Will eating bread make me gain weight?
This is a question I hear often. My clients tell me they are specifically avoiding bread to help them lose weight. And it’s not just me who is hearing this; a recent survey by Bakers Delight found that:
- One in five Australian women feel guilty when eating bread
- 40% of Australian women avoid bread when they’re trying to lose weight
But will skipping your lunchtime focaccia and passing up the bread basket really help with weight loss?
In short, no. Carbohydrate foods such as bread are generally low in calories. In fact:
- 1g of carbohydrate has just 4 calories
Compare that to:
- 1 gram of fat which has 9 calories or
- 1 gram of alcohol which has 7 calories.
In terms of calorie content, carbohydrates (and protein, which also has just 4 calories per gram), are low. However, we know calories alone aren’t an indicator of how healthy food is; the nutrients in food is far more important. So how does the nutrition in bread stack up? Depending on the brand and type, it’s a good source of fibre and whole grains which assists with digestive health. B vitamins help with energy metabolism and it’s low in fat. Bread is also fortified with iodine and folate – both hugely important nutrients for reproductive health. So if bread is low in calories and a source of nutrition, why is it often avoided with those wanting to lose weight? Before you ditch the bread, consider the following:
1. How much bread are you having?
A sandwich for lunch or a couple of slices of toast for breakfast is fine. However, if you find you are munching on several slices of bread in the morning, a roll for morning tea and a few sandwiches for lunch, then consider reducing the amount your eating. A slice of bread is one serve of grain foods, we need 4-6 serves a day to meet our nutrient requirements. Any more than this and weight gain could be the outcome.
2. What’s on the bread?
Bread and bread products are often used as a vehicle for high-fat, high-calories toppings (think cheese on toast, ham pizza, buttery garlic bread and so on). Perhaps it’s the toppings that need to go instead of the bread? Find healthier toppings to replace butter, cheese, peanut butter, Nutella or mayonnaise. Maybe some hummus, low-fat ricotta, almond butter or avocado instead?
3. What type of bread are you having?
Are you eating white bread or whole grain? White bread is not filling – I can easily eat about 5 slices of white bread before I stop being hungry. I’m sure you have heard about the benefits of whole grain, high-fibre bread, and with good reason. When it comes to weight loss, these types are your friends.
Wholegrain bread is higher in fibre, helping to keep you full. It’s harder to overeat high fibre foods so you will end up eating less of it. Also, chewing on foods that contain grains and more ‘bits’ takes longer, resulting in you eating slower. Eating slowly has been shown to help in weight loss, as your brain has a chance to tell your stomach when you are full.
Not sure what brand or type of bread to buy? A good rule of thumb is to look for the grainiest, darkest bread possible. These will be chock-full of grains, seeds and fibre. Or check out my guide to wraps here.
To wrap it up
So no, bread and bread products on their own won’t lead to weight gain – just make sure you are not having too much, check the toppings, and go for grainy bread where possible.