Low-carb. Cauliflower. Paleo. Keto. Whole wheat breads are facing a host of new competitors.

Just don’t lose sight of the basics: Whole grains are better than refined flour. (Of course, no bread measures up to intact whole grains like whole wheat berries or bulgur. Whole-grain breads that mix intact or cracked grains into their flour come closest.)

Here are 4 tips on what to look for. Keep scrolling for what’s new…and what’s tricky.

Click here for our full chart of Best Bites and Honorable Mentions.

1. Get 100% whole grain.

If the label says “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain,” you’re there.

Otherwise, check the ingredient list for “whole wheat” or other “whole” grains. Don’t be fooled by “enriched” or “wheat” or “unbleached wheat” flour. They’re all refined (aka white). Sprouted grains are typically whole.

Our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions are made with grains that are all—or nearly all—whole. We disqualified breads with white flour unless it was far down the ingredient list (near yeast, gluten, or salt), a sign that there’s little there. We treated fiber-poor starches like tapioca and arrowroot—they’re often added to gluten-free breads—like white flour.

2. Check the serving.

A serving of most breads is one slice. But some thinner or smaller loaves list two slices (like Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Thin Sliced or Silver Hills Sprouted Power Little Big Bread) or even three slices (like Pepperidge Farm Very Thin). The numbers in our chart are for one slice.

3. Skirt the salt.

Bread doesn’t taste salty, but two slices can easily rack up 350 to 400 milligrams of sodium before you add mustard, mayo, cheese, turkey, etc.

Our Best Bites have no more than 120 mg of sodium per slice. Honorable Mentions can have up to 150 mg.

Watching every milligram? Alvarado St. Bakery, Food for Life, and Angelic Bakehouse make no-salt-added breads. In a sandwich, you might not notice their blander taste.

Food for Life Organic Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Grain (75 mg of sodium per slice) and Angelic Bakehouse 7-Grain Reduced Sodium (65 mg) manage to cut salt but not flavor. Ditto for small slices like Pepperidge Farm Whole Grain Thin Sliced (around 70 mg) or Silver Hills Sprouted Power Little Big Bread (90 mg).

4. Keep a lid on sugar.

Most of our Best Bites and Honorable Mentions have no more than a few grams of added sugar (if that), so we didn’t set limits. Just keep in mind that larger slices—Dave’s Killer Bread Organic 21 Whole Grains and Seeds, for one—can hit 5 grams of added sugar per slice. That gives a two-slice sandwich enough sugar to approach 20 percent of the Daily Value (50 grams).

Some good bread bets


Ezekiel flourless bread
Got an eye on sodium? Check the freezer case for this good bet.


daves killer bread thin sliced powerseed
Every thin-sliced Dave’s (except the White Bread Done Right) is a Best Bite.


nature's own whole wheat bread
A smallish slice that’s as low in calories as most “thin-sliced” breads.


pepperidge farm whole grain 15 grain bread
A full-size whole-grain slice with less sodium than most.


silver hills sprouted power bread
Small slices, big on whole grains. A Best Bite no-brainer.


Thinner winners

pepperidge Farm whole Grain Thin Sliced Bread

A healthy DASH diet with roughly 2,000 calories piles on the fruits and veggies, so it has room for just four 1 oz. servings of grains a day. (See nutritionaction.com/DASH.)

But many bread slices weigh in at 1½ oz. (42 grams) or more. So that two-slice sandwich eats up three of your four grain servings.

Not with “thin-sliced” breads from Dave’s Killer Bread, Pepperidge Farm, Arnold, Brownberry, or Oroweat.

None top 1 oz. per slice. And most are Best Bites, so you also save on sodium.

Raisin’ the bar


Ezekiel Cinnamon Raisin Bread
The trifecta: yummy, whole grain, no added sugar.


Want to start your day with something sweet?

