Anytime someone says to me “bread is bad”, I’ll be the first to set them straight (with a smile of course :) ). Bread is great! I love bread and eat it often! The most nutritious bread to choose is whole grain bread. Whole grain means that all 3 parts of the original grain are intact (i.e. the grain underwent little to no processing so the nutrition it started with has stayed there).
Whole grain bread contains a wide range of nutrients that are essential for maintaining good health:
- Starch (the main type of carbohydrate in nature that is the preferred energy source for your body just like gas in for your car)
- Fibre (a type of carb that most of us fall short on and is oh-so-needed to help in many ways including the bathroom department..lol!)
- Vitamins and minerals (such as vitamin E, B-vitamins, iron)
Not to mention, whole grains can help to balance blood sugar and keep you feeling full for longer. So, what's not to love?! However, despite the awesomeness of bread, you can have too much of a good thing. Let's first discuss how this might happen...
If you're trying to watch your weight, you may also be watching calories and carbs (which these days tends to be the first macronutrient people look to cut believing "carbs" to be the root of all food evil). Sometimes, finding what we feel is the right balance actually leads to restriction of carb-containing foods, such as breads, wraps, tortillas, pitas, etc.. Restriction, however, almost ALWAYS backfires! 1
When we feel restricted about the foods we're eating, the brain craves what it can't have. Eventually, we are likely to give in to our carb-cravings and embark on carb-overload! That's right - when we deprive ourselves, all reason goes aside and before you know it, you may have eaten an entire loaf of bread, bag of chips, or box of cookies. Has this ever happened to you? These not-so-great carb choices then end up replacing other healthy, carb-based (and naturally lower calorie foods) such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. If you’re also dealing with high blood pressure, you may be unknowingly adding more sodium to your diet than you realize when carb-overload hits because salt is added as a preservative to most bread products.
So, while choosing bread products is a perfectly suitable option due to its affordability, accessibility and convenience during a busy week, just be sure to choose the right types, right amounts, and in the right balance. Too much bread, just like any other food, may contribute to weight gain when eaten in excess (trust me, a slice or two of yummy warm bread spread with butter when out at a nice restaurant is by no means going to derail your efforts to live a healthy lifestyle. In fact, saying "no thanks", when you really want a slice of bread, and thinking of the bread as 'bad' would actually counter your healthy efforts and potentially lead to an unhealthy relationship with food). Like any other habit you’re looking to change for the better, it’s all about finding simple, realistic, and sustainable options that’ll have you craving healthy in no time.
If you're looking to find "balance in the bread", so-to-speak, check out these tasty bread swaps below. Remember, it’s not about eliminating bread (life just wouldn’t be the same!), it’s about replacing some bread options with more veggies to cut calories overall while boosting fibre, vitamins, minerals, and the fullness factor at your next meal. If you’re not sure how many servings of bread is right for you or how many veggies exactly to shoot for, book an appointment to speak with one of our expert registered dietitians.
Restriction almost ALWAYS backfires!
Learn how to find the balance in eating a variety of foods -- bread included!
1 – Cauliflower Rice
FIND – your local grocery store may now offer ready-made bags of finely chopped cauliflower in the produce section. If not, pulse cauliflower in food processor or blender for 2-3 minutes until it looks like rice. Or chop very finely by hand with knife until the same effect is reached.
MAKE - Sauté cauliflower pieces in olive or canola oil, stirring often. It only takes 3-4 minutes to fully cook through on medium heat.
FLAVOUR – Use your favourite herbs and spices such as garlic powder, Mrs. Dash, and salt or pepper.
2 – Zucchini Noodles (aka Zoodles)
(Or any other vegetable you wish – carrots, beets, sweet potato...)
FIND - buy pre-spiralized veggies in the produce section at your local grocer or spiralize at home using a spiralizer. If doing at home, quickly pat dry with paper towel to remove excess moisture.
MAKE - Toss with olive or canola oil on medium-low heat for 3-5 minutes until desired texture is reached. Can be eaten raw or cooked as base to pasta-style dishes, stir fry, or in salad.
FLAVOUR - The sky is the limit when it comes to seasoning a tasty spiralized-veggie dish! Zoodles and sweet potato noodles pair well with canned or homemade tomato-based pasta sauce, or simply tossed in olive oil, parmesan and garlic. Spiralized carrots and beets are a great addition to practically any salad, stuffed in a pita or wrap or added to stir fries.
3 – Lettuce Wraps or Burgers
FIND - Replace wheat or corn tortillas with whole Romaine lettuce leaves or Green Leafy lettuce (your local grocery may offer ready-washed selections in the produce section).
