brands? The problem is most breads without some form of added sugar are unpalatable and taste like sawdust. I like some Ezekiel or sprouted breads, but not always easy to find.

  • Geri Mankey

    I buy Trader Joe’s brand Organic Flourless Sprouted 7-Grain Bread, an excellent, slightly cheaper knock-off of Ezekiel bread. 15 g. carbs / 4 g. protein / 3 g. fiber / 1 g. sugar. Especially great for grilled sandwiches and toast.

  • Linda

    I love Ezekiel Bread! Flourless and low glycemic! None of the “sugars” listed above and no trans fats. Hearty bread and very delicious!

  • Choosing the healthier bread is important, due to your health and fitness.

  • Abby7664

    I like Nature’s Own Whole Grain Sugar Free Bread.
    18g carbs
    2g fiber
    No sugar
    No Trans fat

  • Jaden Million

    Country Harvest Flax & Quinoa

  • Berghorn Stonitsch Jackie

    Asheville Seedless Rye

  • Claudia Spina

    Hi, I’m vegan and very health conscious, I’m cutting out refined sugar for 30 days, it has saddened me, being a person who relies heavily on bread that they add sugar to it !! Does anyone know any loaf’s of bread I can buy from a store that have no added sugar ?