In our last post in the “Grocery Shopping for Your Health” series, we focused on breakfast cereals, and we’ve covered a good portion of the store. But, we still have a little more to go. And, today, we’re wandering into the breads aisle and bakery area.
We can usually select breads from two separate areas in the store: an aisle dedicated to breads, rolls and more made, packaged and delivered by vendors, and an in-store bakery. No matter which area you select your bread from, make an effort to choose “whole grain” and “whole wheat” bread, which are healthier options.
Don’t be fooled, though. Just because a bread is labeled as “wheat” doesn’t mean it contains whole wheat or grain. Nearly all bread is made with wheat. You might also think that stone ground, cracked wheat, multigrain or even 100 percent wheat is considered whole grain, but that’s not necessarily true. And to surprise you still further, store-bought rye and pumpernickel breads are made mostly with refined white flour. So, no whole grain there, either.
If you are searching for a whole-grain bread, your search should start with a reading of the ingredient list. To ensure you’re getting the best product, whole grains should be among the first ingredients on the list, since federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) codes require such lists to note ingredients in order of amount.
Let’s take a step back, and take a quick look at what makes a “whole-grain bread.” Per FDA labeling guidelines, whole-grain bread must contain the bran, endosperm, and germ portion of a grain, and in natural proportions.
Put another way, a whole grain is the entire edible part of the grain. Oats, corn, wheat and rice are just some whole grains.
Each part of the whole grain plays an important role in supplying different nutrients. The bran, which is the outer layer of the grain, provides antioxidants, B vitamins and dietary fiber. The endosperm is the inner layer beneath the bran, and makes up the bulk of the grain. It has most of the proteins and carbohydrates. Finally, the germ lies at the core of the grain, within the endosperm, and has B vitamins, vitamin E, some trace minerals and essential fats.
Whole grains have more fiber than refined flours. But, not everyone takes to the taste and/or texture of whole grain bread. If it’s not something you want in your diet, then try to select breads that are “enriched.” The flour used for these breads have the B vitamins and iron added back in, thought it leaves out the fiber.
And, if you love your bakery breads, try to choose breads with less fat. These could include Italian and French breads, bagels, English muffins, rye bread and pumpernickel, among many. Again, read the nutrition label to make your best choice.
A word of caution about the bakery section. This area smells wonderful, and has eye-catching displays for the breads, cakes, cookies and sweet treats. It’s an area where shoppers easily can load up a cart on impulse and desire, without thinking twice about it.
Instead, you should approach this area with moderation in mind.
Bakery items can contain more fat and added sugars, which means more calories. Many item sizes have expanded over the years, as well, to meet consumer demand. And, of course, many of us like to munch on a baked cake or torte, to celebrate a special event or simply to savor the flavor. Keep these thoughts in mind when shopping the baked goods, and remember to be sensible about your serving size.
Here is a tip I have always followed with my children and their celebrations. If we have cake left over after an event, I save one slice for the guest of honor to enjoy the next day. Then, I give away as much cake as I can to family and friends. If we still have cake left over, I’ll freeze it for a later date (it’s a good idea to date the package, and make sure to thaw it in the refrigerator before eating).
NEXT: We step outside the grocery store to take a peek inside our pantry.