Why it's a bad idea to eat bread before your main meal at restaurants

This unsuspecting starter may be doing your body more harm than good...

Why you should avoid eating bread before dinner - dinner table set with food
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most of us are well-versed in the perils of snacking before dinner but for some reason, the pre-dinner bread basket seems exempt from any rules. 

It’s not exactly a secret that the best time of day to snack isn't just before dinner, but it turns out that reaching for bread before dinner is a bad idea - and not only because it makes you too full.   

Nutritionists have suggested thinking carefully about the order in which we eat our food in an attempt to balance blood sugar and improve digestion. And sadly, that means our pre-dinner bread is under scrutiny. So why should we avoid reaching for it?

picture of bread basket on dining table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The main reason we shouldn’t be reaching for the bread basket before dinner is because of its starchy nature. When our stomachs are empty, starchy food such as bread can cause a significant glucose spike and majorly affect our body’s process of digesting not only the bread itself but our meal afterwards.

Nutrition specialist at Omni, the Cotswold-based health and wellness center, Andy Daly explains the issues that come with a pre-dinner bread fix. He says, “Eating bread, particularly refined white bread, can lead to a surge in insulin which followed by a crash can make you feel hungry again sooner. It may also disrupt your appetite regulation, potentially leading to overeating during the main meal.” 

Experts from Prepped Pots, powered by musclefood.com, corroborated this. "When you go to a restaurant it’s common to get some complimentary bread while you’re waiting for your dinner. Although it may be appealing, it can result in a big glucose spike, as you’ll be consuming starch on an empty stomach," they add. "If you wait to eat the bread alongside your protein, fats, and vegetables then you can significantly flatten the glucose curve."

rustic loaf of bread

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you’re reading this and already beginning to grieve the loss of your pre-pasta garlic bread, don’t worry: it’s not all bad news. Daly suggests swapping out any white bread for multi-grain alternatives instead. Alternatively, he says, “Consider having it alongside other nutritious foods rather than right before dinner. This can help promote better blood sugar control, balanced nutrition, and improved digestion.”  

So whether you're looking for what to snack on when you're dieting or simply wanting to avoid any glucose-based issues, it's clear that bread is not the ideal choice when sitting down for your evening meal. But, ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body and remember to stick to what works for your dietary requirements and needs.

Emily Smith
Digital lifestyle writer

Emily joined woman&home as a staff writer after finishing her MA in Magazine Journalism from City University in 2023. After writing various health and news content, she now specialises in lifestyle and home writing where she covers all things cleaning, interiors and homeowning.