Most kids, even those who are picky eaters, like bread. And that's good, because bread, and grains in general, make up a big part of the Food Guide Pyramid. In fact, younger children, aged 2-6, should eat 6 servings from the grain food group, while older children should eat 6-11 servings each day.
But what kind of bread should you offer your child? There are so many choices, including white bread, wheat bread, honey wheat bread, etc.
For many kids, taste will be the determining factor of what bread they will eat.
After that, you should look at the nutritional values of different breads when you decide which bread to buy for your family. Although many things are similar for different types of bread, such as:
- Calories - usually about 40-70 calories per slice
- Total Fat - 0.5-1g
- Cholesterol - 0mg
- Sodium - 90-130mg
- Protein - 1.5-3g
- Iron - 4-8%
there can be big differences in the amount of fiber and calcium that different breads have. And whole wheat breads usually have more vitamin B6, vitamin E, magnesium, folic acid, copper, zinc, and manganese. However, many white breads are fortified with these vitamins.
In general, 100% whole wheat/whole grain breads have more fiber than white bread or other breads made with wheat flour, although some white breads, such as Iron Kids and Iron Kids Crustless bread, have almost as much fiber as many kinds of wheat bread.
A high fiber diet is recommended for most people, and is especially helpful for children who are constipated.
Remember that 'wheat' breads that do not say that they are 'whole wheat' are a mixture of enriched white flour and whole wheat flour, and so will likely have less fiber than whole wheat breads. 'Whole wheat' will be listed as the first ingredient if the bread is made from 100% whole wheat.
But white breads often have more calcium, especially if they are made with milk, than wheat breads. However, many different kinds of wheat bread are now fortified with calcium too.
Bread as an extra source of calcium is good if your child doesn't drink much milk or eat other dairy products.
So what kind of bread should you choose?
Whether it is white bread or wheat bread, find one that is high in calcium (at least 10-15% per slice), high in fiber (at least 1-1.5g per slice), and which tastes good.
The American Academy of Pediatrics does state that 'whole-wheat bread offers a nutritional advantage over white bread.' So if your child likes it, a 100% whole wheat bread (remembe to check the ingredients) that is fortified with calcium would likely be the most healthy choice.
Reading the nutrition label can help you find a healthy bread. Just be careful when comparing labels that you check the serving size. Some breads list 2 slices as the serving size, while others list just 1. Since the amount of calcium and fiber is listed per serving size, 2g of fiber may be for 2 slices or just 1.