Contents

How Triscuits Work

Triscuits are a favorite snack and a great party food, but you could also call the cracker “health food.” Henry Perky, the inventor of Triscuits, once stated that was the “most perfect food that was ever devised for the nourishment of man.”


Triscuits pack a lot of punch into a two-inch square.

Perky was not far off the mark — one serving of those 2-inch squares is low in saturated fat, has 0 grams of trans fat, has 0 grams of cholesterol, and is sugar free.

Triscuits, made entirely of whole grains, are also a good source of dietary fiber, with 3 grams per serving. Most breads usually only contain 1-2 grams of fiber. So what does that really mean?

Boost Your Fiber
Triscuits are known for their high fiber content, so to boost your fiber, here are some ways you can go beyond the cheese and cracker stage:

  • ­ Break up into bite-size pieces:
  • ­serve over soups and chilis;
  • use as you would croutons over salads;
  • make a snack mix with pretzels and peanuts
  • Coarsely chop the low sodium or original varieties in a food processor with toasted nuts, corn syrup, and cinnamon to use for a piecrust;
  • Crush and:
  • mix with your favorite meatloaf, meatballs, or casseroles instead of breadcrumbs
  • sprinkle on top of vegetables
  • Top with pizza sauce, a pepperoni slice, and a bit of cheese:
  • Microwave 45 seconds for quick and nutritious pizza squares.
  • Or, bake in 350 degree oven for 2-3 minutes
  • Or, broil until cheese melts (watching closely).

According to the American Institute of Cancer Research and other health organizations, the benefits of eating a diet high in fiber are substantial.
Diets high in fiber:

  • May help reduce the risk of heart disease. Eating more fiber-rich foods may protect you from some forms of cancer and may significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, and obesity.
  • Help many common conditions related to colon function, including constipation, hemorrhoids, and diverticulosis.
  • Slow down digestion. Whole grains are complex carbohydrates (and not simple ones, like refined sugar, white flour and white rice), so are digested more slowly.
  • Steady blood sugar levels to give a feeling of fullness. This helps in healthier weight control.
  • Satisfy hunger longer. Consuming three or more servings of whole grains daily, especially from high-fiber cereals, lowers risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease because there is less chance to develop insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome.
  • Give eaters combined health protection. When a grain is refined, it loses fiber, nutrients, and other healthful compounds, including some vitamins, minerals, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Eating whole grains adds those protective elements back into your diet. The combination of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals in other plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts multiplies their protective power.

AICR-funded research has shown high levels of potent antioxidants called polyphenols in whole grains. Antioxidants fight damage to cells that may lead to cancer and other diseases. Phenols and other antioxidants are mainly found in the outer layer of whole grains, the part that is removed when grains are refined.
How many servings of whole grains should we consume a day? The USDA’s updated 2005 Dietary Guidelines advise Americans to eat at least three servings a day of whole grains as part of a healthy diet.
When looking for healthy choices in breads, cereals, and crackers, look at the fiber content. That’s the main area of concern. The higher the fiber, the better it is for you. Compare brands by simply glancing at the nutritional labels provided on the back of the package or box.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy S. Hughes has written nine cookbooks. She develops recipes for major corporations, organizations, and lifestyle magazines.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

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Snacks are a major component of our daily diet, whether we are eating a between-meal snack or a snack as a meal. In fact, a recent consumer survey found that we eat an average of 2.6 snacks a day. And 41% of Americans snack at least three times a day!(1) With all of this snacking, it is important to choose healthy crackers and snacks.

Healthy Crackers and Snacks Contain:

  • Whole grains as the first ingredient
  • Minimal or no refined grains
  • Minimal or no added sugar
  • Low amounts of sodium
  • No artificial preservatives or artificial colors

What to look for when choosing healthier snacks

1. Look for fiber and whole grains

Foods and snacks rich in whole grains contain more fiber, which slows down the rate the body digests carbohydrates keeping you fuller longer.

The American Heart Association states that eating foods containing “dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, may help improve blood cholesterol levels, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, obesity and type 2 diabetes.”(2)

2. Minimize refined grains

Refined grains only contain the starchy component of a grain. Because the bran and germ of the grain have been removed, refined grains contain minimal natural vitamins and fiber.

Our bodies are able to quickly digest starchy refined grains. This leads to a rapid increase blood glucose levels (these are known as high Glycemic Index (GI) foods).(2,3)

Diets made up of predominantly high-GI foods, like refined grains, are associated with chronic disease and strongly associated with heart disease.(3)

3. Minimize added sugar

You may think salty snacks do not contain added sugar. However, sugar is a common ingredient in savory processed foods.

In crackers and other snack foods, typical added sugars listed in the ingredients include sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, malt syrup and dextrose.

Read more on recommended daily intake of added sugar and why you want to minimize added sugar consumption.

4. Look for low sodium snacks

Sodium, from salt and other food additives, can be found in almost any processed food. Salt is added to enhance the flavor of a product and make manufacturing easier.(4)

More than 90% of us consume too much sodium each day according to the Dietary Guidelines of America.(5) Read more on the recommended daily intake of sodium and why you want to reduce your daily sodium intake.

5. Avoid artificial preservatives and food coloring

Artificial preservatives and colors are widely used in sodas, candy, and baked goods including crackers and other salty snacks.

Why it is best to avoid artificial colors and preservatives is covered in other posts, specifically in choosing a breakfast cereal and choosing a granola bar.

Bottom line: When selecting snacks for yourself and your family, look for foods that are rich in whole grains and fiber, do not contain excessive amounts of sodium, have minimal added sugar, and do not contain artificial preservatives or colors.

Evaluation of popular crackers and savory snacks

Top selling savory snacks (crackers, popcorn and pretzels) were evaluated using the criteria below.(6)

Many snacks rich in whole grains could not be rated as “wise” simply because they contained too much sodium. This is a common problem with processed foods.

