4 ways to buy better bread

Buying bread should be simple: Look for 100% whole grain without too much salt. But how do you know if it’s whole grain—or just made with a little whole grain? And how much is too much salt?

Here’s how to find the best sliced bread. See the photos for some of our taste favorites.

1. Go for 100% whole grains.

Does your bread say “100% whole grain” or “100% whole wheat” on its label? If so, you’re pretty much done.Pepperidge Farm

If not, the ingredient list should say that the flour is “whole wheat” (or other grains), not “enriched,” “unbleached,” or just “wheat.” Those are all refined.

Look for breads that are made with grains that are all—or almost all—whole. Don’t worry about white flour far down the ingredient list near salt or yeast because there’s so little.

And don’t rely on claims like “made with” whole grain or “multigrain.” Those breads often contain mostly white flour.

2. Match the serving.

If the serving on the label doesn’t match what you eat, do the math. A serving is typically one slice, but most lighter breads list two slices (like Arnold Bakery Light, Nature’s Harvest Light, and Sara Lee Delightful) or three slices (like Pepperidge Farm Light Style or Very Thin).

3. Check the calories.Dave's Killer Bread

A slice of bread used to weigh an ounce. Now 1¼ oz. is more typical, and some—like Dave’s Killer Bread Organic 100% Whole Wheat and Pepperidge Farm Farmhouse 100% Whole Wheat—hit 1½ oz. So your sandwich can rack up 200 to 300 calories just from the bread.

Solution? Dave’s Killer Bread makes delicious Organic Thin-Sliced loaves with just 60 to 70 calories per (1 oz.) slice. Ditto for 100% whole wheats by Nature’s Own, Sara Lee, and Wonder.

Looking for less? Light breads like Nature’s Harvest Light and Sara Lee Delightful drop to around 45 calories by shrinking each slice to ¾ oz. or less and adding cellulose or other processed fibers.

4. Skirt the salt.Food for Life

Bread doesn’t taste salty, but some types—like sourdough and rye—hit 200 to 250 milligrams per slice. So a sandwich can deliver a quarter of a day’s sodium without so much as a swipe of peanut butter or slice of cheese.

Your best option? Look for no more than 120 mg of sodium per slice.

If you’re watching every milligram, Alvarado St. Bakery, Food for Life, and Trader Joe’s make no-salt-added whole wheat breads. But the bland taste takes getting used to.

NutritionAction.com doesn’t accept any paid advertising or corporate or government funding. Any products recommended by NutritionAction.com have been vetted by our staff of nutritionists and are not advertisements by the manufacturers.


Find this article about bread interesting and useful? Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get science-based advice about diet and diabetes, heart disease, cancer, osteoarthritis, and other chronic diseases; delicious recipes; and detailed analyses of the healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-minded consumers.

9 Replies to “4 ways to buy better bread”

  1. Interesting article. Since we make breadmaker bread, I decided to do the math to see how much sodium a slice of our 2 lb. loaf includes. The recipe calls for 1.5 tsp of salt. The American Heart Assoc tells me this is 3450 mg of sodium. Then there is also 100 mg in the yogurt in the recipe, for a total of 3550 mg. The loaf makes about 12 slices, so each slice is 295 mg of sodium … yikes, that’s one-fifth of the daily maximum set by the American Heart Assoc per slice.

  2. A respected deli man once told me, “To make a good sandwich, you have to begin with a good bread”. He is absolutely right. If healthy food is your primary concern, just munch on some raw carrots and celery instead of a great corned beef or a pastrami on seeded Jewish rye.

    1. Seeded Jewish Rye is one of the whole grained breads this article recommends. Don’t have to eat just carrots to be super healthy and eat super-healthily.

  3. You advocate eating “whole grain bread”.
    What about those with sensitivity to “gluten” ? Many have auto-immune diseases such as celiac disease & can’t tolerate certain proteins in gluten.

    1. Not many. Very few actually suffer from Celiac disease. Most others aren’t actually intolerant to gluten but to fructans in many gluten-containing items. Recommendations are based on the majority of a population, not the minority. Those with Celiac have likely already met with several gastroenterologists and dietitians and know what’s best for them.

      1. I hope you will cover GF products in the future. As one of the “not many” it is quite a shock to face giving up my favorite foods and replacing them with incredibly dense and “hard on the tooth” alternatives.

  4. There should be a 5th thing: try to find bread without added sugar or honey (lots of luck).

    Some of the breads you recommend are highly processed. Not on my best eat list.

  5. This article casts a blind eye to the fact that most wheat is GMO, so NO, eating the average loaf of whole-grained wheat bread (with inherent GMO’s) is NOT necessarily healthy. As consumers seeking whole, clean foods, we must DEMAND ORGANIC wheat and other foods.
    BTW, some who study food think that the uptick in those folks with gluten intollerance is actually due to an uptick in PESTICIDES and GMO’s in our wheat(!)

Leave a Reply

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