Is that Right? Wonder Bread is soft, delicious and nutritious
Is Wonder Bread nutritious?
It is beyond a doubt soft and delicious. And its Web site, featuring a fun new sandwich-builder feature called the Wonder-izer, makes a convincing case for the nutritional value of all breads Wonder, from the traditional white variety of our youth to the whole-wheat versions available today.
These breads are fortified with folic acid, calcium and, more recently, Vitamin D, which works with calcium to build strong bones and lately is being recognized as one of the most vital nutrients in maintaining health and preventing disease. The breads contain very little fat and a reasonable amount of sodium. Depending on which you choose, you also can get a dose of daily fiber by eating Wonder Bread. (There's a tip suggesting sandwiches made with one slice of white and another of whole wheat to ease picky kids into the world of whole grains.)
The site allows you to choose from more than 120 ingredients to create virtual sandwiches, or you can choose one they've assembled for you. Then the Wonder-izer calculates the nutrition data for the sandwich you've selected and offers tips for adding more of certain nutrients, such as calcium. You can go the obviously healthful route -- The Classic, which appears to feature sliced turkey, lettuce and tomato, for 165 calories -- or accept the (I hope!) tongue-in-cheek Trick or Treat sandwich, made of chocolate chips and candy corn (547 calories). The implication is that there's room in your diet for even that kind of sandwich, as long as you account for the calories, fat and nutrient content.
But what's sadly missing from the site is an actual list of Wonder Bread's ingredients. Luckily, I keep a loaf in my breadbox for my son's daily PB&J sandwich. He actually chose the "100% Whole Grain" loaf, which somehow is softer and tastier than some of the other grain-filled Wonders. A quick glance at the label, though, makes me, well, wonder. It's a long, long list of ingredients, many with polysyllabic names.
But the good news is that the first ingredient is whole wheat flour, followed by water. Though I'm not an HFCS-phobe, I'm not happy to see "high fructose corn syrup or sugar" listed third. Still, I know many bread recipes require something sweet to feed the yeast, so I'm okay with that. Next come wheat gluten and yeast.
The rest of the ingredients, each of which constitutes 2 percent or less of the total recipe, are not surprising: There's a handful of items such as soybean oil and salt followed by categories listed by function: dough conditioners, yeast nutrients, enrichment (including those vitamins and minerals that constitute this bread's nutritional quality), and then another handful -- vinegar, calcium propionate (for freshness), and the like.
If none of that sounds particularly homey, I don't see anything to set off alarms in a parent's head. But here's where you have to be a careful label-reader. The wrapping on my loaf of bread says there are 16 grams of "whole grain" per slice. That's all well and good, but if it's fiber you're after, that single slice supplies just 2 grams, or 8 percent of your daily total. So a two-slice sandwich delivers only 4 grams, or 16 percent of your total. That's fine -- but don't go thinking you're getting 16 grams of FIBER per slice.
Here's how I see it: You can make bread at home, as I often do, with as few as four ingredients: flour, water, yeast and salt; sometimes you need sugar, too. That bread can provide fiber, if you use some whole-grain flour or add things such as bran or flax. But it won't have calcium, Vitamin D, folic acid or iron. And you will have go to the trouble to make the bread yourself, which some of us enjoy but others have no time for.
Or you can buy Wonder Bread, which is easy and cheap(ish) and fortified with health-promoting nutrients, some of which you certainly could get from better sources such as fruits and vegetables. But in the grand scheme of packaged foods, you could do worse.
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