Advertise in Print | Subscriptions
Published November 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

Prairie Faire: Breads, rolls get a bad rap regarding diet

“Cinnamon rolls will just put weight on you,” my college friend noted as she looked at my “care package” from home. I was about a sophomore in college at the time.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Cinnamon rolls will just put weight on you,” my college friend noted as she looked at my “care package” from home. I was about a sophomore in college at the time.

I looked at the rolls, and then I looked at my friend. Were these cinnamon rolls worth adding some “rolls” to myself?

“Do you want a cinnamon roll?” I asked. I took a bite of a velvety-textured roll topped with a drizzle of powdered-sugar icing.

“Sure!” she said as she eagerly grabbed the largest cinnamon roll from my container.

Looking back, I see that my friend had ulterior motives with her comment. She was successful in securing a treat. Who can resist the aroma, texture and flavor of fresh-baked bread?

Unfortunately, bread sometimes has been viewed as a villain in the world of weight management and weight loss. Some fad diets completely cut out grains and lots of nutrients in the process.

Can we gain weight by regularly eating more calories from bread than we burn through our body’s basic needs, plus our physical activity? Yes, of course. We gain weight by eating food or drinking beverages with more calories than our body burns.

Most of us underestimate the amount of food we eat. Theoretically, just 100 extra calories per day from any food can add 10 pounds to our frame in a year.

Grains play a major role in a healthful diet. They provide complex carbohydrates, which fuel our body for physical activity and provide fuel for our brain. Grains provide B vitamins such as thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, along with minerals including iron, magnesium and selenium.

Think about your grain food choices. Do you consume a wide variety of grain foods, such as oatmeal, barley, brown rice and whole-wheat pasta? Are half of your grain choices whole-grain foods? Whole grains provide fiber and a wide array of phytochemicals (plant chemicals) with health benefits.

On average, sedentary women and older adults need about 5 ounces of grain foods daily. Children, teenage girls, active women and sedentary men need about 7 ounces daily. Teenage boys and physically active men need about 10 ounces of grain foods daily.

One ounce of grain may be less than you think. One ounce from the grain group equals one slice of bread, one-half English muffin, one-half bun, five to seven crackers, one pancake about 4.5 inches in diameter, ½ cup cooked pasta or rice or ½ cup cooked cereal.

Compare your daily grain food choices with the recommended amount for your gender and level of physical activity. You will find more information about assessing your diet by visiting

If you’re like me, a cinnamon roll would be quite tasty right now. If you try this recipe, keep portion size and your daily recommendations in mind when these come out of the oven.

Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

1 cup warm water

2 Tbsp. sugar

½ packet active dry yeast (about 1½ tsp.)

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1½ tsp. salt

2 Tbsp. salad oil (such as canola or sunflower oil)

2 cups all-purpose flour (see directions)

Cinnamon sugar mixture (1/3 cup sugar plus ¾ tsp. cinnamon)

Softened butter (2 to 3 Tbsp.)

Cream cheese icing (optional)

In a large bowl, combine warm water, sugar, yeast and whole-wheat flour. Cover mixture with a clean dish towel and allow the mixture to stand for about 10 minutes until it becomes bubbly. Add salt and oil and stir. Gradually add the all-purpose flour and stir well. (Note: You may need to add slightly more or less flour depending on the stickiness of the dough.) Knead the dough on a floured surface for about five minutes, and then allow the dough to rest. Scrape the mixing bowl and spread some oil in the bowl. Continue kneading the dough for a few minutes. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, and then flip the dough over.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, cover with a towel and place the dough in a warm place until the dough doubles in size. Remove the dough from the bowl and roll into a rectangle. Sprinkle the dough with softened butter and the cinnamon-sugar mixture. Roll up the dough, then pinch the seam closed. Use dental floss to cut the roll of dough into 12 pieces. Wrap the floss around the dough, then bring together like tying a shoe lace. Place the rolls into a well-greased cake pan. Cover and allow the rolls to rise for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes, until golden brown. Allow to cool, and then frost lightly, if desired. Note: You can bake this as a loaf of bread and omit the butter and cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Makes 12 rolls. Without frosting, each roll has 180 calories, 30 grams (g) of carbohydrate, 4.5 g of fat and 2 g of fiber.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and associate professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.