It is worth noting that “avoid” does not mean never eat. It simply means that these are snacks that contain mostly, if not all, refined gains, excessive sodium, and often other junky ingredients. These snacks should be considered a rare treat, not a daily staple.

Criteria used to evaluate snacks

Since serving size of the snacks ranged from 16 to 43 grams, all information below is for 30 gram servings.

Types of added sugar are listed in red.

An asterisk (*) indicates ingredients that are likely genetically engineered (learn more about GMO foods).

Choosing Healthier Crackers

Most crackers on the market are made entirely with enriched wheat flour. These crackers provide few nutrients. Especially since they often contain excessive amounts of sodium and sometimes even added sugar.

When you choose crackers for your family, try to select some that contain predominantly whole grains.

How do you know if a snack is rich in whole grains? Look to see if “whole grain wheat” is the first ingredient on the ingredient list or if the snack contains roughly 1 gram of fiber for every 10 grams of carbohydrates listed on the Nutrition Facts label.

Examples of healthy crackers:

Triscuit Crackers

Triscuit Crackers Ingredients: whole grain wheat, vegetable oil*, sea salt.

Mary’s Gone Crackers

Mary’s Gone Crackers Ingredients: whole grain brown rice, whole grain quinoa, brown flax seeds, brown sesame seeds, filtered water, sea salt, wheat free tamari.

Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers

Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers Ingredients: brown rice flour, sesame seeds, potato starch, quinoa seeds, safflower oil, flax seeds, amaranth seeds, tamari soy sauce powder, salt.

Crackers that are okay for occasional snacking:

Wheat Thins

Wheat Thins Ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, soybean oil*, sugar*, cornstarch*, malt syrup, salt, refiner’s syrup, leavening, vegetable color.

Breton Multigrain Crackers

Whole Grain Goldfish

Whole Grain Goldfish Ingredients: whole wheat flour, enriched wheat flour, cheddar cheese, canola and/or sunflower oil, salt, yeast extract, paprika, spices, celery, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, onion powder.

Crackers to avoid or eat only as a rare treat:

Table Water Crackers

Table Water Crackers Ingredients: enriched wheat flour, palm oil, salt.

Reasons to avoid Table Water Crackers: no whole grains.

Cheez-It Crackers

Cheez-It Ingredients: enriched flour, vegetable oil*, cheese, salt, paprika, yeast, paprika extract (for color), soy lecithin*.

Reasons to avoid Cheez It crackers: no whole grains.

Ritz Crackers

Ritz Crackers Ingredients: enriched flour, vegetable oil* (may contain partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil), sugar*, salt, leavening, high fructose corn syrup*, soy lecithin*, malted barley flour, natural flavor.

Reasons to avoid Ritz crackers:

  • No whole grains
  • Contain a small amount of trans fat (hydrogenated cottonseed oil)

Ritz Bits, Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter Ritz Bits Ingredients: enriched flour, peanut butter (contains hydrogenated vegetable oil), canola oil*, sugar, palm oil, dextrose, leavening, salt, soy lecithin*, malted barley flour.

Reasons to avoid Ritz Bits Peanut Butter crackers:

  • No whole grains
  • Contains a small amount of trans fat (in the peanut butter)

Toast Chee Crackers

Reasons to avoid Toast Cheez crackers:

  • No whole grains
  • Contain artificial food coloring

Cheddar Goldfish Crackers

Cheddar Goldfish Crackers Ingredients: enriched flour, cheddar cheese, canola and/or sunflower oils*, salt, yeast, sugar, autolyzed yeast, baking soda, monocalcium phosphate, paprika, spices, celery and onion powder.

*Note: companies are allowed to state “0 grams” for an ingredient on the nutrition facts label if the product contains less than 0.5 grams of that ingredient.

Reasons to avoid Goldfish crackers:

  • No whole grains
  • 250 mg of sodium per serving

Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies

Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies Ingredients: wheat flour, sunflower oil, salt, cheddar cheese, yeast, baking soda, paprika, monocalcium phosphate, cultured whole milk, nonfat milk, annatto (color), onion powder, celery seed powder, enzymes.

Reasons to avoid Cheddar Bunnies crackers:

  • No whole grains
  • 250 mg of sodium per serving

Stacy’s Pita Chips

Stacy’s Pita Chips Ingredients: enriched wheat flour, sunflower and / or canola oil, sea salt, whole wheat flour, sugar, oat fiber, yeast, malted barley flour, rosemary extract, and ascorbic acid.

Reasons to avoid Stacy’s Pita Chips:

  • No whole grains
  • 289 mg of sodium per serving

Choosing Healthier Packaged Popcorn

Popcorn is a naturally fiber rich whole grain snack. However, packaged popcorn often contains excess sodium and processed ingredients.

If you are choosing a packaged popcorn, make sure you read the Nutrition Facts label to ensure it isn’t providing an excessive amount of sodium.

Also, Pirate’s Booty is not popcorn. It contains highly processed refined corn with minimal whole grains. Cheese flavored popcorn is a healthier option.

Examples of healthy popcorn snacks:

SkinnyPop

SkinnyPop Ingredients: popcorn, sunflower oil and salt.

Popcorn snacks to avoid or eat only as a rare treat:

Smartfood

Smartfood Ingredients: popcorn, vegetable oil*, cheddar cheese, whey, buttermilk, natural flavor, and salt.

Reason to avoid Smartfood popcorn: 311 mg of sodium per serving.

Pirate’s Booty

Reason to avoid Pirate’s Booty popcorn: no whole grains.

Choosing Healthier Pretzels

Pretzels are not a healthy snack. Made with predominantly refined flour and coated in salt, pretzels are nutritionally empty and contribute only empty calories and excess salt to your diet. This is why I have yet to find a “wise” option for pretzels.

However, if you love pretzels (like my boys do), try to buy pretzels made with some whole grains and have them in the snack rotation less frequently.

