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BREADS AND BAKERY PRODUCTS
How Do They Affect Your Weight Loss Program?

Bakery Products
Breads:

Let's briefly review the calorie content of a few commonly used bread products:

  • A slice of bread brings in 60-90 calories, dependent on the size and thickness of the slice. Note: A good idea in a weight control program is to purchase pre-sliced bread, and limit consumption to 1-2 slices per meal. That should bring in up to 540 calories a day. (If you slice your own bread, make sure the slices are reasonably thin.)
  • An average dinner roll brings in 160-200 calories (about double the calorie amount in a slice of bread)
  • An English Muffin ('Thomas' brand) brings in 120 calories.
  • Prepackaged Bagels ('Thomas' brand), bring in about 300 calories per bagel (150 calories per 1/2 bagel).
  • Toasted bread products are generally similar in calorie count to the original products they were derived from.

Whole grain bread products, which bring in a higher amount of fiber, are definitely advantageous over enriched (or refined) bread products. Fiber is not digestible, and as such doesn't bring any calories into the body. Moreover, it promotes regularity and overall colon health.

The calorie count of whole grain bread products is usually similar to that of the corresponding refined bread products. However, their glycemic index is lower, making them a preferred item in a weight control diet.

How do you know if a bread product is whole grain?
Look for the word 'whole', either in the product name, or in the ingredient list. If the first ingredient listed has the word 'whole' in it (e.g., 'whole wheat flour'), you can be fairly certain this is a whole grain bread.
A word of warning: Many breads with glorious names (such as 'multigrain, 7 grain, 9 grain, unbleached wheat, harvest wheat, hearty wheat, golden grain', etc) do not necessarily contain a significant amount of whole grain. The only real indicator you can rely on is the term 'whole' or 'whole grain' in the name of the bread, or as the first ingredient in the ingredient list.

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In my grocery store, the only pure whole grain product that I found was Whole Wheat Bread. Several kinds were available, depending on how finely ground the wheat grains or the flour in the composition of the bread. As a general rule, the coarser the grind, the better for weight control, since this prolongs the digestion time and ensures lower blood glucose levels. Furthermore, if you find under ingredients "coarsely ground whole wheat", that is preferable to "coarsely ground whole wheat flour" (since it implies more whole grain is retained in the bread).


Scouring the different bread varieties, I came across the highly confusing label 'Whole Grain White Bread' (from Wonder Foods). This, of course, is a sales trick. If you check out the ingredient list, you will notice 'enriched flour' as the number 1 ingredient, followed by 'whole wheat flour' further down the list. In other words, this bread contains mainly enriched flour, and a lower (undisclosed) amount of whole wheat flour. It is not a premium source of whole grain. Of course, you may get your daily quota of whole grain from it, but only by eating a higher amount of bread, which is undesirable in a weight loss program.


The Composition of Bread Products:
Breads contain a significant amount of starches, and a comparatively low amount of sugars. The protein and fat content of breads is naturally low.
Of course, any added shortenings on your bread will increase the number of calories you ingest. However, there are many low fat spreads, low fat butter substitutes, and sugar-free fruit jams that you can use, with only a small increase in calorie intake. A typical serving (1-2 tablespoons) of such shortenings should bring no more than 30-40 calories. (Always check nutrition labels to make sure of this fact.)


Bakery Products
Prepackaged Sweet Pastries:

The average grocery store offers a large variety of prepackaged sweet pastries, such as Twinkies, Zingers, Honey Buns, etc. Usually, these are located in the immediate vicinity of the Bread Aisle - just so they catch the eye of the unsuspecting shopper. To make a long story short, here's my advice: If you happen to be looking that way, look away! Most of these bakery products are loaded with calories and bad carbs. Moreover, many contain added cream, chocolate, frosting, etc. In a weight control program, these items are simply atrocious (for lack of a better word).
Such pastry products not only contain large amounts of sugars and/or saturated fats, but many of them also contain trans fats (which are highly detrimental to health and weight control). Moreover, you can be certain that none of these pastries are made with whole grain. For all these reasons, these pastries have a high glycemic index and are more than likely to do damage to your weight. Although the calorie count per serving is usually advertised as being below 300, please note that these items are fairly addictive, so the likelihood of eating more than one serving is pretty high.

We will now review a few of the most common brands of prepackaged pastries:

  • 'Hostess' offers Twinkies, Cupcakes, Mini Muffins, Zingers, Donettes (bite-size donuts), etc. The calorie count for most of these bakery products is between 150 and 270 per serving, with sugars between 15 and 27 grams, and saturated fats 2.5-3 grams. All of these items indicate 'trans fats zero' on their nutrition label, however under 'ingredients' you can see 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and/or animal shortenings'. (The term 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oils' is highly suspicious for trans fats, since this is the exact process by which trans fats are derived. The term 'animal shortenings' most likely refers to saturated animal fats such as lard.) All 'Hostess' products I have come across, with the exception of Mini Muffins, display this worrisome terminology in their ingredient list.
  • 'Little Debbie' is a brand which can be even more detrimental than the above to your weight loss efforts: It features products such as Honey Buns, Nutty Bars, and Swiss Rolls - which bring about 220 to 310 calories per serving, along with an unacceptably high content of saturated fats (6-7 grams per serving) and sugars oftentimes above 20 grams per serving. Some of these products also contain trans fats.
  • 'TastyKake', another brand I found in my grocery store, carries many items which are relatively high in trans fat content. Needless to say, such bakery products are best avoided. A particular product from 'TastyKake' called 'Sensables' caught my eye, due to the 'sugar-free' advertisement on the package. This pastry product is promoted as containing 100 calories, 1.5 grams saturated fats, 0 trans fat, 0 sugars and 4 grams fiber – which in itself seems like a great product. Reading the ingredient list, however, I again discovered the worrisome notation 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oils', which left me wondering as to the product's real content of trans fats.

