Does homemade bread have less calories?

Many people assume that homemade bread is automatically healthier and lower in calories than bread you buy at the store. But is this really true? As with most nutrition questions, the answer is not so simple. Whether homemade bread has less calories than store-bought depends on the specific ingredients, portion sizes, and baking methods used. This article will explore the factors that affect bread calories and provide a detailed comparison of the calories in various homemade and store-bought breads.

What determines the calorie content of bread?

The main nutrients that contribute calories in bread are carbohydrates (from flour) and fat. Protein and fiber contribute minimal calories. Here are some factors that influence the calorie density of bread:

  • Type of flour: Whole grain flours like whole wheat are higher in fiber and nutrients than refined white flour. But refined flour has fewer calories per gram.
  • Additional ingredients: Nuts, seeds, dried fruit, oil, butter, sugar, honey, etc. can significantly increase the calories in homemade breads.
  • Portion size: Larger or thicker slices of bread contain more calories and carbs than smaller slices.
  • Baking method: Bread made with oil or butter tends to be higher in fat and calories than leaner bread recipes.

So in comparing homemade and store-bought bread calories, we have to look at all of these factors.

Calories in common types of bread

To get a true comparison, let’s look at the calorie content in some common homemade and store-bought bread varieties.

White bread

White bread is made from refined wheat flour, which gives it a light color and soft texture. Here are the calories for a typical 1 oz (28g) slice:

  • Homemade white bread: 75-100 calories
  • Store-bought white bread: 70-110 calories

As you can see, there is significant overlap in the range of calories for homemade versus store-bought white bread. Many factors like oil, sweeteners, and portion thickness determine calories.

Whole wheat bread

Whole wheat bread is made from whole grain wheat flour, which gives it a darker color and denser texture. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade 100% whole wheat bread: 60-80 calories
  • Store-bought 100% whole wheat bread: 60-100 calories

Again, the calorie ranges are fairly similar between homemade and store-bought whole wheat bread. Generally, whole wheat bread is lower in calories than white due to the extra fiber.

Sourdough bread

Sourdough bread uses a starter culture to ferment the dough, giving it a tangy flavor. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade sourdough bread: 95-130 calories
  • Store-bought sourdough bread: 80-110 calories

Homemade sourdough loaves tend to be denser and larger, resulting in more calories per slice than commercial brands. But with portion control, the calorie difference can be minimized.

Multigrain bread

Multigrain bread includes a mixture of whole grains like oats, rye, barley, etc. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade multigrain bread: 80-120 calories
  • Store-bought multigrain bread: 80-120 calories

With the wide variety of recipes, homemade and store-bought multigrain bread calories are very similar on average. The specific grain combination impacts density and calories.

Gluten-free bread

Gluten-free bread is made without wheat, barley or rye flour. It relies on flours like rice, tapioca, and buckwheat. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade gluten-free bread: 95-145 calories
  • Store-bought gluten-free bread: 80-110 calories

Gluten-free flours and starches can create very dense bread. So homemade gluten-free loaves often have more calories than store-bought slices.

Banana bread

Banana bread is a sweet, dense quick bread made with mashed bananas. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade banana bread: 185-250 calories
  • Store-bought banana bread: 140-200 calories

The added sugar, oil, and bananas in banana bread make it higher in calories than plain bread. Homemade versions skew higher in calories due to larger portions.

Pumpernickel bread

Pumpernickel bread is made from coarse rye flour and naturally fermented with sourdough starter. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade pumpernickel bread: 100-140 calories
  • Store-bought pumpernickel bread: 80-110 calories

The dense texture of pumpernickel gives it more calories per ounce than lighter rye breads. Homemade pumpernickel loaves tend to have bigger slices.

Challah bread

Challah is an egg bread enriched with oil or butter. It has a soft, dense texture. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade challah bread: 150-220 calories
  • Store-bought challah bread: 140-180 calories

The addition of eggs and oil boosts calories in challah bread. Homemade challah with more generous oil has slightly higher calories per slice.

Brioche bread

Brioche is an enriched bread with eggs, butter, and milk. It has a tender crumb and flaky texture. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade brioche bread: 180-250 calories
  • Store-bought brioche bread: 210-260 calories

With plenty of eggs and butter, brioche is one of the highest calorie breads. Store-bought versions tend to have more calories due to added sugar.