Pretzels to avoid or eat only as a rare treat:

Whole Grain Goldfish Pretzels

Whole Grain Goldfish Pretzels Ingredients: whole wheat flour, enriched flour, vegetable oils*, salt, baking powder, malted barley flour, nonfat milk.

Reason to avoid Whole Grain Goldfish pretzels: 260 mg of sodium per serving.

Quinn Pretzel Sticks

Quinn Pretzel Sticks Ingredients: whole grain sorghum flour, long grain brown rice flour, tapioca starch, potato starch, palm oil, sea salt, evaporated cane juice, apple cider vinegar, xanthan gum, sodium bicarbonate, sunflower lecithin.

Reason to avoid Quinn pretzels: 279 mg of sodium per serving.

Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzels

Snyder’s of Hanover Pretzels Ingredients: enriched flour, water, salt, malt, cane sugar, canola oil*, yeast, soda.

Reason to avoid Snyder’s of Hanover pretzels:

  • No whole grains
  • 250 mg of sodium per serving

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps

Snack Factory Pretzel Crisps Ingredients: enriched wheat flour, sugar*, salt, malt syrup, soda.

Reason to avoid Pretzel Crisps:

  • No whole grains
  • 354 mg of sodium per serving

Conclusions about healthier snacks

What prepackaged savory snacks do I keep stocked in my pantry? Popcorn, whole grain or seed-based crackers, nuts, and dried fruit prepared without added sugar.

I try to mix the more processed snacks (like whole grain goldfish or pretzels) with roasted nuts and dried fruit in healthier snack mix combinations to provide some hunger-fighting protein and fiber.

Find other healthy store bought snacks and foods

Check out these other evaluations of popular foods and snacks! Learn which products are healthy and those that are best avoided or only enjoyed as an occasional treat.

  • Healthy breakfast cereals
  • Healthier fruit snacks
  • Healthy granola bars
  • Healthy Trader Joe’s shopping list (pantry staples)

Pin article for later:

  1. State of the Snack Food Industry, 2015, IRi Website ()
  2. Whole Grains and Fiber, American Heart Association Website ()
  3. Always Hungry? Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells & Lose Weight Permanently, David Ludwig, MD, PhD ()
  4. Salt, Sugar, Fat. Michael Moss, 2013 ()
  5. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020, Eighth Ed. ()
  6. Sales of the leading cracker brands of the United States in 2016, Statistica Website () as well as prominent snacks for sale at Costco, Target, and my local grocery store (Harris Teeter).
  7. Triscuit Nutrition Information, Nabisco Snack Works Website ()
  8. Mary’s Gone Crackers Original Nutrition Information, Mary’s Gone Crackers Website ()
  9. Crunchmaster Multi-Seed Crackers Nutrition Information, Crunchmaster Website ()
  10. Wheat Thins Nutrition Information, Nabisco Snack Works Website ()
  11. Breton Crackers Nutrition Information, Dare Foods Website ()
  12. Whole Grain Goldfish Cracker Nutrition Information, Pepperidge Farm Website ()
  13. Carr’s Table Water Crackers Nutrition Information, Carr’s Website ()
  14. Cheez-It Nutrition Information, Cheez It Website ()
  15. Ritz Crackers Nutrition Information, Nabisco Snack Works Website ()
  16. Ritz Bitz Peanut Butter Nutrition Information, Nabisco Snack Works Website (
  17. Toast Chee Nutrition Information, Lance Website ()
  18. Goldfish Cracker Nutrition Information, Pepperidge Farm Website ()
  19. Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies Nutrition Information, Annie’s Website ()
  20. Stacy’s Pita Chips Simply Naked, Stacy’s Snacks Website ()
  21. Skinny Pop Original Nutrition Information, Skinny Pop Website ()
  22. Smartfood White Cheddar Nutrition Information, Smartfood Website ()
  23. Pirate’s Booty Aged White Cheddar Nutrition Information, Pirate Brands Website ()
  24. Whole Grain Goldfish Pretzel Nutrition Information, Pepperidge Farm Website ()
  25. Quinns Pretzels Classic Sea Salt Sticks Nutrition Information, Quinn Snacks Website ()
  26. Snyder’s of Hanover Mini Pretzels Nutrition Information, Snyder’s of Hanover Website ()
  27. Snack Factory Pretzel Crips Nutrition Information, Snack Factory Website ()

This article was originally published in May, 2017. The current version has been updated to ensure up-to-date content and enhance mobile readability.

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17 Processed Foods Nutritionists Approve Of

Despite processed food’s bad reputation—which, for the most part, is deserved—there are actually several items you can (and should) indulge in guilt-free. Nutritionists shared with us their top picks for healthy processed foods that they actually approve of and that don’t make them cringe when spotted in someone else’s grocery cart. Find out what they are and then double down on your healthy eating efforts by avoiding these unhealthiest foods on the planet.

1

Yogurt

Sure, it may come in a container, but that’s not a reason to not befriend this silky goddess. “Yogurt is an excellent source of protein, Vitamin B12, calcium, and a food source of probiotics!” exclaims Rebecca Lewis, RD for HelloFresh, a leading healthy meal kit delivery service. “When buying, read the label and try to select one that is less than 12 grams of sugar per serving. Instead, add the sweetness from fresh fruits you choose yourself.” When you can, go for Greek. It’s got double the protein and oftentimes contains around half the sugar. Again, steer clear of flavored varieties. And for some non-yogurt probiotic ideas, find out what’s worth a look (and what isn’t!) with these dairy-free probiotic products.

2

Frozen Veggies

Don’t let the bag dissuade you! “Frozen vegetables are minimally processed, but retain most of the nutrition during the process,” comments Lisa Hayim, registered dietitian and founder of The WellNecessities. “They may even be more nutrient-rich than fresh because they are picked and frozen at the time they are at their nutritional peak.”

