Forget sliced white… suddenly everyone’s eating Gruyere focaccia or date and walnut cob, but is posh bread worth the dough
06:57 GMT, 16 August 2012
Buying bread used to involve choosing white or brown, sliced or not, large or small. These days, supermarkets offer endless choice.
So much so that Tesco recently announced it would be tripling its number of ‘speciality breads’ from ten to 30. But do these offer something genuinely new or are they just pricey, flavoured versions of white bread
Here, nutritionist Angela Dowden and mother of three Amanda Cable identify the star slices from the half-baked…
On a roll: Amanda Cable taste tests speciality breads
SAINSBURY’S GRUYERE CHEESE AND RED ONION FOCACCIA
1.65 for 270g. Contains (per 100g) 361 cals, 4.8g saturates, 4.2g sugar, 0.5g salt, 2.7g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: Cheese may be all the rage in new-fangled breads, but it comes at a cost to your waistline and arteries. This bread is high in saturated fats, thanks to the Cheddar and Gruyere it contains. Indeed, health-wise it is a little like eating a pizza. (We found a deep-pan, four-cheese pizza that contains 250 calories per 100g — less than this bread — and 4.3g saturated fat per 100g, which is almost the same.) On the plus side, it’s one of the lower-salt loaves we looked at.
Taste: A nice strong mixture of sweet onion and tasty cheese, but becomes a bit heavy after a few slices. Given the calorie count, this is just as well.
OVERALL RATING: 3/10
TESCO MEDITERRANEAN BREAD
Heavy: Tesco Mediterranean Bread contains just 3.5 per cent sundried tomatoes
1.40 for 400g. Contains (per 100g) 251 cals, 1.2g saturates, 4.2g sugar, 1.5g salt, 2.4g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: The word Mediterranean often makes us think of healthy tomatoes and oils, but this bread contains just 3.5 per cent sundried tomatoes, which isn’t enough to count as your vegetable intake or to do you much good. Like so many of the other breads on the market, it’s just a flavoured white loaf. It’s also 50 per cent higher in salt than the average sliced white loaf.
Taste: A heavy bread, which went very hard overnight once it had been cut.
WAITROSE WALNUT BREAD
2.35 for 400g. Contains (per 100g) 339 cals, 1.5g saturates, 3.3g sugar, 1g salt, 5.9g fibre
This loaf contains 17 per cent walnuts, providing plenty of essential
fats that help lower cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart attack or
stroke. There’s also a good fibre content, which is probably due to the nuts. But it’s high in calories.
Taste: A nutty, sweet loaf made from rye flour, free from milk and eggs. It kept fresh for two days, longer than many rivals.
TESCO three CHEESE BREAD 1.80 for around 290g.
Fresh: Tesco Three Cheese Bread
Contains (per 100g) 260 cals, 2.7g saturates, 1.2g sugar, 1.2g salt, 2.9g fibre
Nutritionist’s Verdict: Having three cheeses, you’d think this would have more calories than many other rival loaves and be loaded with saturated fat. But the cheeses here — Red Leicester, Regato medium-fat hard cheese and mature Cheddar — provide only 2.7g of saturated fat because, quite simply, it’s not as cheesy as some others.
Taste: Smells so delicious it’s hard not to eat it before you reach the checkout. It has just the right amount of cheese, and the children loved it. Keeps fresh, too — if you can resist eating it!
MORRISONS BAKED BY US FOCACCIA WITH MIXED OLIVES
1.99 for 700g. Contains (per 100g) 174 calories, 1.4g sat fat, 0.9g salt, 0.4g sugar, fibre 1.6g
Nutritionist’s verdict: Olives will generally increase the salt content of anything, but here it’s balanced by the loaf being low salt. Focaccia has lots of oil, which pushes up the calorie content. Not the best option for your waistline.
Taste: Overwhelming even for olive lovers — they sink into the dough leaving a bitter residue. My son Archie spat this out. Totally unpleasant.
Moreish: Morrisons Very Special Bread Date and Walnut Cob
MORRISONS VERY SPECIAL BREAD DATE & WALNUT COB
1.59 for 400g. Contains (per 100g) 296 cals, 0.7g sat fat, 0.9g salt, 10.3g sugar, 4.7g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: There are plenty of dates, which pushes up the sugar content. As a dried fruit, they may be very sweet, but they have a good low GI. The walnuts will also slow the passage of sugar into your bloodstream, so a little goes a long way.
Taste: A heavy and dark brown bread that doesn’t look that appetising, but the walnut and date combo works well. Tasty and moreish — but you won’t be able to manage many slices!
MORRISONS VERY SPECIAL BREAD HONEY & SUNFLOWER STAR
1.59 for 400g. Contains (per 100g): 301 cals, 1.0g sat fats, 0.9g salt, 3.7g sugar, 5.5g fibre
verdict: This has almost as much fibre as virtuous wholemeal. The
sunflower seeds add calories, but are a health bonus if you can resist
eating too much because they are rich in essential fats.
Delicious tear and share loaf shaped like a sunflower, which looked
impressive on the dinner table. Subtle seed and honey flavour.
