What's the Difference Between Whole Wheat, Whole Grain, and Multigrain Bread?
While bread is synonymous with quick and easy meals (toast, PB&J, and grilled cheese, to name a few), the bread aisle in the grocery store isn't nearly as straightforward. The options go far beyond wheat vs. white—and if you're hoping to make a healthier choice, there's a lot to learn. With the help of Katie Cavuto, MS, RD, we've decoded every type of slice, as well as what to look for in labels and how to pick the freshest loaf.
What's the Healthiest Choice?
Any bread made with 100 percent whole grains, whether it is whole wheat or whole grain, is the most nutritious option. But be careful: just because a label says "whole grain" doesn't guarantee that the product contains exclusively whole grains, Cavuto says. The best way to learn about your loaf is to look at the stamps on the front of the packaging. If it bears the 100% Stamp, all of its grain ingredients are whole. These loafs also contain at least 16 grams (one full serving) of whole grain per serving, according to the Whole Grain Council. If it bears the Basic Stamp, it contains at least 8 grams (a half serving) of whole grains per serving, but may also contain some refined grain.
If you're going to eat the loaf quickly, your best choice is a bakery-fresh loaf of whole grain bread, Cavuto says. But you can still make a healthy choice among packaged breads. In addition to being 100 percent whole grain, "healthy bread should contain at least 3 grams of fiber, less than 200 milligrams of sodium, and less than 2 grams of sugar per slice," Cavuto says (she prefers this whole grain Arnold loaf). "Focus your intentions on nutrient density and ingredient quality instead of calories alone. Avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives whenever possible."
How Long Will a Loaf of Bread Keep?
While bakery loafs last for two to three days (a few more if toasted), packaged breads stay fresh for a week or two (toss at any signs of mold), and can be frozen for up to three months. The best method to determine freshness is to smell for any off-odors and check for signs of aging. "Most people agree that packaged bread will still be fresh about one week past the sell-by date, though it depends on the brand and the presence or lack of preservatives."
Now that you you're a pro at navigating the bread aisle, it's time to build the best sandwich, ever.