Grocery Guide

Uncover the Seedy Underbelly of Sandwich Breads with Sprouted Grain Bread

I have a tendency to get obsessed with foods, especially when I find something healthy that I like, because left to my own devices I would probably only eat pasta with garlic and oil, pepperoncini, dark chocolate, and the occasional pizza. I discovered sprouted-grain bread back when a turkey sandwich and a piece of fruit was my go-to weekday brown bag lunch, and while I have largely eliminated lunch meat from my diet I have kept sprouted-grain breads. Why?

For starters, the texture. My dad (who did the grocery shopping, cooking, and packing of lunches) never bought white bread, so I never developed a taste for it. Our family has always eaten whole wheat breads -- usually of the hearty, nutty/oat-y/grain-y variety -- so taking the step up to sprouted-grain breads wasn't a huge shock to my bread-loving system.

Sprouted-grain bread is even nuttier, and grainier, and chewier than its whole wheat counterpart, and since that texture was what I craved anyway, I was all-in. Yeah, they tout a lot of health benefits -- whole grains! necessary nutrients! more fiber! more protein! -- but not only are those claims debatable, I just don't care. It tastes good, and it's at least as good for me as whole wheat -- sold.

For years, I ate Ezekiel-brand sprouted grain bread because that was what they carried at the grocery store where I shopped. But then I moved to Houston and started shopping at H-E-B. That's when I realized there was a lot more -- and better -- sprouted-grain bread to be had.

As much as I like the taste of Ezekiel bread, I find that it becomes dry and crumbly very quickly; well before I can work my way through half the loaf. Refrigerating or freezing the bread, and only taking out slices as I needed them, did nothing to mitigate the problem -- Ezekiel bread just seems to dry out more quickly than regular wheat bread. For a while, we switched back to regular whole wheat bread, until I noticed that H-E-B carries several varieties of sprouted-grain bread in the freezer aisle, including their own Central Market label. Time for a taste test!

First up I tried Sprouted Grains Bakehouse's "6 Sprouted Grains--Calorie Control" bread. I wasn't so interested in controlling calories as simply trying a new brand of sprouted grain bread; these slices are quite a bit larger than Ezekiel bread, so the fact that they only come in with an extra 20 calories is pretty impressive. The SG Bakehouse brand holds up very well, whether it is kept in the refrigerator or the freezer; I prefer keeping the loaf in the freezer and pulling it out by the slice as needed, but if you go through bread quickly, the refrigerator will work just as well. The texture is firm, but soft, and peanut butter spreads easily on an untoasted slice -- which is where the dry Ezekiel bread will fail, with the peanut butter tearing at it and creating holes. The crusts are almost too dry, but when toasted the contrast between the soft middle and the firm crust dissipates. This is a fine alternative to Ezekiel bread.

Next I gave the Central Market Sprouted Whole Grain Bread in Multigrain a try. (There's also a cinnamon raisin or something, but I like savory more than sweet.) The Central Market brand is also quite large compared to Ezekiel, and comes in at 90 calories per slice. One, and I was smitten -- the bread is so soft but somehow retains that dense, rich, chewiness that I love so much about hearty breads. And it stays soft, whether stored in the freezer or the refrigerator, right down to the last slice. I like the texture of the crust, which is a bit softer than that of the SG Bakehouse version, with a slightly sweeter taste as well. Central Market brands continue to impress me (I'm not the only one), and its Sprouted Grain Multigrain bread is no exception. It's superior to any other brand I have tried so far.

So how about you? Are you a Wonder Bread kid from way back, or have you come over to the dark(-er bread) side? If you have a favorite brand of sprouted grain bread, share it with us in the comments!

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Christina Uticone