3

Tomato Sauce

Typically, sauces that aren’t homemade don’t fit very nicely into your big plan to eat clean. But there’s a twist when it comes to tomatoes. “Tomato products, such as tomato sauce, contain higher levels of cancer-fighting lycopene than fresh tomatoes. To gain the best benefits, look for varieties with limited added sugar; sugar should not be one of the top three ingredients) and lower in sodium,” suggests Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, author of Belly Fat Diet for Dummies. “Selecting varieties with less than 140 mg of sodium per serving is the best choice.”

4

Sauerkraut

The corner of Hot Dog Street and Kraut Avenue isn’t exactly the center of skinny town, but this potent condiment is well worth slipping into your diet. “This fermented cabbage is full of health benefits,” says Palinski-Wade. “Thanks to the fermenting process, sauerkraut is a rich source of probiotics which help to aid digestive health. It is also rich in fiber while providing a source of vitamin A and vitamin C. Some studies have found sauerkraut may also offer breast-cancer prevention properties.” Noshing on it is also one of the eating habits for weight loss.

5

Chickpeas and Canned Beans

Deryn Macey/Unsplash

But we’ll admit that cooking dried beans from scratch when you want a quick weeknight dinner can be a total pain. And while we typically recommend that people stay away from canned products because the lining is probably lined with BPA, canned beans and chickpeas can be total heroes. “They might come in a can, but canned beans are a great source of ready to eat protein,” offers Palinski-Wade. “Packed full of soluble fiber, iron, and resistant starch makes it a great low-fat, affordable, plant-based protein source.” When choosing canned beans (or canned anything), always opt for low-sodium varieties.

6

Granola

You’ve probably heard that granola is a hidden landmine for diet saboteurs like sugar, calories, and even excess sodium. Although that’s largely true, that’s not always the case: “Some granolas are a great source of fiber and even protein. However, many companies add unnecessary sugar or even honey. Be sure to read the label and look for ‘no sugar added.’ A good rule of thumb is to make sure it has less than 10 grams of sugar per serving,” advises Hayim.

7

Veggie Burgers

“I said veggie burgers—not entire frozen meals or TV dinners!” presses Hayim. “The primary ingredient in many veggie burgers can be TVP: textured vegetable protein, which is a product made by extracting soy from soybeans, heating it, and then drying it. Unfortunately, the veggies, nuts, seeds, and beans are usually the secondary ingredients.” The good news? “Now there are awesome brands that have made veggies and legumes the first ingredient on the list, indicating they are primarily made up of real food. Read the labels and avoid ones with modified corn starch or artificial colors or flavors.”

8

Unsweetened Almond Milk

This can be a great option for those with GI sensitivity. But it’s important to note that many of the brands contain food additives, such as carrageenan, gums, and food starches that thicken and stabilize the milk making it more palatable and similar to milk. “Search for an almond milk that only contains just the nut and filtered water. Anything else is unnecessary!” explains Hayim. Luckily, more brands are either launching carrageenan-free lines or starting to eliminate it. (Did you know that Almond Breeze’s Original option quietly went carrageenan-free in October 2015?) Don’t miss our exclusive list of Eat This, Not That! from Trader Joe’s, which includes things like almond milk.

9

Organic Jelly

“I like toast and nothing.” There’s a reason that’s not how the tune goes, folks. “Yes, it is made with sugar. But use just a teaspoon and you also get a dose of antioxidants and phytonutrients that concentrate the disease-fighting compounds,” advise The Nutrition Twins, Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, CDN, CFT and Lyssie Lakatos, RD, CDN, CFT. “Just keep in mind that it also concentrates pesticide residues, so look for organic varieties. This is especially important when it comes to strawberry and grape varieties, which tend to contain more pesticide residues.”

10

Fortified Cereals

“The fortification process began in the 1920s as a way to address nutritional deficiencies. Some examples are iodine in salt, vitamin D in milk, and iron in cereal,” says Hayim. “Although they are processed, they can be beneficial as they have actually have certain nutrients that the food was lacking or that was removed during the processing.” Having fortified cereals may be a good way to get the recommended amount of vitamins and minerals; they’re often on the list of what pregnant women should eat.

11

Frozen Pizza

It’s not completely innocent and we’re not about to tell you to stock up. It does use a refined bread and can add up in calories when you overdo it. But The Nutrition Twins recommend it because the cheese is a calcium-rich food. “Plus, the tomato sauce is a concentrated source of tomatoes, and the antioxidant lycopene that comes with it,” they continue. But always skip the processed meat add-ons like pepperoni and sausage that are high in saturated fat and that may increase your risk for certain cancers. Go for plain cheese pizza or cheese pizza with veggies.” And if you can find whole grain crusts, then that’s your best option.

12

Freeze-Dried Fruit

“Research has found that freeze-dried fruit retains most, if not all, of the nutrient value of fresh fruit,” offers Palinski-Wade. “The crispy texture makes it a nutritious alternative to a chip while the long shelf life helps to reduce food waste and enhances portability.” Look for brands without any added sugars, i .e. where the ingredients are just fruit and nothing else.

13

Pickles

Pickles are processed through fermentation, which was initially done to improve shelf life and food preservation. “But this fermentation helps create probiotics—the good bacteria in your gut which help support the immune system and reduce inflammation in the gut,” says Hayim. Low in calories, they’re also great to nosh on between meals as a light snack.

14

Dark Chocolate

Charisse Kenion/Unsplash

Yep, you have full permission to intelligently indulge. Thanks to its high flavonoid content, dark chocolate has been found to improve cholesterol levels and even lower blood pressure. “Chocolate has also been associated with an increase in the feel-good chemical serotonin, helping to lift your mood. Just make sure to select dark chocolate that’s at least 70% cacao or above to gain the benefits,” advises Palinski-Wade.

15

Ezekiel Bread

“Ezekiel bread is sprouted, which means it is made of several different types of grains and legumes. Unlike traditional bread, it is not refined or pulverized whole wheat,” shares Hayim. “When searching for any bread, make sure that whole wheat is listed as the first ingredient, since a bread can be called ‘whole wheat’ just as long as wheat is involved, even if it’s not 100% and is made up of other refined ingredients.”