Let's now turn our attention to the real Bakery Department.


Bakery Products
Bakery Department:

Let me start our by saying that most foods in this area are 'unacceptable' in a weight loss program, and precarious even in a weight maintenance program (i.e., to be used with caution).

You may be aware of the fact that bakery cakes and pies usually don't provide calorie facts on their nutrition label. As such, it's impossible to assess the number of calories you take in.
As a rule of thumb, here's what to expect: Any cake or pie in the bakery department will bring in a high amount of sugars, and very likely a high amount of saturated fats. As you probably know, these are the ingredients most detrimental to a weight control program. Therefore, such bakery products should be consumed infrequently and in moderation, if at all.
Quick parenthesis: If you are an expert at calorie counting, you may be able to gauge your food intake such as to accommodate cakes and pies, without exceeding your daily calorie allowance. However, be aware of the fact that these foods (of high glycemic index), are bound to cause significant swings in your blood sugar level, resulting in more hunger at short intervals after eating. This predisposes you to overeating, and makes it rather difficult to stay within your daily calorie allowance. And, eating foods of high glycemic index will cause you to synthesize and store more fat in your body than eating the same amount of calories from foods of low glycemic index.

The above being said, if you absolutely have to frequent the bakery department of your grocery store, follow these rules to minimize damage:

  • Avoid Cheese Cakes - they bring in a huge number of calories (usually more than 500 calories per serving, sometimes up to 1,000), with loads of saturated fats and sugars.
  • Avoid cakes and pies with frosting, icing, and butter cream. A better choice would be fruit pie, pumpkin pie, or sweet potato pie, although these may contain hefty amounts of sugars as well. Such pies bring in anywhere between 250 and 350 calories per slice (1/8 of the pie.)
  • Avoid bakery donuts, especially those with various icings or frostings on top - they bring in plenty of unnecessary calories. (A plain glazed bakery donut contains about 320 calories, 9 grams of saturated fats and 22 grams of sugars, which definitely doesn't make for a healthy snack. The damage increases with the number of items added onto the donut. On the other hand, however, a plain glazed Krispy Cream Donut contains only 200 calories, 3 gram of saturated fat and 10 grams of sugars, which may be a borderline acceptable snack.)
  • Avoid large bakery bagels, especially those with added raisins, chocolate chips, blueberries, cinnamon sugar, etc. A bagel of this type brings in about 400 calories, and at least 15 grams of sugars. (An acceptable choice would be 1/2 plain bagel, preferably whole grain, with a low calorie spread.)
  • Avoid large bakery cookies, plain or with added chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, etc - they bring in more than 200 calories per cookie, and are likely to contain trans fats.
  • Avoid cupcakes with frosting or icing on top - they are loaded with sugars, saturated fats, and quite likely trans fats.
  • Be cautious about croissants: One medium croissant brings in about 230 calories and 6.2 grams of saturated fat; one large croissant about 275 calories and 7.8 grams of saturated fat.

Note: All calorie counts are approximate.


Bakery Products
Caveat:

A final word about a major danger of the Bakery Department - Trans Fats:
Trans fats are derived via partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. They have a longer shelf life than natural fats, and are therefore advantageous for the food industry. Unfortunately, however, trans fats are also highly detrimental to health, and have been incriminated in the massive increase in cardiovascular disease in recent years. Furthermore, trans fats are believed to play a role in the development of certain types of cancer.
So how does that relate to our Bakery Department?
Well, here's how: Most bakery products don't have a nutrition label indicating their calorie count and fat content, so the word 'trans fats' is nowhere to be seen. However, if you take the time to look under 'Ingredients', you will find most of these products contain 'partially hydrogenated vegetable oils', which is equivalent to trans fats.

Reading the ingredient list of each product in the bakery section, I realized (with somewhat of a shock) that even the fruit pies in my grocery store contained partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, i.e. trans fats. This was also true of cakes, cupcakes, and bakery cookies. I must admit this discovery rattled me, although logically it shouldn't have been a surprise: Of course the manufacturers will want to include trans fats in their bakery products, to increase their shelf life (since they are not being refrigerated or otherwise preserved).
For the same reason, you can be fairly certain that bakery products are not made with whole grain (since whole grain products have a shorter shelf life than refined /enriched products). As such, most bakery products do not contain any significant amount of fiber, and the starches in their composition are easily digestible, which increases their glycemic index.

 


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