How to Choose a Bread That’s Actually Healthy

By Christine Byrne |

Plus, seven nutritionist-approved loaves you can pick up today.

Grandmother and grandchild eating together

With the rise in keto, low-carb, and gluten-free diets, bread’s reputation has taken a beating. But it’s worth defending for a couple of reasons: First, bread is delicious. And second, it can absolutely be part of an overall healthy diet — especially if you pick the right loaf. 

What exactly does that mean? The answer may depend on your dietary needs. For example, if your doctor has advised you to avoid gluten, you’ll be choosing from a smaller selection of breads (which are worthy of their own story). But for those who don’t have any food allergies or sensitivities, there are three key things to look for when selecting a smart loaf of bread at the supermarket:  

  1. The first ingredient is a whole grain. Whether it’s whole wheat, whole barley, or whole oats, the key is that the word “whole” is in there. Why it matters: Whole-grain flours are made by grinding up intact wheat kernels, meaning they contain all three nutrient-packed components of wheat that’s fresh off the plant: the germ, endosperm, and bran layer. White flours, on the other hand, are stripped of the germ and bran (along with much of the fiber and nutrients) before being sent through the mill.

If you want to take it one step further, look for “100 percent whole grain” on the label, which indicates all — not just most — of the grains in the bread are whole.  

  1. Each slice has at least 2 grams of fiber. While it may not make a huge dent in your daily fiber needs (women and men over the age of 50 need 21 grams and 30 grams of fiber, respectively), most older adults aren’t getting enough fiber, so every little bit counts.

According to research in the Annals of Internal Medicine, increasing your fiber intake each day can help lower your blood pressure, improve your body’s insulin health, and contribute to weight loss.   

  1. Each slice has no more than 5 grams of added sugars, ideally less. While a little bit of added sugar isn’t so bad — sugar is a preservative as well as a flavor additive, so breads with a small amount of added sugar will taste better and last longer — the devil is in the dose. Stick to breads that have a maximum of 5 grams of added sugars per slice, ideally less. This will help keep you within the daily limit recommended by the American Heart Association, which is:
  • For women: No more than 25 grams or 6 teaspoons per day 
  • For men: No more than 36 grams or 9 teaspoons per day 

Checking these three boxes is an easy way to select a bread that offers the most nutritional bang for your buck, but if you’d rather not meticulously read labels, just look for one of the options below. They all meet the baseline criteria above and come highly recommended by registered dietitians. 

Healthy Bread #1: Dave’s Killer Bread 100% Whole Wheat 

 “This organic bread is made with 100 percent whole grains,” says Laura Yautz, R.D., owner of Being Nutritious. “The out-of-this-world flavor and texture is perfect for sandwiches, toast, or eating right out of the bag.”  

Dave’s Killer Bread’s company values are a nice bonus, Yautz says. Its Second Chance Employment policy means the company always hires the best person for the job, regardless of criminal history. It’s committed to giving someone who is ready to change their life a chance to do so.  

The stats (per slice): 100 calories, 1.5 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 4 grams added sugars, 4 grams protein  

Healthy Bread #2: Bread Alone Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread 

“Sourdough bread is a good choice for people with sensitive stomachs, due to its slow fermentation process,” says Ashley Harpst, R.D., owner of Go for the Gold Nutrition. If you find that bread sometimes makes you feel bloated or gives you a stomachache, it’s worth switching to fermented sourdough (in which the carbohydrates have been broken down further in the kneading, rising, and baking process).  

This specific one is made with a combo of whole-wheat flour, wheat flour, and rye flour, and it’s available in many major supermarkets throughout the New York and New Jersey area (and on FreshDirect). If it’s not sold at your local supermarket, look for any whole-wheat sourdough option, Harpst says. Just remember to check the fiber and sugar content before you buy.  

The stats (per slice): 90 calories, 0 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 0 grams added sugars, 4 grams protein 

Healthy Bread #3: Food for Life Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread  

“Food for Life brand’s Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread is made from freshly sprouted, organically grown grains and legumes and is also packed with flavor and nutrients like fiber, protein, and antioxidants,” says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D.N., author of Finally Full, Finally Slim and an adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. “Breads made from sprouted grains taste like — or better than — whole-grain breads, and the body may be able to better absorb nutrients from the sprouted grains,” she says.   

The stats (per slice): 80 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 3 grams fiber, 0 grams added sugars, 5 grams protein  

Healthy Bread #4: Angelic Bakehouse 7 Sprouted No Added Salt Whole Grain Bread 

“Bread is one of the top foods that sneaks in high levels of sodium,” says Michelle Routhenstein, R.D., C.D.E., C.D.N., a cardiology dietitian and owner of Entirely Nourished. “I love the Angelic Bakehouse breads because they are sprouted (easier to digest), they’re a good source of fiber, and they have low- and no-sodium options for those who need to limit,” she says.   

This particular loaf has no added salt, but the brand offers many options that meet the basic criteria for a healthy bread pick.  

The stats (per slice): 90 calories, 1 gram fat, 3 grams fiber, 2 grams added sugars, 5 grams protein  

Healthy Bread #5: Schmidt Old Tyme 647 Wheat Bread 

“I love Schmidt Old Tyme 647 breads because they have the taste and texture of white bread with 40 calories, 7 grams of fiber or more, and just 1 gram of sugar per slice,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, R.D.N., founder of Nutrition Starring YOU and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook. If you’re looking to add calories to your diet, this isn’t the bread for you, but if you’re just looking for a smart, high-fiber option, these low-calorie breads can be a great choice, she says. 

The stats (per slice): 40 calories, 0.5 grams fat, 9 grams fiber, 1 gram added sugars, 2 grams protein  

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Healthy Bread #6: Silver Hills Sprouted Power Squirrelly Bread 

If you love a lot of texture in your bread, try this sprouted, organic loaf from Silver Hills Bakery, which contains sunflower and sesame seeds for an extra nutrient boost, says Anya Rosen, R.D., L.D., C.P.T., a dietitian and functional medicine practitioner based in New York City. One slice has 5 grams of belly-filling fiber, 6 grams of protein, and just 1 gram of natural sugar (it’s slightly sweetened with raisin nectar).   

Silver Hills bread is available at Whole Foods Market, Target, and various other grocery stores around the United States and Canada. The brand also makes buns, bagels, and tortillas with similarly stellar nutrition profiles.  

The stats (per slice): 110 calories, 1 gram fat, 5 grams fiber, 0 grams added sugars, 6 grams protein  

Healthy Bread #7: Dave’s Killer Bread White Bread Done Right 

In case you’ve been eating white bread your whole life and just can’t imagine switching to whole wheat, this loaf is for you.  

“Dave’s Killer Bread White Bread Done Right feels like cheating — it’s like smooshy Wonder bread but has a great nutrition profile,” says Jennifer Bostedo, R.D.N., a dietitian at Rutgers University–Newark. The bread is made with a mixture of whole wheat, barley, rye, spelt, millet, quinoa, and potato flours to give it a white bread texture with far more nutrition. And while it’s not technically whole wheat, it still packs 2 grams of fiber per slice, with only 2 grams of added sugars.  

The stats (per slice): 110 calories, 2 grams fat, 2 grams fiber, 2 grams added sugars, 3 grams protein  

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