Focaccia bread

Focaccia is a thick, chewy Italian flatbread flavored with oil and herbs. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade focaccia bread: 200-300 calories
  • Store-bought focaccia bread: 210-270 calories

The oil-based dough and thickness of focaccia drive up the calorie density. Homemade and store-bought are again quite close in calories.

Cinnamon swirl bread

Cinnamon swirl bread has a sweet cinnamon sugar filling spiraled through enriched dough. Calorie comparison:

  • Homemade cinnamon swirl bread: 240-340 calories
  • Store-bought cinnamon swirl bread: 160-260 calories

The sweet filling adds substantial calories. Homemade cinnamon swirl loaves tend to be bigger and have more generous fillings.

Nutritional comparison of homemade vs. store-bought bread

Now that we’ve compared calories, let’s look at some other nutritional differences between homemade and store-bought bread:

Nutrient Homemade Bread Store-bought Bread
Protein 7-15% of calories 8-15% of calories
Fat 15-35% of calories 10-25% of calories
Carbs 50-75% of calories 55-80% of calories
Fiber 2-5g per slice 1-3g per slice
Sugar 2-10g per slice 1-5g per slice
Sodium 115-350mg per slice 120-250mg per slice

Key points:

  • Homemade breads can be higher in fat since recipes often add butter, oil, eggs, etc. Store-bought bread has more consistent fat content.
  • Fiber tends to be higher in homemade bread when using 100% whole grain flours.
  • Added sugars are more common in store-bought brands.
  • Sodium ranges are similar, but some homemade breads can be very high in sodium.

So while calories may be similar, the nutritional profile of homemade bread compared to store-bought can vary significantly.

Ways to lower calories in homemade bread

If you want to cut calories in homemade bread, here are some tips:

  • Use 100% whole wheat or other whole grain flours instead of refined flour.
  • Substitute fruit purees, applesauce or low-fat yogurt for about half the oil or butter.
  • Reduce or eliminate added sugars in the dough and mix-ins.
  • Add in bulky ingredients like rolled oats, rye flakes, millet or chopped nuts.
  • Proof dough in the refrigerator overnight for more flavor with less yeast.
  • Avoid dense, rich breads like brioche, challah, and banana bread.
  • Portion bread dough into mini loaf pans for smaller serving sizes.
  • Let dough have a long final proof to reduce density.
  • Skip adding fat on top of shaped loaves before baking.

With some simple tweaks, you can bring down the calories in homemade bread while still enjoying fresh, wholesome loaves.

Healthiest options for bread

If you’re trying to pick the healthiest bread options, here are some good choices:

  • 100% whole grain breads like whole wheat sourdough, rye, pumpernickel
  • Sprouted grain breads like Ezekiel bread
  • Organic breads without additives or sweeteners
  • Gluten-free breads made with whole grains if you require a gluten-free diet
  • Homemade or bakery bread where you can control ingredients
  • Mini or thin sandwich bread slices to control portions

Avoid choosing breads with:

  • Added sugars in the ingredient list
  • Hydrogenated or trans fats
  • Artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
  • Highly processed flour like white enriched flour

With homemade bread, be choosy about recipes and adjust as needed to create a healthier end product.

Tips for enjoying bread while managing calories

Here are some final tips for enjoying delicious bread without going overboard on calories:

  • Stick to a single slice of bread at meals, and avoid eating multiple pieces in a sitting
  • Select breads with 130 calories or less per regular slice
  • Use small or mini bread slices
  • Load up sandwiches and toast with veggies instead of condiments
  • Pair bread with soup, salad or lean protein for balanced nutrition
  • Limit bread-heavy dishes like casseroles or bread pudding
  • Skip croutons and breadcrumbs as garnishes on dishes
  • Freeze partial loaves to prevent overeating fresh bread

The bottom line

So is homemade bread lower in calories than store-bought? In most cases, there is no significant difference in calories between homemade and store-bought bread. Factors like ingredients, portion size, and bread type have more impact on bread calories than whether it’s homemade or commercial. With thoughtful recipe choices and reasonable serving sizes, homemade bread can be a delicious part of an overall healthy diet.

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