All around the world, people enjoy toast in various ways. Whether it’s beans on toast in the UK, kaya toast in southeast Asia, Vegemite on toast in Australia, or America’s beloved avocado toast, there seems to be a universal affinity that spans cultures when it comes to toast-based recipes. Our global love affair with toast (and bread in general) is likely due to its variety and versatility, not to mention its crispy texture and malty flavor when toasted.
Many toast recipes are quick, easy, and straightforward — another bonus! They can be enjoyed any time of day — breakfast, lunch, dinner, or a snack. And while not all toast recipes may score high on the “good for you” chart (looking at you, French toast), many toast recipes can be healthy and nutritious if they include minimally processed bread and are topped with whole food ingredients — like our version of French toast!
Bread generally has a mild flavor, so it pairs well with many different foods and flavors. For example, if you’re craving a savory breakfast, smashed avocado with veggies, mashed chickpea salad (or even a combo!), or homemade nut cheese with cucumbers all pair perfectly with toasty bread. Or, satisfy your sweet tooth with a healthy afternoon snack by spreading your favorite nut butter on toast then topping it with sliced bananas and berries, or spreading a homemade raspberry and chia seed jam on top (are you salivating yet?).
Before we tend to your tastebuds with our recipes, though, we’ll give you pointers on what to look for when choosing bread, share our favorite types of bread for making tantalizing toast, and offer up some alternatives to toast if you prefer to go breadless. Then, we’ll share seven delicious and nutritionally-balanced toast recipes you can enjoy as a healthy snack or full meal any time of day.
What to Look for in a Healthy Bread
Choosing healthy bread at the grocery store can be overwhelming when so many options are available. White bread, whole wheat, multigrain, sourdough, rye, sprouted grain, flatbread, cornbread, baguettes, ciabatta — you get the point. While you’re bound to find bread you love, not all bread is created equal when it comes to nutrition. For example, refined grains, like the type of grain that makes up white bread, are highly processed and stripped of nutritional value (e.g., fiber, vitamins, and minerals). Refined grain bread may also contain unnatural additives, added sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients. Regularly consuming these ultra-processed, harmful ingredients can elevate your risk of chronic health conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure.
One trick in avoiding ultra-processed bread is to look for a low carbohydrate-to-fiber ratio to ensure adequate fiber, lower the glycemic index (GI), and increase satiety, all of which help to manage blood sugar and keep you fuller longer. The experts at NutritionFacts.org recommend a maximum “5-to-1 fiber rule,” meaning the ratio of carbohydrates to fiber should be five to one or less. For example, one piece of Ezekiel bread contains 14 grams of carbohydrates and 4 grams of fiber for a 3.5:1 carb-to-fiber ratio. Hooray! In comparison, one slice of white bread (like Wonder Bread) contains 26 grams of carbs and 1 gram of fiber for a 26:1 ratio. In case you’re wonder-ing — that’s the bread to put back on the shelf.
Now that you know how to differentiate between minimally and ultra-processed bread, what should you choose during your next grocery haul? Your best bet is to select a nutrient-rich, plant-based bread high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals to support good health. These include sprouted whole grain, whole wheat, sourdough, rye, and gluten-free bread made with legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Bread to Make Your Toast-y Meal Healthy
If you’re going for ultimate health, sprouted bread is your BFF. That’s because sprouted whole grains contain higher quantities of essential amino acids, the building blocks of protein. In addition, sprouted grains have more available nutrients than unsprouted grains, including folate, iron, vitamin C, zinc, magnesium, and protein. This is because sprouting reduces phytates, which are compounds that can bind to certain essential nutrients. Sprouted grains may also be easier to digest than regular grains.
Sprouted whole grains also have a lower GI, meaning they won’t spike your blood sugar like processed grains. Plus, their antioxidant, anticancer, and antidiabetic properties support good long-term health. Ideally, opt for a sprouted, whole grain bread that’s high in fiber and protein and low in or free from added sweeteners, preservatives, and other additives.
Fermented bread, such as sourdough, may pack more nutritional value than other types of bread, depending on the type of flour used. Sourdough is the oldest form of leavened bread, used as early as 2000 BC by the ancient Egyptians. Sourdough bread starter may support the growth of more than 50 species of lactic acid bacteria and 20 species of yeast that become a part of fermentation — a process that helps create beneficial changes in the nutrients, gluten, and other compounds found in sourdough. Similar to sprouting, fermenting bread can help make essential nutrients in the bread more bioavailable to you.
If you’re asking if sourdough bread is probiotic-rich because of the bacteria used in the fermentation process, unfortunately, the answer is no — the heat from baking destroys the bacteria. However, sourdough can still be a fantastic choice since it’s more digestible and the nutrients are more bioavailable. Like other bread, look for sourdough made with minimally processed whole-grain flour.