16

Peanut Butter

Regardless of which camp you’re from—creamy or crunchy—this smooth spread is a solid bet when it comes to packaged foods. “Peanut Butter is an excellent source of fiber and healthy unsaturated plant-based fats. But make sure to eat in moderation as one tablespoon has seven grams of fat and 63 calories,” says Lewis. “When buying, read the label and ensure there are no added sugar or high fructose corn syrup, and that there are no hydrogenated oils, which is a fancy way of saying trans fats.” Consult our exclusive report on peanut butters—ranked to find out the absolute worst (and best!) PB that you can pick.

17

String Cheese

Like most things on this list, the exact product you pick will make a world of difference. You can’t just opt for any string cheese; mozzarella or cheddar from top brands like Horizon Organic are usually your best bets. “From a saturated fat perspective, low-fat cheeses are better for you and can also contain fewer calories, which is good because it can be all too easy to get a lot of calories from cheese,” says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition.

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Processed foods are generally thought to be inferior to unprocessed foods. They may bring to mind a packaged food item containing many ingredients, perhaps even artificial colors, flavors, or other chemical additives. Often referred to as convenience or pre-prepared foods, processed foods are suggested to be a contributor to the obesity epidemic and rising prevalence of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. However, the definition of a processed food varies widely depending on the source:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines a processed food as one that has undergone any changes to its natural state—that is, any raw agricultural commodity subjected to washing, cleaning, milling, cutting, chopping, heating, pasteurizing, blanching, cooking, canning, freezing, drying, dehydrating, mixing, packaging, or other procedures that alter the food from its natural state. The food may include the addition of other ingredients such as preservatives, flavors, nutrients and other food additives or substances approved for use in food products, such as salt, sugars, and fats.
  • The Institute of Food Technologists includes additional processing terms like storing, filtering, fermenting, extracting, concentrating, microwaving, and packaging.

According to these standards, virtually all foods sold in the supermarket would be classified as “processed” to some degree. Because food begins to deteriorate and lose nutrients as soon as it is harvested, even the apples in the produce aisle undergo four or more processing steps before being sold to the consumer. That’s why in practice, it’s helpful to differentiate between the various degrees of food processing.

Types of food processing

A popular system to classify processed foods was introduced in 2009, called the NOVA classification. It lists four categories detailing the degree to which a food is processed:

Unprocessed or minimally processed foods

Unprocessed foods include the natural edible food parts of plants and animals. Minimally processed foods have been slightly altered for the main purpose of preservation but which does not substantially change the nutritional content of the food. Examples include cleaning and removing inedible or unwanted parts, grinding, refrigeration, pasteurization, fermentation, freezing, and vacuum-packaging. This allows the food to be stored for a greater amount of time and remain safe to eat. Many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, meats, and milk fall into this category.

Processed culinary ingredients

Food ingredients derived from a minimally processed food by pressing, refining, grinding, or milling. They are typically not eaten on their own but used to prepare minimally processed foods. Examples include oils from plants, seeds, and nuts, or flour and pastas formed from whole grains.

Processed foods

Foods from either of the two previous groups that have added salt, sugar, or fats. Some canned fruits and vegetables, some cheeses, freshly made bread, and canned fish are examples. These foods usually are made from at least 2-3 ingredients and can be readily eaten without further preparation.

Ultra-processed foods

Also commonly referred to as “highly processed foods,” these are foods from the prior group that go beyond the incorporation of salt, sweeteners, or fat to include artificial colors and flavors and preservatives that promote shelf stability, preserve texture, and increase palatability. Several processing steps using multiple ingredients comprise the ultra-processed food. It is speculated that these foods are designed to specifically increase cravings so that people will overeat them and purchase more. They are typically ready-to-eat with minimal additional preparation. Not all but some of these foods tend to be low in fiber and nutrients. Examples are sugary drinks, cookies, some crackers, chips, and breakfast cereals, some frozen dinners, and luncheon meats. These foods may partially if not completely replace minimally processed foods in some people’s diets. One study using data from the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that ultra-processed foods comprised about 60% of total calories in the U.S. diet. An association has been suggested between the increasing sales of ultra-processed foods and the rise in obesity.

The NOVA system is recognized by the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization, but not currently in the U.S. by the Food and Drug Administration or USDA. NOVA has been criticized for being too general in its classification of certain foods, causing confusion. For example, yogurt may fall into more than one category: plain yogurt is minimally processed, but fruited yogurt with added sweeteners could be labeled either processed or ultra-processed depending on how much sweetener and other chemical additives are incorporated. NOVA also does not provide comprehensive lists of specific foods in each category, so the consumer is left to guess where each may fall.

Is processed food unhealthy?

There’s no doubt that at least some processed foods are found in most people’s kitchens. They can be time-savers when preparing meals, and some processed and fortified foods provide important nutrients that may not otherwise be obtained in a busy household or one that has a limited food budget. From a nutritional standpoint, processed and even ultra-processed foods can provide key nutrients. Some nutrients like protein are naturally retained throughout processing, and others like B vitamins and iron may be added back if they are lost during processing. Fruits and vegetables that are quickly frozen after harvesting can retain the majority of vitamin C.

Throughout history, foods fortified with specific nutrients have prevented deficiencies and their related health problems in certain populations. Examples include infant cereals fortified with iron and B vitamins to prevent anemia, milk fortified with vitamin D to prevent rickets, wheat flour fortified with folic acid to prevent birth defects, and iodine added to salt to prevent goiter.

Processing by certain methods like pasteurization, cooking, and drying can destroy or inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Additives such as emulsifiers preserve the texture of foods, such as preventing peanut butter from separating into solid and liquid parts. Other functions of processing include delaying the spoilage of food; preserving desirable sensory qualities of food (flavor, texture, aroma, appearance); and increasing convenience in preparing a complete meal.