MAKE - Placing filling of choice in thoroughly cleaned and dry lettuce leaves. Boston lettuce makes excellent cups to fill with toppings OR to replace burger buns.
FLAVOUR – Try this crave-worthy recipe lower-carb turkey burger (with a super easy tzatziki sauce, to boot)!
4 – Sweet Potato Toast
FIND – Nothing could be easier than finding sweet potatoes in the produce section of your local grocery store. They are brimming with beta-carotene, an antioxidant that converts into vitamin A and helps with healthy eyesight.
MAKE – Cut both ends off a sweet potato and slice into 1/4-inch thick slices. Can be cooked by toasting on high in the toaster (twice) or in the oven. To bake, place on a wire rack on baking sheet in 350˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, flipping them over half way through.
FLAVOUR - Great with both sweet and savory toppings! Eg. peanut butter + banana slices OR almond butter + strawberry slices OR mashed avocado + poached egg OR mashed avocado + smoked salmon.
5 – Brown Rice Cakes
FIND – Look for plain unsalted brown rice cakes in the health food/natural value section of your local grocery store.
MAKE – Sub out your usual sandwich for a rice cake and you’ll save calories (compared to most bread brands, you'll be saving 50 calories 2) while still getting the full satisfaction factor. You can top your rice cake with anything imaginable to create a great snack or balanced lunch. Aim to include a protein source as a topping so you’ll feel full for longer (e.g. nut butter, hummus, egg, meat)
FLAVOUR – The ideas are endless! Eg. Peanut butter + banana slices OR almond butter + strawberry slices OR hummus + cucumber slices OR ¼ mashed avocado + 1 sliced hard-boiled egg + seasoning of choice (paprika, chili flakes, etc.)
Looking for more food-spiration? Try these Caprese Rice cakes:
- 2 brown rice cakes
- 1 sliced tomato
- 1 large boconccini (fresh mozzarella – a lower in fat cheese option)
- 2-4 fresh basil leaves
- Lightly drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
Check out more smart snackin’ rice cake ideas here.
6 – Use Broghies Popped Wheat or Corn as Chips
FIND – Look in the bakery section of your local grocery store to find these hidden gems.
MAKE – Eat as is or break into pieces to create ‘chips’. Compared to a 230 calorie serving of plain potato chips (1 small snack-size bag), one broghie (split into 6 pieces or ‘chips’) has only 20 calories 3.
FLAVOUR - Dip in salsa, your favourite nut butter, hummus, guacamole, or cream cheese. You can also use them as a base to create a mini pizza! Add your favourite ingredients (tomato sauce, shredded mozzarella, sliced peppers and mushrooms) and broil in toaster oven until cheese melts.
7 - Rice Wraps
FIND – The essential for this lower carb, gluten-free creation are rice paper wraps. Most grocery stores carry them. Look in the international food section or sushi stand.
MAKE – Pull out whatever left over veggies and herbs you can find in your fridge (carrots, peppers, cucumber, cilantro, avocado) and cut into thin slices. You need to soften the rice wraps so simply add them to water and they will be ready for wrapping your fresh ingredients in just a few minutes.
FLAVOUR – A store bought peanut sauce will do the trick. If that’s not your preference, try a simple concoction of low-sodium soy sauce, canola or sesame oil, fresh lemon juice, and lots of freshly grated ginger.
WHAT'S THE BOTTOM LINE?
Bread certainly has it's place as part of an overall, healthy and balanced diet. However, too much of any good thing may make it hard to lose the weight you'd like to. As you can see, the options are endless when it comes to finding tasty ways to cut down on carbs and increase your veggies (while still enjoying your bread in moderation, of course). And speaking of tasty, click over here to discover 10 ten ways to make veggies taste delicious!
A big shout out to Maude Morin, RD, for pulling together the recipes featured in this blog post. As a new dietitian with catering experience, Maude is full of culinary creations that prove good-for-you foods taste as good as they are for you.
Don't forget to join our Craving Healthy Habits online community for more crave-worthy recipes. Besides being a place to share and reflect about your healthy lifestyle journey, we also host contests and challenges to keep you motivated and having fun. We’d love to have you!
1. Stok, F. M., de Vet, E., de Wit, J.B.F, Renner, B., de Ritter, D.T.D. (2015). Communicating eating-related rules. Suggestions are more effective than restrictions. Appetite, Vol 86, Pp. 45-53. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S019566631400453X
2. Health Canada (2018). Canadian Nutrient File. Whole wheat bread. https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do
3. Health Canada (2018). Canadian Nutrient File. Plain salted potato chips, 1 small bag. https://food-nutrition.canada.ca/cnf-fce/report-rapport.do