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With or without diabetes, bread loves to taunt you and your waistline. But like mama always says, the key to a happy union is setting high standards. You wouldn’t put your mouth on any old pair of lips, so why put your mouth on any old slice of bread?
Time to set and maintain your bread dating standards. We’ve even included a list of the most diabetes-friendly breads. Let’s find your perfect match!
Bread worthiness depends on the carb content, and not all carbs are created equal.
Simple carbs, aka sugar, are the one-night stands of the food world. They taste great but spike your blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry and, frankly, a little used.
Sodas, pastries, white rice, pies, cookies, cakes, artificial syrups, candies, and white bread are usually loaded with simple carbs.
Tall, dark, and nutritious, complex carbs may not have the same dangerous allure of simple carbs, but what they lack in immediate physical attraction, they more than make up for in substance.
Their rich vitamin and mineral content takes longer to digest and therefore doesn’t spike your blood sugar. It’s almost like they really care.
Complex carbs are made of starches and fiber that are found in natural foods like brown rice, whole grains, oatmeal, peas, beans, lentils, fruits, seeds, nuts, and soybeans.
All carbs (except those from fiber) will eventually break down into sugar during digestion, and should be monitored if you have diabetes.
Many nutritionists recommend deducting grams of fiber from the total grams of carbs, since fiber isn’t digested by the body and doesn’t affect blood sugar.
This is also the system the ketogenic diet follows. So, if a slice of bread has 17 grams of net carbs and 5 grams of fiber, you’d subtract the fiber and end up with 12 carbs per slice.
Chia bread: Udi’s Gluten Free Millet-Chia Bread
Full of nutritional yumminess found in ancient grains (so #cultured), this bread has a total carb count of 24 grams and 5 grams of fiber per slice.
Consumers rate it 4 out of 5 stars and strongly suggest toasting it for the best flavor and texture. It’s an affordable bread and can be found at Target, Walmart, Amazon, and various other retail outlets.
Almond flour bread: Barely Bread Grain Free Sliced Loaf
Definitely our most bougie pick (you can purchase six 11-ounce loaves for $118.91 here), this almond flour bread has an impressive nutritional profile, boasting a mere 6 grams of carbs and 5 grams of fiber (which deducts to just 1 gram of carb, as demonstrated above).
It’s completely grain-free. You can also find it in the freezer section of most Whole Foods locations.
Spelt bread: Berlin Bakery Whole Grain Spelt Bread
Boasting a light, fluffy texture, this bread is made with stone-milled, whole grain spelt flour. One slice has just 16 grams of carbs and 2 grams of fiber. It’s an affordable option at $5.99 for a 19-ounce loaf.
Flaxseed bread: Thin Slim Zero Carb Bread
Another fiber powerhouse, this bread has 7 grams of carbs and 7 grams of fiber, which reduces the effective carb count to zero! It’s in the midrange price at $12.99 online.
Whole grain tortilla: Mission Carb Balance Whole Grain Tortilla
If you need a big fiber boost, try these affordable and widely available whole grain tortillas guaranteed to fill you up. Don’t be scared of the 31 grams of carbs, as they also include 23 grams of fiber.
Organic whole grain bread: Dave’s Killer Bread 21 Whole Grains and Seeds
This is a great whole grain, organic option that’s widely available. It’s meaty and seedy and boasts a carb count of 22 grams and 5 grams of fiber. Online prices between $3 and $5.
Sprouted bread: Ezekiel Sprouted Bread
This unique bread features six sprouted grains and a legume profile based on an ancient bible verse. Now that’s the kind of bread you want to bring home to mom.
This unique combination forms a complete plant based protein, containing all nine essential amino acids. It has 15 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber per slice. You’ll find it online and at local grocery stores, usually in the freezer section.
Pumpernickel bread: Great Low Carb Bread Company
Yummy, tangy pumpernickel bread has just 8 net carbs and 7 grams of fiber. A 16-ounce loaf costs just $7.99.
Flexible, thin, widely available, and with no aftertaste, these corn tortillas have 22 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber per serving. Taco Tuesday anyone? Find it online.
How do you know a bread is diabetes-friendly? It should be:
- low in carbs
- free of added sugars
- high in fiber
- Full of whole grains, nuts, nut flours, and seeds
Remember simple carbs? Breads made with refined carbs (e.g. white flour) spike your blood sugar and aren’t good for anyone — especially peeps with diabetes.
What’s more, they contribute nothing to the relationship because processing strips away the good stuff, like fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
When reading labels, ingredients are listed in order of quantity. So, whatever is listed first makes up the highest percentage of that recipe or formula.
Swipe left on breads that list sweeteners like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, or molasses among the first ingredients.
And watch out for breads that contain raisins or other dried fruit, as these raise the carb and sugar content.
To help you avoid some truly regrettable hookups, stay away from these:
Pillsbury’s Date Quick Bread and Muffin Mix
Loaded with refined flour and sugar, this stuff has 28 grams of carbs, 14 grams of sugar, and just 1 gram of fiber per serving.
With ingredients as cheap as its price, this bread should be benched for good. High fructose corn syrup is third in the ingredient lineup, followed by a bunch of unpronounceable chemical additives. It has 13 grams of carbs, 2 grams of added sugar, and 0 fiber per slice.
Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix
With 28 grams of carbs, less than 1 gram of fiber, and 8 grams of sugar per serving, this popular cornbread mix is bad news for diabetes. Can’t quit cornbread? Try making a healthy homemade version instead.
We love playing matchmaker, but ultimately, setting bread standards is up to you. Here’s a quick refresher to boost your nutritional know-how:
- Serving size: Bread is usually calculated as one slice per serving, so you’ll have to double the nutritional information if you’re noshing on a typical sandwich.
- Calories: This number is comprised of three macronutrients that fuel our bodies — carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Eating too many calories can lead to weight gain. Try a calorie calculator to determine your target number.
- Fat: This can be further broken down into saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats. For the most part fat isn’t as scary as sugar. Except for trans fat; that’s some scary stuff. Trans fats are chemically altered and well known for being unhealthy. On the other hand, polyunsaturated fats like those found in fish, flaxseeds, and walnuts are even known to help reduce cholesterol and heart disease.
- Cholesterol: Cholesterol is only found in animal products like butter and cheese; therefore, most bread is cholesterol-free.
- Sodium (aka salt): Too much sodium is linked to high blood pressure. It’s super easy to overindulge in sodium, especially if you enjoy packaged and processed foods. You’ll want to research a little to determine your target sodium range.
- Carbohydrates: This provides a net count of total carbs per serving, lumping simple, complex, and fiber carbs together.
- Fiber: These are plant based carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar because they aren’t absorbed into the bloodstream like other carbs. The Joslin Diabetes Center suggests filling up on 20 to 35 grams of fiber each day.
- Sugar: After fiber, there’s a section for “total sugar” and a section for “added sugar.” Those with diabetes, or anyone trying to lose weight, should keep sugar intake as low as possible. Be especially wary of added sugars, which are guaranteed to spike your blood sugar.
Too good to be true? Know your buzz words
Some products like to whisper sweet nothings that sound healthier than they are. Watch out for these:
- Fiber enriched: Breads labeled fiber enriched still carry a lot of carbs, so you’ll want to enjoy these in moderation.
- All-natural: Like using a filter on your profile piece, this label is misleading. The FDA doesn’t regulate the use of this term, and it can refer to food containing artificial flavors, synthetic substances, and even added color.
- Multigrain: Many people assume this refers to whole grains, but it simply means the product includes multiple grains — not necessarily whole grains.
- Sugar-free: This only means the product doesn’t contain cane sugar. It could contain other natural sweeteners like honey, agave, or artificial sweeteners that can still spike your blood sugar.
- Grain-free vs. gluten-free. Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grains. Gluten-free products often contain rice flour and sugar — both of which will take your blood sugar to spike town. The term “grain-free” denotes a product with zero grains which should, by default, also be gluten-free. These tend to be lower in carbs and are better for blood sugar control.
If you have prediabetes or diabetes, or if you just want to eat healthier, creating a tailored meal plan is a great first step toward reaching your health goals.
Meal plans aren’t one-size-fits-all. Do your own research and talk to a trusted doctor or dietician to create the best meal plan for you.
Some basic guidelines when creating a meal plan include:
- Choosing healthy fats in moderation.
- Including omega-3s (found in fish oil, flax seeds, soybeans, and walnuts).
- Adding flavor through herbs and spices while cutting down on salt, sugar, and trans fat.
- Cooking at home and eating out less. Restaurant meals are loaded with extra sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats.
- Substitute sugar with a diabetes-safe option such as plant based stevia.
Carb counting method
This method involves exactly what it sounds like. Calculate a daily carb count that works for you and stick to it each day. Your ideal carb count will depend on various factors like age, weight, and activity level.
If you’re taking insulin, carb counting is a little more complicated because you need to match carbs consumed to your insulin dose.
If you’re on insulin and want to try the carb counting method, it’s recommended that you track your normal food intake and blood sugar levels for a few days. Then share this information with your diabetes care team so they can help you tailor your approach.
The plate method
If you’re a visual learner and not big on numbers, the plate method may be right for you. It’s a great option for those with prediabetes and anyone wanting to eat healthier.
It’s not a great option if you’re on insulin, so be sure to consult with your diabetes care team before trying this method.
This method is all about portion control. Start by filling half your plate with non-starchy veggies such as broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, asparagus, or greens. A quarter of the plate goes to starchy grains and veggies, and the last portion goes to lean proteins.
Healthy fats aren’t included in this meal plan, but you can include them as part of the preparation process or as a dressing for the other foods.
For the detail oriented person, the diabetic exchange list method may be just right. Some people find the system too rigid, as it requires precise measurements and ratios. Others appreciate how exacting it can be.
The premise of this system is simple; foods with similar nutritional profiles are organized into groups which can be substituted or swapped out.
For example, a snack could be either two slices of bread, or an apple with a glass of milk. To use this method you’ll want to keep the diabetic exchange list handy, as well as some measuring cups, spoons, and a kitchen scale.
All of these plans should be discussed and crafted with the help of your diabetic care team.
Whether or not you have diabetes, indulging in the wrong kinds of carbs is a bad habit that will not lead to happily ever after. Make healthier bread choices by choosing a bread that is:
- low in carbs
- free of added sugars
- high in fiber
- rich in whole grains, nuts, nut flours, or seeds
Diabetes nutrition doesn’t need to be a drag. Yummy, healthy food exists. You just need to do a little speed dating to find what works for you.