Subtle: Co-operative In-store Bakery Green Olive Bread
CO-OPERATIVE IN-STORE BAKERY GREEN OLIVE BREAD
1.19 for 300g. Contains (per 100g) 259 cals, 0.7 g sat fat, 0.918g salt, 2.4g sugar, 2.6g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: This is a tastier version of white bread and is not much different in health terms. It isn’t too salty despite the olives, which suggests low salt levels in the flour. Remember, this is not wholegrain and because it is delicious and you cut your own piece, it is harder to control portion size.
Taste: The olive taste was subtle enough to give flavour without putting off the children. A nice change to normal white.
THE CO-OPERATIVE BALSAMIC GARLIC & PARMESAN FLATBREAD
2.35 for 230g. Contains (per 100g) 290 cals, 4.9g sat fat, 1.0g salt, 2.8g sugar, 1.52g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: This bread isn’t suitable for vegetarians, because the Parmesan is made using calf rennet. It’s also the highest we found in artery-clogging saturated fat because 11 per cent of it is garlic butter. Combine that with Parmesan and it’s not that healthy.
Taste: Like many things that aren’t good for you, this was delicious. A nice alternative to garlic bread. Don’t eat it before a date!
WAITROSE MINI MIXED OLIVE FOCACCIA
Tasty: Waitrose Mini Mixed Olive Focaccia
1.69 for 180g. Contains (per 100g): 297 cals, 1.1g sat fat, 0.67g salt, 1.7g sugar, 2.8g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: Looking at the ingredients list — which includes wheat flour, water, extra virgin olive oil and rosemary — this is a fairly authentic Italian bread. There is no butter, just extra virgin olive oil, which keeps it lower in saturated fat. It isn’t great for your waistline, but it has no preservatives and it’s lowish in salt.
Taste: A bread with its own online following featuring a debate about how best to eat it. Tasty without being too salty.
MARKS & SPENCER GERMAN STYLE RYE BREAD
1.49 for 400g. Contains (per 100g) 225 cals, 0.2g sat fat, 1.18g salt, 1.9g sugar, 6.3g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: I like this bread — it seems to be a traditional, heavy rye bread. The calorie content is less, gram for gram, than a sliced loaf. Rye is known to be a nice, slow energy-releasing grain that keeps you fuller for longer. It was really low in saturated fat, too. Usually, with an intense taste like rye bread, you don’t want to eat too much, which makes natural portion control easy.
Taste: The children didn’t like it, but adults enjoyed the rich, deep taste all the better for knowing it was doing us good. Probably the healthiest bread we tried.
Like a cake: Marks & Spencer Cranberry and Pecan Baton
MARKS & SPENCER CRANBERRY AND PECAN BATON
2.29 for 250g. Contains (per 100g): 315 cals, 9.9g fat, 0.9g sat fat, 1.13g salt, 9.3g sugars, 4.1g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: This is a high calorie and sugar bread, because of the cranberries and pecans. On a nutritional quality level, though, cranberries and pecans are rich in antioxidants that protect your body’s cells. So this is perfectly good for you in small quantities.
Taste: More like a cake than a loaf of bread. Heavy, and stuffed with cranberries.
MARKS & SPENCER WALNUT BREAD
1.39 for 280g. Contains (per 100g) 270 cals, 0.7g sat fat, 1.3g salt, 4.6g sugar, 4.7g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: Not quite as high in walnuts as some loaves, which helps keep the calories under control. It’s a good source of fibre, though the salt content could be lower. On the whole, a reasonably healthy loaf.
Taste: Utterly fabulous. The bread is soft and tasty, walnuts are delicious and it stayed fresh for two days, making it a great buy.
TESCO SPELT AND PUMPKIN
Nutty: Tesco Spelt and Pumpkin
1.80 for 480g. Contains (per 100g) 295 cals, 3.2g sat fat, 0.9g salt, 2.7g sugar, 2.7g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: Pumpkin seeds supply zinc, important for the immune system, and heart-healthy Omega 3, normally found in fish. However, there aren’t enough seeds to make much of a difference. Spelt is slightly more nutritious than wheat flour, but not enough to make you run for the shelves to select this one.
Taste: Nutty and nicely moist, this bread makes a nice change from a plain white.
ASDA RYE AND LINSEED BOULE
1 for approx 336g. Contains (per 100g) 239 cals, 0.4g sat fat, 0.82g salt, 3.4g sugar, 6.1g fibre
Nutritionist’s verdict: Linseeds are another vegetarian source of Omega 3. And they’re also a source of phytoestrogens, which some women say can help stave off hot flushes during the menopause. But you’d need to eat impossibly large quantities of this bread to feel those benefits. However, there are enough linseeds and rye to bump up levels of fibre.
Taste: The Asda bakery is often my bakery of choice, thanks to its soft bread that stays fresh for longer. This has a lovely rustic crust and tasty, soft middle.
THE NUTRITIONIST’S CONCLUSION
The vast majority of these breads are simply high-calorie, poshed-up white breads. And you have to cut up most flavoured loaves yourselves — making portion control harder. Given that they are already high in cholesterol-raising saturated fats, this makes them pretty calorific.
However, there are some real gems here — with a particularly healthy and tasty loaf being German rye from M&S. Most other breads with seeds and wholegrains were also healthy.
Try to go for wholemeal flour, it’s better for your body.
And just be aware that if you are opting for flavour, cheese isn’t great for the arteries — so you might be paying dearly with your health as well as at the checkout.