But food processing also has drawbacks. Depending on the degree of processing, many nutrients can be destroyed or removed. Peeling outer layers of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains may remove plant nutrients (phytochemicals) and fiber. Heating or drying foods can destroy certain vitamins and minerals. Although food manufacturers can add back some of the nutrients lost, it is impossible to recreate the food in its original form.

If you are deciding whether or not to include a highly processed food in your diet, it may be useful to evaluate its nutritional content and long-term effect on health. An ultra-processed food that contains an unevenly high ratio of calories to nutrients may be considered unhealthy. For example, research supports an association between a high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. But some processed foods that contain beneficial nutrients, such as olive oil or rolled oats, have been linked with lower rates of these chronic diseases.

Decoding the ingredients list on a food label

Being aware of specific ingredients in a food is a good general practice for everyone but may be especially useful for those with food allergies or intolerances, diabetes, or digestive diseases. In many cases, the longer the ingredients list, the more highly processed a food is. However, an ingredient that is not recognizable or has a long chemical name is not necessarily unhealthful. When scanning the Ingredients listing on a food package, consider the following:

  • The ingredients are listed in order of quantity by weight. This means that the food ingredient that weighs the most will be listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last.
  • Some ingredients like sugar and salt may be listed by other names. For example, alternative terms for sugar are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, coconut sugar, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, or turbinado sugar. Other terms for sodium include monosodium glutamate or disodium phosphate.
  • If the food is highly processed, it may contain several food additives such as artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Their ingredient names may be less familiar. Some preservatives promote safety of the food by preventing growth of mold and bacteria. Others help prevent spoilage or “off” flavors from developing. Examples that you may see on the label include:
    • Preservatives—ascorbic acid, sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, tocopherols
    • Emulsifiers that prevent separation of liquids and solids—soy lecithin, monoglycerides
    • Thickeners to add texture—xanthan gum, pectin, carrageenan, guar gum
    • Colors—artificial FD&C Yellow No. 6 or natural beta-carotene to add yellow hues
  • Fortified foods contain vitamins and minerals that are added after processing. Either these nutrients were lost during processing, or they were added because they are lacking in the average diet. Examples include B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, niacinamide, folate or folic acid), beta carotene, iron (ferrous sulfate), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin D, or amino acids to boost protein content (L-tryptophan, L-lysine, L-leucine, L-methionine).

Ingredients used widely in the production of highly/ultra-processed foods such as saturated fats, added sugar, and sodium have become markers of poor diet quality due to their effect on heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. It is estimated that ultra-processed foods contribute about 90% of the total calories obtained from added sugars.

A look at some of the research examining different types of processed foods and their impact on health

  • In 2015, the World Health Organization categorized processed meats as cancer-causing to humans. They defined “processed meat” as meat that has been transformed through salting, curing, fermentation, smoking, or other processes to enhance flavor or improve preservation. The statement was made after 22 scientists from the International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group evaluated more than 800 studies on the topic. The evidence on processed meats was strongest for colorectal cancer, followed by stomach cancer.
  • An analysis of the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study found that a higher intake of ultra-processed foods like processed meats and potato chips was associated with weight gain over 4 years. Other studies suggest that the more that ultra-processed foods are eaten, the greater the risk of a diet lacking in important nutrients. An evaluation of the dietary intakes of 9,317 U.S. participants in an NHANES cohort found that higher intakes of ultra-processed foods were linked with greater consumption of refined carbohydrate, added sugars, and saturated fat. At the same time, intakes of fiber, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and vitamins A, C, D, and E decreased.
  • Another observational study among nearly 20,000 Spanish university graduates in the Seguimiento University of Navarra cohort found that higher consumption (more than 4 servings per day) of ultra-processed food was associated with a 62% increased risk of death from any cause compared with lower consumption (less than 2 servings per day). For each additional daily serving of ultra-processed food, there was an 18% increased risk of death. Based on their findings, the researchers noted the importance of policies that limit the proportion of ultra-processed foods in the diet and promote consumption of unprocessed or minimally processed foods to improve global public health. Other cohort studies in France (NutriNet Santé) and the U.S. (NHANES) have also found that consumption of ultra-processed foods was directly associated with high all-cause mortality.
  • In 2019, a randomized controlled trial looked at whether ultra-processed foods, as defined under the NOVA classification, might indeed cause people to eat more. Ten men and ten women were randomized to receive either an ultra-processed diet or unprocessed diet for 14 days, followed by 14 more days of the alternate diet. The diets were relatively equal in calories, sugar, fat, fiber, and other nutrients, and participants were allowed to eat as much or as little as they liked. The study found that participants ate about 500 calories more on the ultra-processed diet and also gained weight (about 2 pounds). Most of the extra calories came from carbohydrate and fats, and the diet also increased their sodium intake. When the participants changed to the unprocessed diet, they ate fewer calories and lost the weight. According to appetite surveys, the diets did not differ in levels of hunger, fullness, and satisfaction, though participants tended to eat faster on the ultra-processed diet.

The bottom line

Food processing is a spectrum that ranges from basic technologies like freezing or milling, to the incorporation of additives that promote shelf stability or increase palatability. As a general rule, emphasizing unprocessed or minimally processed foods in the daily diet is optimal. That said, the use of processed foods is the choice of the consumer, and there are pros and cons that come with each type. The Nutrition Facts Label and ingredients list can be useful tools in deciding when to include a processed food in the diet. There is evidence showing an association with certain types of food processing and poor health outcomes (especially highly- or ultra-processed foods). This association applies mainly to ultra-processed foods that contain added sugars, excess sodium, and unhealthful fats.

