6 Tips to make bread-based meals healthier

Making bread healthy again

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Bread-based meals are the subject of much debate these days. The publicity of the low-carb diet gives us all a little pause when we see a recipe with an extra helping of everyone’s favorite slice-able. The reality, though, is that grains, including bread, are an important part of a well-balanced diet. If you, like many people, can’t bear to go carb-less, follow these six tips to keep your comfort-food-friendly favorites on the menu.

Go on whole-wheat watch

Look for breads that have whole-wheat flour or unbleached enriched wheat flour as the first ingredient instead of enriched bleached flour. Enriched bleached (white) flour is softer because manufacturers have removed the courser bits (which are harder to digest and therefore more calorically efficient), then continued to process it, then bleached it so it's a more pleasing color when combined with other ingredients (in a cake, for example).

Don't feel bad if you still want to use regular white flour in your cakes and cookies. Those should be eaten in moderation, anyway. If you're an experienced home pastry chef (or just a daring one), try experimenting with wheat flour in those, too.

Keep it fresh

If you're hankerin' for some serious carbs, your body may actually need them (especially if carb-cravings are unusual for you). That usually happens when you're overexerting yourself. If you're craving carbs — because you're getting more exercise, for example — make sure you also include plenty of fresh veggies, fruits and lean proteins in your diet.

Keep it real

If you're extra-adventurous, try making your own bread. Depending on the availability of fresh, unprocessed grains in your area, it may not necessarily be cheaper (and it certainly won't be as easy). Making your own bread from start to finish, however, guarantees you know exactly what's in your food and is extremely rewarding. (After all, that's the way your great-great grandmother did it!) Just make sure you keep your unprocessed grains in an airtight container in a cool, dry pantry.

Mix it up

Wheat isn't the only game in town. Look for fun and delicious alternatives to your traditional breads with ingredients such as:

  • Rye flour
  • Oat flour
  • Almond meal
  • Almond flour
  • Millet flour
  • Quinoa flour
  • Brown rice flour

Cut it in half

Some recipes may not need as much bread as they call for, especially if you follow the first tip and go with a heartier bread. Sandwiches, for example, usually call for two slices. You may need a knife and fork to make it work, but next time you do lunch, choose a healthier bread and transform that handheld sammy into an open-face feast.

Start with a salad

If your bread-based meal is high in fat, that doesn't mean you can't have it. Just have a smaller portion and start with a large salad with light dressing. Still hungry? Have some more salad.

More healthy eating tips

Nutrition labels 101: Keeping kids healthy
Healthy eating habits for busy families
5 Simple tips for healthy eating on the go

Heather Barnett is a freelance writer and foodie who's work has been featured in blogs, websites, magazines, and TV and radio ads. She spends her free time relaxing with her soulmate, Keith; her dog, Mosby "The Fly Slayer;" and Felix the Fish. You can follow her on Twitter @HireHeather.