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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.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  January 15, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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Comments

Wonder bread nutritious? Give me a break -
this is the worst crap on the market.

Roll it up into a ball and play catch with it.

The person writing this article apparently has no class or sophistication in terms of bread. Corn syrup: made from genetically modified corn you idiot.

Keep feeding this crap to your family - they will wake up one day with two noses,
four ears, and no brain capacity.

Should a nutrition background be mandatory
when writing about food? Or for that matter in the case of this disgusting product non-food?

Posted by: Sirius2 | January 15, 2010 2:27 PM | Report abuse

My daughter will love this . . . according to this logic, if I throw a few gummy bear vitamins in with a pack of Skittles for her lunch, it is suddenly a healthy dietary choice. Yay Washington Post!

Posted by: _wm_ | January 15, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

I think the question here is the definition of "nutritious". Anything that provides nutrients is, technically, nutritious. If this is the definition than eating a piece of writing paper is nutritious.

Is it healthy? That's a different question.

White bread is loaded with carbohydrates and sodium. Sure you can have fun squeezing four slices of Wonderbread down to the size of a small gumball, but is it healthy for you?

When compared to other options out there? No.

Posted by: topwriter | January 15, 2010 2:56 PM | Report abuse

I grew up eating only whole wheat bread (either homemade or some sort of store brand/Pepperidge Farm, which you also have to read the labels very carefully). I don't think there's any inherent love kids have for white bread, but you probably have to start them early on whole wheat. Nowadays I mostly eat whole, sprouted grain bread, which sounds gross but is pretty good toasted.

Posted by: shantybird | January 15, 2010 4:41 PM | Report abuse

I am 63 years old. I was raised on Wonder Bread and raised my children likewise. My son, 28, and daughter,26, have all the appropriate organs and appendages. They also have brains large enough that they are both scholarship graduates of top ten universities. It (Wonder Bread) also makes the best BLT. Now I am hungry. Gotta go.

Posted by: qoph | January 15, 2010 7:05 PM | Report abuse

When my family lived in Turkey several decades ago we really loved the local bread, made, as you mentioned, with just flour, water, yeast, and salt. We would often line up at our local bakery to get two loaves of fresh just-out-of-the-oven bread. However by the next day it was stale and hard as a rock. In contrast, when I traveled with Turkish technicians and Army personnel to work on communications equipment they would ask us Americans to bring along the large loaves of Wonder Bread - just because it was so soft and stayed "fresh" for a long time. To them it was better than their own bread.

Posted by: Ex-Fed | January 15, 2010 7:11 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please. Wonder Bread is not delicious; it's bland and tasteless. It's not even nutritious: As you point out, even the supposed whole grain loaf is low in fiber compared to real whole grain bread. Mostly it's just empty boring calories.

Posted by: njmoore1 | January 15, 2010 10:33 PM | Report abuse

I've been buying Wonder Stoneground bread for a couple of years now after seeing it rated as among the best breads by a consumer organization (possibly Consumer Reports)

Posted by: GWGOLDB | January 15, 2010 10:34 PM | Report abuse

qoph - the wonder bread you grew up on is not the wonder bread of today - it was not made with HFCS.
And of course it always stays fresh and soft - it is filled with preservatives to help it do so.

Posted by: mdsails | January 15, 2010 10:44 PM | Report abuse

In reference to HFCS being the third ingredient in Wonder Bread, Ms. Huget notes, "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."

At the end of her article, she comments that she often bakes her own bread.

Now I'm confused...

As anyone who's ever made sandwich-style loaves of bread knows, you only need a tiny bit of sugar (maybe half a teaspoon at most, and that's still more than I use) to feed the yeast. Anything beyond that is strictly for flavor. It is unfortunate that many Americans, especially children, have been conditioned to think that bread is supposed to be sweet. But as anyone who has tried artisan breads or traveled abroad knows, bread isn't sweet in most other countries. As a matter of fact, a friend from the Middle East once told me that she sometimes eats commercially-produced American wheat bread for dessert because it's so sweet.

Although we need carbohydrates in our diets, we do not need excessive sugar, and that is what breads like Wonder Bread have in abundance. If you buy commercially-produced bread, look for brands with no added sweeteners; there are some out there. You may be helping to prevent diabetes and obesity, two diseases increasingly prevalent among American adolescents.

Posted by: kroshka | January 19, 2010 8:02 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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