3 whole-grain white breads get PB&J test

Posted Sept. 20, 2011, at 4:05 p.m.
Last modified Sept. 20, 2011, at 6:22 p.m.

For strict peanut butter and jelly constructionists, there are certain unwavering rules. The peanut butter is creamy. The jelly is grape (strawberry in a pinch, but certainly none of that fancy apricot or boysenberry).

And the bread is white. Delightfully bland, deliciously soft, stick-to-the roof-of-your-mouth white.

The problem is that traditional white bread is nutrient-deficient. So what of these whole-grain whites that dot the bread shelves? Do they make a difference?

“Whole-grain white is a nice alternative for bringing in some whole grains but still having that slightly milder flavor and softer texture,” said Jeannie Moloo, an American Dietetic Association spokeswoman. “‘Whole’ means you’re getting the inside of the grain as well as the outside of the grain, so you’re getting the bran and the fiber and all the nutrients.”

Yeah, but how does it taste? We gathered a group of PB&J aficionados (ages 5 to 8) and presented them with sandwiches made on three different varieties of whole-grain white bread: Wonder Whole Grain White, Sara Lee Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White and Butternut Whole Grain White. They ranked the sandwiches on a scale of 1 to 10.

All three varieties have 2 or more grams of fiber per slice, but Moloo cautions that fiber is not the first criteria to check for on a label.

“A lot of breads are adding fiber in the form of inulin but are still using refined flour and not the whole grain,” she said. “If the label doesn’t list ‘whole’ as the first word in the ingredients, the grain has been stripped and basically rebuilt. The word ‘whole’ is key.”

Our three test breads all list “whole wheat flour,” though not as the first ingredient. Still, sometimes you take your “whole” where you can get it.

“Whole grains carry health benefits that we might not even know yet,” Moloo said. “It’s not that adding inulin is bad; it’s just that any time you can go with the whole product you get so many nutrients and minerals and other benefits.”

The Results

First: Wonder Whole Grain White

(10 points; 20 ounces, $3.79; 19 cents per ounce)

“I like everything about it.” “One hundred! I want to give it a 100!”

Second: Butternut Whole Grain White

(7.6 points; 20 ounces, $2.99; 15 cents per ounce)

“It kind of, like, dissolves. I like how it just dissolves.” “It’s soft.”

Third: Sara Lee Soft and Smooth Whole Grain White

(3.7 points; 16 ounces, $3.49; 22 cents per ounce)

“It didn’t have any of the good taste.”