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  4. Steele EM, Baraldi LG, da Costa Louzada ML, Moubarac JC, Mozaffarian D, Monteiro CA. Ultra-processed foods and added sugars in the US diet: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. BMJ open. 2016 Jan 1;6(3):e009892.
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  7. Poti JM, Braga B, Qin B. Ultra-processed Food Intake and Obesity: What Really Matters for Health—Processing or Nutrient Content?. Current obesity reports. 2017 Dec 1;6(4):420-31.
  8. Bouvard V, Loomis D, Guyton KZ, Grosse Y, El Ghissassi F, Benbrahim-Tallaa L, Guha N, Mattock H, Straif K. Carcinogenicity of consumption of red and processed meat. The Lancet Oncology. 2015 Dec 1;16(16):1599-600.
  9. Mozaffarian D, Hao T, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Changes in diet and lifestyle and long-term weight gain in women and men. New England Journal of Medicine. 2011 Jun 23;364(25):2392-404.
  10. Steele EM, Popkin BM, Swinburn B, Monteiro CA. The share of ultra-processed foods and the overall nutritional quality of diets in the US: evidence from a nationally representative cross-sectional study. Population health metrics. 2017 Dec;15(1):6.
  11. Rico-Campà A, Martínez-González MA, Alvarez-Alvarez I, de Deus Mendonça R, de la Fuente-Arrillaga C, Gómez-Donoso C, Bes-Rastrollo M. Association between consumption of ultra-processed foods and all cause mortality: SUN prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2019 May 29;365:l1949.
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Processed food has a bad reputation as a diet saboteur. It’s blamed for obesity rates, high blood pressure and the rise of Type 2 diabetes. But processed food is more than boxed macaroni and cheese, potato chips and drive-thru hamburgers. It may be a surprise to learn that whole-wheat bread, homemade soup or a chopped apple also are processed foods.

While some processed foods should be consumed less often, many actually have a place in a balanced diet. Here’s how to sort the nutritious from the not-so-nutritious.

What Is Processed Food?

“Processed food” includes food that has been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition with fortifying, preserving or preparing in different ways. Any time we cook, bake or prepare food, we’re processing food.

Processed food falls on a spectrum from minimally to heavily processed:

  • Minimally processed foods — such as bagged spinach, cut vegetables and roasted nuts — often are simply pre-prepped for convenience.
  • Foods processed at their peak to lock in nutritional quality and freshness include canned tomatoes, frozen fruit and vegetables, and canned tuna.
  • Foods with ingredients added for flavor and texture (sweeteners, spices, oils, colors and preservatives) include jarred pasta sauce, salad dressing, yogurt and cake mixes.
  • Ready-to-eat foods — such as crackers, granola and deli meat — are more heavily processed.
  • The most heavily processed foods often are pre-made meals including frozen pizza and microwaveable dinners.

The Positives of Processed

Processed food can help you eat more nutrient-dense foods. Milk and juices sometimes are fortified with calcium and vitamin D, and breakfast cereals may have added fiber. Canned fruit (packed in water or its own juice) is a good option when fresh fruit is not available. Some minimally processed food such as pre-cut vegetables and pre-washed, bagged spinach are quality convenience foods for busy people.

If you want to minimize your intake of processed food, aim to do more food prep and cooking at home. Base meals on whole foods including vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Look for Hidden Sugar and Sodium

Eating processed food in moderation is fine, but many of these foods may contain high amounts of added sugar and sodium.

Added Sugars

Added sugars are any sugar that is not naturally occurring in the food and has been added manually.Added sugars aren’t just hidden in processed sweets. They’re added to bread to give it an appealing browned hue, and there often is a surprising amount added to jarred pasta sauces and cereal. Added sugars often are used in low-fat foods to improve taste and consistency. The grams of carbohydrate on the Nutrition Facts label also includes naturally occurring sugars which may be a significant amount in foods such as yogurt and fruit. Instead, review a product’s ingredient list and look for added sugars among the first two or three ingredients including sugar, maltose, brown sugar, corn syrup, cane sugar, honey and fruit juice concentrate.

Sodium

Processed foods are major contributors of sodium in our diets because salt is commonly added to preserve foods and extend shelf life. Most canned vegetables, soups and sauces have added salt. Choose foods labeled no salt added, low-sodium or reduced-sodium to decrease the amount of salt you’re consuming from processed foods.

12 Healthy Store-Bought Cracker Brands, According to Nutritionists

Crackers can seem so innocent. You crumble them into soup, nibble on them with ginger ale when you’re sick, or top ’em with cheese when sipping a little vino. But when it comes to wholesome ingredients and reasonable nutritional information, healthy crackers can seem nowhere in sight.

That’s because many store-bought crackers are made with refined grains, lack fiber, and are high in sodium. But that shouldn’t deter you from including these snacks in your diet.

“Crackers can be a great way to get a serving of whole grains into the diet,” says dietitian Jenna Appel, MS, RD, LDN, CPT, and owner of Appel Nutrition.

Plus, crackers can be a part of a healthy diet by encouraging you to eat other healthy foods as toppings, such as peanut butter, cheese, olives, smoked salmon, and hummus. Of course, with most nutrition advice, moderation is key: “Be mindful of your cracker toppings as what you consume with your crackers can lead to excess calorie, fat, or sodium consumption,” says Appel.

We know that finding healthy crackers in the snack aisle can be hit or miss. Which is why we asked dietitian nutritionists for their advice on how they pick the healthiest crackers.

How to choose healthy crackers.

When buying crackers, there are a few things you need to consider to ensure you’re buying the best.

  • Make sure “whole grain” is the first ingredient: “You want to make sure that they are 100% whole grain crackers. The first ingredient should be 100% whole grain flour,” says registered dietitian Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN, who serves on the advisory board for Smart Healthy Living.
  • Look for crackers with at least 3 grams of fiber. “Another thing to strive for in a healthy cracker is fiber. Look on the nutrition label of your crackers. Strive to search for crackers that have the most fiber compared to other brands. Some of the crackers in the grocery store may only have 3 grams per serving,” Kostro Miller says.
  • Beware of high sodium levels. “When possible, try to choose crackers that have less sodium, because controlling your sodium intake is important for everyone,” Kostro Miller says.
  • There should be little or no added sugar. Most Americans are already consuming a high-sugar diet. You want to make sure that savory crackers aren’t taking on to your daily limit of added sugar. “A little added honey is alright, but it’s usually best to avoid high fructose corn syrup or crackers with more than one type of sugar. If you’re looking for a healthy cracker choice, keep the added sugar in check: no more than 1-2 grams of sugar per serving is best,” says dietitian Caitlin Self, MS, CNS, LDN.

