Thursday, October 2, 2008

Deconstructing the Bread Aisle

I know what you are thinking. "Bread? Bread?!?! Seriously?" Yes, seriously. Contrary to how it might appear, I am not posting about the merits of various loafs of whole wheat bread because of a lack of other things to write about. I am writing about bread because this is a food blog, and bread is an essential part of the American diet. Without bread there would be no grilled cheese, no burgers, no turkey sandwiches with spicy mustard, and most disturbing of all, no French toast. While Mister Atkins might have found a world without bread a glorious place, I for one could not stomach the thought of a breadless existence. After all, where would peanut butter and jelly be without bread? Nowhere, my friends. Nowhere at all.

Because bread is the foundation for many meals, it is compulsory that it be worthy of its toppings, fillings and/or accompaniments. Of course, when eaten on a regular basis, bread should also be a good source of nutrition. That's when things start to get a little fuzzy.

I can't count the times that I have walked down the bread aisle at my local grocery store to find some befuddled man or woman contemplating the labels on the various kinds of bread available. I can sympathize with their pain. The bread aisle can be a scary place -- there are breads with flax seeds, breads with extra fiber, wheat bread that is disguised as white bread, organic loafs, loafs with corowise and oats, and even low-carb varieties that give me the urge to smash them with my fists. How is any sane person to decide?

Nutritionists recommend selecting varieties that contain at least 3 grams of fiber per slice, but that doesn't help narrow things down much. Which is why the world needs people like me. People who are armed with knowledge about the merits of the various loafs and are willing to share them with the confused and breadless masses. Below are my picks (and pans) from Mister Atkins' least favorite grocery store aisle.

1. Milton's Whole Grain Plus Bread - With 5 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein and only 90 calories per slice, this loaf is a nutritional powerhouse. It also tastes great -- earthy and slightly nutty. It is soft, yet has a firm texture that holds up well against sandwich toppings. It's my pick for the best-tasting and most-nutritionally pleasing whole wheat bread.

2. Oroweat Whole Grain and Oat w/ Corowise - Packs in 3 grams of fiber in each 90 calorie slice. Nutty flavor, soft texture, but not as substantial as Milton's slice. Good choice for deli meat sandwiches, but not the best option for grilled cheese or toasted sandwiches.

3. Oroweat Country 100% Whole Wheat - 3 grams of fiber, 100 calories per slice, and the softest of the reviewed breads. Love the slightly sweet, honey flavor but each loaf varies, and sometimes the slices can be too thin and soft. Not the best for holding up against heavy sandwich contents, but works well for grilled cheese.

4. Oroweat 100% Whole Wheat - 3 grams of fiber, 90 calories per slice, this is the standard and most-stocked Oroweat bread. The flavor is good, but it's not my pick for sandwiches or grilled cheese. Like the country style bread, the slices are often too thin to hold their own against my turkey meat. A last resort for me when my breads of choice are missing in action.

5. Sara Lee 100% Whole Wheat - This slice still packs 3 grams of fiber, but at 120 calories a pop. It's the thickest of the other slices reviewed, and as a result, the most filling. Good earthy flavor, nice texture, and slightly sweet while maintaining a hearty whole wheat flavor, this slice stacks up well against the competition. It plummets down the list due to inability to fall under nutritionists' guidelines to select bread containing 100 calories or less per slice.

6. Rudi's Organic Honey Sweet Whole Wheat - At 110 calories per slice, 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein, this bread was my loaf of choice during college. It made the best grilled cheese sandwiches, and I loved the sweet and true whole wheat flavor. Unfortunately, the loaves I have encountered in Southern California seem to have missed the mark a little. Often times they are too dry, or have been recently defrosted -- not ideal. When this loaf is ideal, I can't get enough. But inconsistencies make me squirm -- especially when it comes to my daily bread.

7. Oroweat Whole Grain & Flax Seed - 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, but I could care less. Slices are so flimsy I could practically see through them. Avoid at all costs.


Kirby! said...

Very helpful post! I am constantly searching for the perfect whole grain bread that doesn't have like 45 extra unnecessary ingredients like guar gum and corn syrup and crap like that. Thanks for the suggestions.

Diana H. said...

Yes, no guar gum for me either, please! I hate when they list anything that is followed by (for color). Gross!

Alessandra said...

I am absolutely addicted to the fresh-baked french baguettes at Whole Foods. They even come in mini-size so you don't have to buy an entire loaf! It is the PERFECT bread for a prosciutto/basil/mozzarella sandwich. I can't switch back to regular sandwich bread now!