How to Choose Healthier Store-bought Bread

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
by Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Share it:
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! 

About the Author

Elle Penner, MPH, RD
Elle Penner, MPH, RD

Elle is a nutrition and wellness writer, recipe developer, blogger and nutrition consultant whose favorite things include her camera, carbs and quality time with her toddler. For more from this busy mama, check out Elle’s lifestyle blog or connect with her on Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Related

72 responses to “How to Choose Healthier Store-bought Bread”

  1. Avatar Mary Estep says:

    I always go for spelt

  2. Avatar roundgal says:

    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.

    • Avatar MzKindra says:

      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!

    • Avatar Rebecca Johnson says:

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

      • Avatar Connie Nicklis says:

        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!

    • Avatar Vera says:

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

  3. Avatar Sarah says:

    Ezekial Bread!!!!!

  4. Avatar Herb Andler says:

    we use pepridge farm 15 grain

  5. Avatar snowdance1 says:

    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!

  6. Avatar Rodger says:

    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.

    • Avatar Jen says:

      The longer the shelf life the short yours.

    • Avatar weighinginwithmy02 says:

      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.

    • Avatar Bambi McElroy says:

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

    • Avatar shade says:

      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 !!;-)

  7. Avatar k says:

    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

  8. Avatar 1hilda1 says:

    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

  9. Avatar pearlmorning says:

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

  10. Avatar KSel says:

    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. 🙂

  11. Avatar Kathy Jones Campbell says:

    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.

  12. Avatar Lis says:

    Silver hills Little Big Bread is good 🙂

  13. Avatar Denise says:

    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!

  14. Avatar Sandy Hache says:

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

  15. Avatar shade says:

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

  16. Avatar Julie says:

    I eat Ezekiel bread, cereal and English muffins.

  17. Avatar brisondav says:

    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.

  18. Avatar GiGi says:

    Dimpilmeier (sac Bleu) 100% Sauerteig ROGGENBROT 100% PLUS RYE BREAD
    Nutrition Facts | Valeur nutritive
    Per 1 slice (46 g)/pour 1 tranche (46 g)
    Amount
    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
    Calcium/Calcium
    Iron/Fer

  19. Avatar bill says:

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

  20. Avatar Dorothy says:

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

  21. Avatar dc says:

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

  22. Avatar Name says:

    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.

  23. Avatar VR says:

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

  24. Avatar Benjamin Kohl says:

    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?

  25. Avatar Ralph W. says:

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

  26. Avatar Barb Brandenburg says:

    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.

  27. Avatar Woodcarver says:

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

  28. Avatar Mary Conn says:

    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.

  29. Avatar Pat Hubbard says:

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

  30. Avatar adam says:

    lately, i’ve been on the next level……nature’s own from sam’s club seems to be a good hit here…..it’s 100 percent wheat…..at 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….

  31. Avatar omgstfualready says:

    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.

  32. Avatar mihaela says:

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

  33. Avatar Renee-Ann says:

    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?

  34. Avatar mckenzienatosha says:

    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!

  35. Avatar a83 says:

    I buy just Ezekiel bread

  36. Avatar Dante says:

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

  37. Avatar Maggie Cozad says:

    Nature’s Own 100% whole grain

  38. Avatar Felicity says:

    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 🙁

  39. Avatar Ellen says:

    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.

  40. Avatar JRJVA says:

    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.

  41. Avatar Patricia Lynn Fleming Robichau says:

    I love Silver Hills Big 16

    Nutritional Information

    Serving Size38g (1 slice)

    Calories100

    Total Fat1g

    OMEGA 60.2g

    OMEGA 30.1g

    CHOLESTEROL0mg

    Sodium125mg

    Potassium80mg

    Fiber4g

    Sugars1g

    Protein6g

    Carbs17g

  42. Avatar Karin says:

    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

  43. Avatar Kelly says:

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

  44. Avatar leenelle says:

    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.

  45. Avatar jack alpert says:

    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?

  46. 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.

  47. Avatar Arvella Witherspoon says:

    daves killer thin sliced bread

  48. Avatar Tricia Harnish says:

    Alvarado St. Bakery – Essential Flax Seed, Sprouted Whole Wheat Bread
    Ingredients:
    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

    Nutrition:
    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!

  49. Avatar Karen says:

    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.

  50. Avatar Geri Mankey says:

    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.

  51. Avatar Linda says:

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

  52. Avatar Chris Brown says:

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

  53. Avatar Abby7664 says:

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

  54. Avatar Jaden Million says:

    Country Harvest Flax & Quinoa

  55. Avatar Berghorn Stonitsch Jackie says:

    Asheville Seedless Rye

  56. Avatar Claudia Spina says:

    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 ?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Never Miss a Post!

Turn on MyFitnessPal desktop notifications and stay up to date on the latest health and fitness advice.

Great!

Click the 'Allow' Button Above

Awesome!

You're all set.

You’re taking control of your fitness and wellness journey, so take control of your data, too. Learn more about your rights and options. Or click here to opt-out of certain cookies.