It’s a pity most raisin breads—like Thomas’ Swirl Cinnamon Raisin and Pepperidge Farm Swirl Raisin Cinnamon—are made of white flour. What about Pepperidge’s 100% Whole Wheat version? It’s got sucralose, which we rate as “avoid” (see chemicalcuisine.org).

Instead, hit the freezer case for 100% whole-grain cinnamon raisin breads from Food for Life (Organic 7 Sprouted Grains or Organic Ezekiel 4:9).

Rye right

mestemacher Whole Rye Bread
Mestemacher does rye right.

“10g whole grains,” boasts Dave’s Killer Bread Organic Righteous Rye. “Not your old school rye bread.”

And not 100% whole grain, either. Dave’s rye mixes in refined flour. So do most other ryes, like Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted Thick Sliced Soft Rye and Pepperidge Farm Made with Whole Grain Seeded Jewish Rye.

For the real deal, try Mestemacher “All Natural Famous German” Whole Rye Bread. The 100% whole-grain rye is mostly whole rye kernels plus whole-grain rye flour.

Just think of each hefty 2.5 oz. slice—and its 270 milligrams of sodium—as two slices of bread. It makes the perfect base for a hearty breakfast of avocado toast or nut butter toast topped with banana or strawberry slices.

By any other name...

natures Own Perfectly Crafted Thick Sliced Multigrain Bread
100% whole grain? Find another crafter.

Some names and claims sound like they’re 100% whole grain. They often aren’t:

  • “Multigrain.” More than one grain? So what? Nature’s Own Perfectly Crafted Thick Sliced Multigrain, for example, still has more refined wheat flour than any other grain.
  • “Wheat.” Don’t judge a “wheat” bread by its color. Take The Cheesecake Factory At Home Our Famous “Brown Bread” Wheat Sandwich Loaf. It’s got more white than whole wheat flour. And the brown color? Could the brown sugar, molasses, and caramel color have anything to do with that?
  • “8g whole grain.” Grams don’t tell you what percent of the grains are whole. It could have 8g (or more) of white flour, too.
  • “Made with whole grain.” That usually means white flour mixed with whole grain. For example, 32 percent of the grain in Sara Lee White Made with Whole Grain is whole, says the label. Most other breads don’t say.
  • “Oatmeal.” There’s often some (or lots of) white flour.

No grain or gluten?

outer Aisle cauliflower sandwich thins
Toast them lightly under the broiler. Mmm.

Unless you need to avoid gluten, don’t bother. Most gluten-free breads mix in starchy, fiber-poor tapioca or arrowroot, which we counted as refined flour.

For example, a loaf of Udi’s Gluten Free Whole Grain has more tapioca starch than brown rice flour. Exception: the main ingredient in Best Bite Food for Life Gluten Free Brown Rice Bread is organic brown rice flour.

Many “low carb,” “paleo,” and “keto” (aka low-carb) breads cobble together eggs, nuts, seeds, processed fibers, and (sometimes) starches to replace grains or carbs. But most can’t mimic bread’s texture.

Base Culture Original Keto and Cinnamon Raisin come close. And both add good fiber from flaxseeds and psyllium to their egg-nut-arrowroot base. (They’re also gluten-free.)

Others skip the grains and the starches altogether.

We’re talking about Outer Aisle Original Cauliflower Sandwich Thins. The delicious Best Bite replaces flour with cauliflower plus a little egg, parmesan, and nutritional yeast. Check the refrigerator or freezer case. And check your wallet ($7 for six thins is a little pricey). Trader Joe’s Cauliflower Thins are nearly identical ($4 for four thins).

Photos (top to bottom): Jenifoto/stock.adobe.com, Food for Life, Dave’s Killer Bread, Lindsay Moyer/CSPI, Pepperidge Farm, Kaamilah Mitchell/CSPI, Pepperidge Farm, Food for Life, Lindsay Moyer/CSPI, Flowers Foods, Outer Aisle.