October 4, 2016How to Handle Sandwich Bread for Weight & Carb Control

If you are a sandwich lover, then it’s time to take a look at your choice of bread. You do not have to cut out bread if you are trying to lose weight or control carbs for diabetes but you do need to choose wisely to avoid excess calories, carbs, and sodium. Ideally, choose whole grain bread given that it is a good source of fiber and minerals. Whole grain bread, in moderation, is also more heart- and diabetes- friendly compared to white bread and other refined flour breads.

Tip: eating too much bread, even organic whole grain bread, can provide excess calories, carbs, and sodium. Tracking helps you keep tabs on portion size and stay within budget.

Commercial Bread

So many brands of commercial breads are large and heavy – each slice is about 45 grams or so, resulting in about 120 kcal/slice and about 22 grams of total carbs. When you make a sandwich out of this bread, you end up with 240 kcal and 44 grams carbs (3 carb choices). That’s a pretty hefty caloric cost – and that doesn’t include condiments or protein. Try limiting your sandwich bread to 2 oz (60 grams) total weight. That will limit calories to about 160 kcal and carbs to about 30 grams. Here are some options for lowering the calories and carbs if you buy commercial bread.

Thin Sliced
Try the brand’s thin-sliced version if they have one. For example, look at the difference between the regular size and thin sliced version of the same type of bread made by Dave’s Killer Bread®

Bread Type 1 slice Calories Total Carbs Sodium
Good Seed Thin Sliced 28 g 70 13 g 115 mg
Good Seed 45 g 140 25 g 180 mg

Double-fiber versions of bread usually have a lower caloric and carb content than their regular versions, but if the bread is heavy, the totals might still be high. So always check the Nutrition Facts (food label). If you plan to make a sandwich with 2 slices of bread, then aim for a limit of 80 kcal/slice, and total carbs 15 grams/slice.

Specialty Bread Products

Thin Buns
For maximum lowering of calories and carbs while still getting two sides to your sandwich, try using thin buns instead of bread. Thin buns are usually close to about 110 kcal and only 20 g total carbs for the entire sandwich (while still providing about 5 grams fiber). These products make diabetes meal planning so much easier for sandwich lovers! There are many brands available in the U.S. – e.g. Sara Lee® Thin Style Buns, Orowheat® Sandwich Thins. There are also store brand equivalents in many of the big chain grocery stores for the budget conscious.

Flatbreads & Pita Breads
Not all flatbread brands are low in calories and cabs – you have to be a careful label reader to find those. Here are two popular brands that are available in the U.S. that fit the bill for lowering both: Flat Out Flatbreads® and Toufayan® Smart Pockets, Smart Bagels, Low Carb Pita, and Lavash Plus.

To get a tortilla large enough to wrap sandwich fillings yet stay at or below 160 kcal and 30 grams of total carbs, you pretty much have to use low carb tortillas. The good news is that there are many brands that offer low carb versions in large grocery store chains- e.g. La Tortilla Factory® and Mission®.

Fresh Baked Bread & Artisan Breads

If you make your own bread or buy fresh bread, then I strongly suggest that you buy a digital kitchen scale if you are trying to lose weight or control carbs for diabetes. I was shocked when I first started to weigh slices of fresh bread. One slice from the middle of a beautiful boule could easily weigh 60 grams. So my glorious sandwich made from fresh bread was starting at a whopping 320 kcal and 60 grams of total carbs – without counting the filling or condiments!

Although I won’t give up fresh bread, I will portion control it. Instead of a regular sandwich, I make an open-faced sandwich (1 slice bread) and limit the slice weight to 45 grams. And yes, I usually eat this type of sandwich with a fork and knife, which also has the benefit of slowing down my rate of eating.

There are certain types of breads that due to their larger size and weight, pack a really big calories and carb punch for a sandwich. I find it easier to simply avoid these options:

  • Bagels (regular New York style)
  • Panini bread
  • Pretzel buns

Good luck with your bread adventures! And just remember, generally, the heavier the bread weight, the higher the calories and carbs.

Katherine Isacks, MPS, RD, CDE
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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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