Are Wraps Healthier Than Bread?

chicken salad wrap
Harald Walker/Stocksy United

A wrap is a soft, thin flat bread that can be wrapped around ingredients and served as a sandwich. Wraps are similar to and often the same thing as flour tortillas, but they're also available with extra ingredients that add a little flavor, such as spinach or tomato powder.

Wraps basically do the same thing as sliced bread; they hold ingredients and fillings in one place, so you can eat them without making a complete mess, but they seem to have a healthier reputation.

You might picture a wrap loaded with colorful fresh veggies or lean turkey breast, tomatoes, and just a sliver of cheese. You rarely see wraps loaded with fatty meats and globs of melted cheese. But do the wraps themselves have anything over on bread? Do they earn their healthy reputation?

Probably not.

On the surface, there doesn't actually appear to be much difference at all between bread and wraps. Both are made with similar ingredients, and the biggest difference is that bread is leavened with yeast and a wrap is flat. Both offer a little fiber (more if they're made with whole wheat), and an assortment of vitamins and minerals, but if you take a closer look, you'll find that bread comes out to be the nutritional winner.

Nutritional Differences Between Wraps and Bread

When you examine the Nutrition Facts labels, you'll find one wrap will probably have more calories than two slices of commercially baked bread.

One large wrap has about 220 calories, whereas two slices of bread have about 150. Also, one wrap will have twice as much sodium (around 350 to 400 milligrams per wrap), which is important information for people who are on salt-restricted diets because it limits what you can add to the wrap and keep it low in sodium.

Take a look at the ingredients list too. Some wraps are made with hydrogenated oil, which is a source of trans-fat. The Nutrition Facts label will probably say there's zero trans-fat if there is less than 0.5 milligram per serving. So it's not much, but it's best to avoid these trans-fats anyway.

So if you love your bread, there's no need to swap it out for a wrap. It's probably better for you, or at least it's not worse. A whole grain sandwich made with lean protein like turkey or chicken breast, fresh veggies and greens, and finished with some mustard or a dab of mayo is delicious and good for you.

But I Love My Wraps!

Hey, that's fine too. You can keep eating them. No need to switch to bread if you don't want, but here are a few things to think about when you make or buy wraps:

Look for wraps made without the hydrogenated oil, and pick brands that are made with whole grains for a little extra fiber. You can buy the tomato or spinach wraps if you like the flavor, but there's no additional nutritional value because the amount of tomato or spinach powder is negligible, just enough to add color and a little flavor.

Keep in mind the sheer size of most wraps and don't overload your wrap with high-calorie fillings. If you're feeling extra hungry, fill up the extra space with leafy greens or colorful veggies rather than extra cheese, dressing, or oil.

You may spot a tasty wrap on the menu when you're dining at your favorite restaurant. Keep the calorie count and reduce some of the fat by asking for half the usual amount of cheese or eliminate it altogether. Keep your wrap healthy by ordering a small salad or a side of mixed veggies instead of French fries.

When the wrap you ordered shows up at your table, and it looks like it's big enough to feed two people, it probably is. So take half of it home with you and have it for lunch the next day. Or split a wrap with your dining partner.

Healthy and Delicious Wraps You Can Make at Home

Most any salad or a combination of healthy protein (meat, poultry, fish, or legumes) and some type of veggie will work to make a delicious wrap. Most of your wrap should consist of the greens or veggies and add just a little dressing for flavor. Try these combinations on whole grain wraps:

  • One half cup cold cooked chicken breast meat, lots of Romaine lettuce, a tablespoon or two of Caeser salad dressing, and a few shavings of Parmesan cheese.
  • One half cup cold cooked turkey breast, one slice of cooked bacon, lots of green bib lettuce and just a dab of ranch dressing.
  • One-half cup hot shredded chicken breast coated with Buffalo Wing sauce, chopped celery, lots of lettuce, and a tablespoon or two of blue cheese dressing.
  • Your favorite garden salad blend, like sliced tomato, onions, shredded carrots and cucumbers, mixed with raw spinach and a little Italian dressing.
  • A mix of roast peppers and onions plus sliced tomatoes and 1/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese. Top with balsamic vinegar.
  • Sliced or shredded cold turkey meat, two tablespoons of hummus and sliced cucumber and tomato.
  • Half a small can of drained albacore tuna, a tablespoon of mayo, shredded iceberg or green lettuce.
  • Two or three ounces of salmon (perfect for leftover salmon), fresh dill, two or three avocado slices and a tablespoon or two of cream cheese.
  • Two eggs, scrambled with chopped sun dried tomatoes, and a light sprinkle of feta cheese.

What About Gluten-Free Wraps?

You can also find gluten-free wraps made with rice, millet, quinoa, or corn flour. They'll have different nutritional profiles and calories counts, so be sure to read the labels when shopping for wheat-free or gluten-free wraps. 

Sources:

American Heart Association. "Trans Fats." Updated October 7, 2015.

United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. "USDA Food Composition Databases."

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