Who doesn’t love to snack on crackers? They’re the perfect crunchy carb to have with cheese, stacked with deli meat, or smeared with hummus. But they aren’t always healthy.
“Crackers are a portable and versatile snack—a great on-the-go option that can fit into a healthy eating regimen,” says Silvia Carli, MS, RD, CSCS, registered dietitian with 1AND1 Life. “It is important to choose wisely to get the best out of it.”
When it comes to choosing a healthy cracker, look for whole grains, like whole wheat flour, as a first ingredient, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RD, a registered dietitian and author of Read It Before You Eat It – Taking You from Label to Table.
“‘Wheat flour is often a first ingredient […] but it’s not the same as whole wheat,” says Taub-Dix. “Don’t be fooled by products that are brown in color. Often consumers confuse the color of a food for its whole grain value, when the truth is that some brown-colored products—like bread and crackers, for example—have molasses added, but aren’t whole grain.”
Other whole grains include:
- Brown rice
- Buckwheat or kasha, buckwheat groats
- Corn or cornmeal (yellow and white)
- Cracked wheat (also called bulgur)
- Millet Popcorn Quinoa
- Rolled oats (old-fashioned, quick, or instant)
- Whole barley
- Whole oats
- Whole wheat pasta
- Wild rice
Taub-Dix adds that when choosing a healthy cracker, you also need to check the type of fat mentioned on the ingredient list.
“Many crackers are made with harmful trans fats, appearing on food labels as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated fats,” says Taub-Dix. “No matter how graining they are or how ‘natural’ the food label looks, if it has these fats, I’d take a pass and pick another.”
Finally, you’ll want to check the sodium content. “Some crackers are high in sodium, so if you’re watching your salt intake, be sure to take a peek at this number on the food label,” says Taub-Dix. “Low sodium means 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving.”
If you want to buy a healthy cracker, here are seven cracker brands and products to stay away from, according to dietitians.
PER 51 CRACKERS: 140 calories, 6 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 260 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein
These cheesy crackers market themselves as healthy because they’re organic, but the sodium count is fairly high at 260 milligrams per serving. While we love that there are zero grams of sugar, it would be nice if there were a couple of grams of fiber as well.
PER 4 CRACKERS: 70 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), <1 g protein
“The serving size of these crackers is only four crackers (14 grams), and let’s keep it real—who eats only 1/2 oz of crackers at once?” says Carli. “They contain 3 grams of fat and less than one gram of protein, with no fiber. They also contain high fructose corn syrup and soy lecithin as a preservative, which is known to potentially have some negative effects on the gut microbiome.”
PER 1 PACK: 200 calories, 11 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 3 g protein
“These crackers are high saturated fat (about 3.5 grams), low in fiber (with less than one gram per serving), high in sodium (with 400 milligrams per serving), and one package contains 200 calories,” says registered dietitian Jonathan Valdez, RDN, owner of Genki Nutrition and a spokesperson for the New York State Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I doubt you will be leaving any behind or sharing.”
PER 5 CRACKERS: 80 calories, 4.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 130 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein
“The serving size of the Ritz original crackers is only five crackers. One serving contains 4.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of which is saturated, 1 gram of protein, and no fiber,” says Carli. “These crackers also contain palm oil. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), palm oil production is one of the leading causes of deforestation and endangered, protected species like orangutans, pygmy elephants, and Sumatran rhinos.”
PER 1 POUCH: 210 calories, 11 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 320 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 4 g protein
“Cheez-Its are high in saturated fat (2.5 grams), high in carbohydrates (24 grams), and high in sodium (320 milligrams),” says Valdez. They also contain enriched flour, soy lecithin, and multiple types of vegetable oils.
PER 16 CRACKERS: 140 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein
“One serving of Wheat Thins contains 4 grams of added sugar,” says Carli. “Usually it is best to avoid snacks with added sugar—very tough since sugar is pretty much added to everything these days. But on the other hand, it also contains 3 grams of fiber and a little protein, so it is not a completely awful option.”
PER 1 PACKAGE: 250 calories, 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 7 g sugar), 4 g protein
“These sandwich crackers have 2.5 grams of saturated fat, less than one gram of fiber, are high in carbohydrates (24 grams), and are also high in sodium (310 milligrams),” says Valdez. They also contain a long list of ingredients, including things like enriched flour, soybean and palm oil, and soy lecithin.
A previous version of this story was published on July 28, 2022. It has been updated to include additional copy and proofreading revisions, as well as updates to any irrelevant or broken contextual links.
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