If you want to enjoy tasty toast recipes but have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, look for gluten-free bread that contains flour from gluten-free grains such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and sorghum. Some gluten-free bread options might contain fewer nutrients — such as protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals — than sprouted or whole wheat bread. If you have a condition preventing you from eating gluten and are wary of store-bought gluten-free bread, consider making your gluten-free bread at home for a more nutritious and healthier option than you would find in the freezer case.
A Note About Burnt Toast
Next time you accidentally overdo it with the toaster or forget about your bread in the oven, avoid salvaging the burnt toast in fear of wasting food. While we don’t encourage food waste, burnt toast isn’t ideal for your health because it contains acrylamide, a potentially harmful compound that can form in starchy foods during high-heat cooking methods like roasting, baking, and frying. Concerningly, acrylamide has been linked to increased cancer risk and may be carcinogenic. Compost your burnt toast if you can!
Alternatives to Toast
If you avoid flour altogether, like our BLE (Bright Line Eating) friends — we have good news. You can enjoy plenty of gluten- and flour-free healthy toast alternatives that deliver lots of nutritional value and health benefits while providing a similar toast texture and flavor experience. Examples include:
- Whole grain rice cakes
- Grain-free wraps made with leafy green vegetables such as collard greens, iceberg lettuce, and cabbage
- Sweet potato “toast” (see our recipe below, or slice ¼” thick pieces of sweet potato and toast for 15 minutes or until soft)
- Cauliflower bread
- Portobello buns (for savory “toast”)
Healthy Plant-Based Toast Recipes
Get ready to do a happy dance because it’s love at first bite with these unique plant-centric toast recipes! Whether you have a sweet tooth or are more of a savory person, we’ve got a nourishing toast to delight your discerning palate. Enjoy them as a wholesome breakfast, vibrant lunch, or seemingly sinful snack. No matter which way you slice it, these recipes are truly toast-rific!
Nothing can com-pear to the sweet and savory experience of this fanciful (or seemingly so) offering. Whether you want to enjoy something new and exciting for breakfast or are looking forward to a sweet and savory snack in between meals, our Almond Ricotta Pear Toast with Balsamic Fig Jam will tantalize your taste buds and ignite your passion for aesthetically pleasing plant-based toast!
Similar in taste to a toasted everything bagel, but sans the bagel and with lots of colorful extra veggies on top! The toast is layered with tangy vegan cream cheese, luscious avocado, everything bagel seasoning, and LOTS of wholesome veggies. You’ll love how easy this avocado toast is to prepare for breakfast, lunch, or anytime snack!
It’s time to uplevel your everyday avocado toast with some umami flavor, antioxidant power, and fiber-filled goodness — enter delicious (and exotic!) chanterelle mushrooms. Delicate in flavor and sometimes described as “mildly peppery,” chanterelles are a perfect complement to avocado toast for a morning pick-me-up and sustainable breakfast.
A thick slice of toasted sweet potato makes an excellent superfood swap on days you’re in the mood to mix things up or go gluten- or flour-free. Piled high with avocado, radish, onion, arugula, broccoli sprouts, lemon, and oregano, this sweet and savory toast checks all the boxes for what a nourishing slice of toast should be! Tip: Make the sweet potatoes ahead of time so they can easily be warmed up and ready to eat all week long.
A delicious alternative to the classic peanut butter and banana toast, creamy sunflower butter, yummy strawberry chia jam, and sweet banana are all you need to enjoy a seemingly decadent toast any time of day. Plus, if you spread the sunflower butter across the toast while it is still warm, it turns slightly gooey, which makes it even more delicious!
We’ll just say it — this Mediterranean Breakfast Toast is the hummus toast to rival all hummus toasts! Creamy hummus, crunchy veggies, and tangy vegan feta adorn this savory breakfast delight. What makes this toast extra special is the homemade vegan feta. Enjoy it as a hearty breakfast or a light lunch; either way, it’s a wonderfully healthy addition to your day!
Creamy and dreamy Smashed Edamame Avocado Toast is one of the easiest ways to enjoy a refreshingly light yet satisfying, vegetable-centric breakfast. Bright and slightly sweet edamame is mashed together with creamy avocado and topped with vibrant vegetables, herbs, and spices to create a satisfying and highly craveable (and toasty) meal any day of the week!
Enjoy Toast-Based Recipes at Any Meal
Toast is a beloved, versatile, and widely used food that can be enjoyed as a quick snack or nourishing meal, whether for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Avoid prepackaged white bread, however, which provides little nutritional value, spikes blood sugar, and contributes to chronic disease risk, including obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Instead, when looking for bread, use the 5:1 carbohydrate-to-fiber rule to choose healthy, plant-based, nutritious options like sprouted whole grain, whole grain sourdough, and 100% whole wheat. Healthy toast alternatives also exist for flour- and/or gluten-free eating. Try these tasty toast recipes that you can enjoy morning, noon, or night.
Tell us in the comments:
- Which toast recipe will you try first?
- What’s your go-to type of healthy bread?
- When is your favorite time of day to eat toast?
Featured Image: iStock.com/Rouzes