Embarking on a weight loss program is a positive step toward better health. As you evaluate your food choices, you'd like to know if taking bread off the menu will help you drop additional pounds. You'd also like helpful tips on avoiding processed foods that don't support a healthy diet.
The amount of weight you can lose by not eating bread depends on many factors. What you eat or don't eat doesn't determine rate of weight loss. How much you lose depends on your calorie deficit.
Healthy Weight Loss Basics
You wish you could just snap your fingers and magically arrive at your ideal weight. In reality, though, the best way to lose those pounds (and keep them off) is to follow a well-balanced eating plan that includes every major food group. You must also reduce your daily calorie intake and engage in regular physical activity to see positive results.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends that you begin with muscle-building proteins such as lean meat, seafood, poultry, beans and other vegetarian sources. Baked or grilled meats are the healthiest choice.
Add colorful, nutrient-packed vegetables and fruits to your daily menu. When preparing your meals, or dining at a favorite restaurant, stay away from dishes containing solid fats and extra sugar.
Next, blend in fiber-rich whole grains and pastas. Quinoa, millet and brown rice are also good options. Keep in mind that whole grain-based foods can help to promote a feeling of fullness, which may help curb that urge to snack between meals.
Round out your healthy eating plan with low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt or fortified soy-based drinks. These nutritious foods provide plenty of protein, vitamin D and calcium.
Along with your healthy diet, include 30 minutes of moderately intense (or vigorous) physical activity in your daily schedule. For consistent weight loss, you might need to increase the time duration or add more mini-workouts each day.
Read more: Process of Losing Weight
How to Avoid Processed Foods
The term "processed foods" often carries a negative connotation. In reality, though, any food that is cooked, frozen, canned or dehydrated has undergone some form of processing.
Sometimes, the end result is a tasty, nutritious food product that's a welcome component of a healthy eating plan. However, watch out for foods that have lost their nutritional punch or that now have undesirable additives after some type of processing.
White rice and white flour result from processing that removes whole grains' dietary fiber, minerals, fatty acids and phytochemicals. Processing also adds less-desirable ingredients such as sodium, sugars and trans fats. Finally, extensive processing often changes the food's basic structure, potentially leading to blood sugar spikes compared to less-processed similar foods.
To address these issues, Harvard Health suggests that you include additional whole-grain foods in your daily meals. Consuming these healthier foods will likely decrease your risk of heart disease and diabetes, and possibly stroke as well. Eating whole-grain foods is also linked to reduced longer-term weight gain.
Decrease your consumption of processed foods containing lots of extra sodium. Top offenders include processed meats that contain salts and preservatives such as undesirable nitrites. Examples include bacon, sausage, hot dogs and many deli meats. Keep in mind that excessive sodium and preservative use can be harmful to your heart.
Eat fewer processed foods that contain some form of added sugar. Sugar-loaded drinks such as sodas, sports drinks and overly sweet fruit drinks are notorious culprits. For example, drinking a 12 ounce can of soda overloads your body with 10 teaspoons of white table sugar.
Besides boosting your odds of undesirable weight gain, sugary drinks can negatively affect your heart, in the same fashion as highly refined carbohydrates. If you find it difficult to completely banish these drinks from your diet, limit your consumption to one 8 ounce serving daily.
How to Choose Healthy Bread
When you walk through your grocery store's bread aisle, you'll encounter a dizzying array of bread varieties. Alice H. Lichtenstein, DSc, director of Tufts' HNRCA Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, notes that desirable whole-grain breads typically vary in their whole grain type and content.
Whole grains are beneficial because they include every part of the grain. Even if the grain has been chopped or ground, the original grain (and its vital nutrients) will remain intact. When you scan a promising bread's ingredient list, confirm that the word "whole" precedes a grain flour or grain listing.
So, why are whole-grain breads so important? These nutritious breads contain slowly digestible fiber that helps you experience that "fuller" feeling for an extended period. Your blood sugar levels should also see more predictable increases.
Search for Low-Sodium Bread
Generally speaking, your body doesn't require much sodium to keep its organs, muscles and nerves running as designed. Consuming a low-sodium bread helps to minimize your risk of high blood pressure, along with associated stresses on your heart, states the Michigan State University Extension.
Finding a tasty low-sodium bread is a challenge, though. Keep in mind that a lower sodium content also means that the product won't have as much of sodium's flavor-enhancing benefits. Also, note that regardless of the bread's grain or flour composition, sodium will probably be lurking in the ingredients list.
Despite this challenge, bread manufacturers keep producing low-sodium breads, likely hoping that consumers will buy these pricier alternatives to cheaper products. You're most likely to find low-sodium breads in your grocery store's bread aisle, and some retailers may also stock them in the healthy frozen foods section.
Benefits of Banishing Bread
Let's say you're on the fence about keeping bread in your diet. If you eliminate bread products, many of which contain wheat gluten, will you see an obvious benefit from that choice? Dr. Thomas Campbell, University of Rochester Medicine nutrition authority, offers a useful perspective on the ongoing gluten discussion.
First, Dr. Campbell states that Americans collectively consume many wheat-containing breads and other foods, with refined grains making up the greatest portion of that total. When you decide to begin a weight-loss program, you might begin by replacing some of these foods with healthier options.
Not surprisingly, you'll likely drop some weight and notice that you're feeling better. However, rather than attributing this positive trend to healthier eating habits, you might connect that result to the gluten elimination.
Dr. Campbell emphasizes that celiac disease patients must avoid gluten for compelling medical reasons. It also makes sense for patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity to keep gluten off the menu.
However, if you don't fall into these two groups, Dr. Campbell encourages you to increase your consumption of plant-sourced foods. He also recommends that you eat more unprocessed foods, rather than choosing foods that are manufactured to be gluten free.
Giving Up Bread and Pasta
By giving up bread and pasta, you'll essentially be following a low-carb regimen that's centered around proteins and vegetables without starch content. So, many grains, breads, pastas and starchy vegetables will be off limits. Some low-carb plans do permit small amounts of whole grains, vegetables and specific fruits.
So, will you lose weight on this restrictive food plan? Per the Mayo Clinic, you'll likely experience a bigger short-term weight loss compared to a low-fat diet. At the 12-month mark, however, that trend doesn't seem to apply.
Specifically, the December 2016 edition of the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association featured an article that reported on an aggregate analysis of 41 low-carb diet trials. Collectively, the trials focused on evaluating the low-carb diets' effects on weight loss.
Two meta-analyses showed that compared with low-fat diets, the low-carb diets resulted in subjects' larger weight loss at the six-month target date. However, both diets demonstrated similar weight loss totals at the 12-month marker.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Back to Basics for Healthy Weight Loss”
- Tufts University: “Selecting Healthy Breads”
- Michigan State University: “Sodium in Bread Products”
- University of Rochester Medical Center: “Grains of Truth: Getting the Goods on Gluten”
- Mayo Clinic: “Low-Carb Diet: Can It Help You Lose Weight?”
- Journal of the American Osteopathic Association: “Are Low-Carbohydrate Diets Safe and Effective?”
- Harvard Medical School: "Avoid These Foods for a Healthier Heart"