The 12 healthiest store-bought crackers you can buy.

This list of healthy crackers will help you decipher which of the biggest players to choose from when you’re at your grocery store.

1. Best Overall: Nabisco Triscuit Baked Whole Grain Wheat Original

6 crackers, 28 g: 120 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 20 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

You can’t beat the purity of this recipe: whole wheat, oil, and salt. Period. It’s what led to many dietitians recommending Triscuit as one of the healthiest crackers you can buy. “I recommend Triscuit crackers because they offer lots of different bold flavors,” says Kostro Miller. “Even their flavored crackers like the cracked pepper and olive oil only has 140 milligrams of sodium per serving. Their other flavors as well are very satisfying, and whole-grain wheat tends to be the first ingredient!”

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2. Best Seeded: Mary’s Gone Crackers

12 crackers, 30g: 150 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (3 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

For a crispbread-like texture in cracker form, Mary’s Gone Crackers are a classic. You’ll almost always see Mary’s Gone Crackers on lists of the healthiest crackers because they taste great, are made with simple ingredients, and check a lot of dietary boxes: gluten-free, organic, vegan, and non-GMO. Dietitian Rachel Fine, MS, RD, CSSD, CDN, owner of To The Pointe Nutrition says these crackers “are another favorite high-fiber option with a mix of fibrous grains and seeds.”

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3. Best for Weight Loss: GG Scandinavian Fiber Crispbread, Oat Bran

1 crispbread, 8 g: 30 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (4 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 1 g protein

When registered dietitian Brocha Soloff, BS, RD, CDN of iHeartHealth is looking for healthy crackers, she looks for the least ingredients, lowest net carb, and highest fiber: a triple threat for weight loss. Her favorite cracker for health and weight management is this one from Norwegian crispbread company, GG’s. Snack on two of these crispbreads and you’ll get a third of your daily value of fiber in! This Scandinavian snack packs in zero sodium and just two nutrient-dense ingredients—wheat bran and oat bran—for a truly wholesome eat. “Crackers can and should be part of a healthy diet. In fact, they’re better than most bread for weight management,” Soloff says.

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4. Best Tasting: Back to Nature Spinach & Roasted Garlic Crackers

20 crackers, 30 g: 130 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (2 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

The first two ingredients here are unbleached wheat flour and whole-grain wheat flour. Plus, there’s actually dried spinach in here, which helps boost your iron levels.

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5. Best Gluten-Free: CrunchMaster Multi-Grain Sea Salt

16 crackers, 20 g: 120 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (3 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

This pick packs in a whole lot of crunch and wholesome ingredients. It’s baked with brown rice flour, oat fiber, sesame seeds, quinoa, millet, and flaxseed. And if you’re looking for a cracker to munch on instead of chips, Crunchmaster makes a great option. “If you’re looking to do some snacking for the purpose of snacking, are great options because they’re low calorie so you can eat more of them. Plus the texture is so crisp it feels satisfying to chomp down on these!” says Lindsey Herr, RDN, LDN, of Your Dietitian Friend.

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6. Best Low-Carb: Cali’Flour FoodsCauliflower Thins, Classic

6 crackers, 14 g: 90 calories, 7 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 50 mg sodium, 2 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 5 g protein

If you’re on a low-carb or keto diet, these cauliflower-based crackers are your best bet. They’re low in sodium and get their protein punch from almonds and egg whites.

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7. Best Made-with-Veggies: From The Ground Up Cauliflower Crackers

40 crackers, 28 g: 100 calories, 2.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 2 g protein

These babies are baked with cauliflower flour, lentil flour, and a veggie blend. One serving packs in 10 percent of your daily value of vitamins A, E, B6, B1 D, and C.

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8. Best Paleo Cracker: Simple Mills Rosemary & Sea Salt Almond Flour Crackers

17 crackers, 30 g: 150 calories, 8 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (2 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 3 g protein

The first ingredient in this gluten-free box is a nut and seed flour blend concocted with almonds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds—so you know a big chunk of the eight grams of fat in each serving comes from heart-healthy omega-3s and vitamin E. “Simple Mills crackers are a great option for those with allergies as they are made with almond flour, rather than wheat flour,” says Fine.

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9. Best Multi-Grain: Ozery Bakery Lavash Crackers, Multi-Grain and Seeds

per 4 crackers, 26 g: 90 calories, 3 g fat (0.4 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (2 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 3 g protein

The cracked wheat, rye, flax seeds, millet meal, and other whole grains and seeds make this hearty cracker a solid source of fiber and protein. We like that Ozery Bakery keeps the sugar and sodium contents low. Pair it with your favorite hummus for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

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10. Best High-Fiber Cracker: Wasa Crispbread Fiber

2 crispbreads, 20 g: : 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 90 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (5 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

“These crackers are low in calories and pack in a good amount of dietary fiber to keep you feeling full. Due to the size and shape of these crackers, you can use them as an alternative to bread giving you a satisfying crunch!” says Appel. The wheat germ, bran, and whole-grain rye in these crackers really amp up the fiber content here, while the sesame seeds add in healthy fat. While Wasa is our favorite high-fiber cracker, it can also be used for weight loss. Soloff also recommends Wasa for clients who don’t like the graininess of GG’s.

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11. Best for Kids: Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies

51 pieces, 30 g: 140 calories, 6 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 250 mg sodium, 19 g carbs (2 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

If you’re looking for a healthy cracker for kids, Annie’s has your answer. “Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies are excellent whole grain snacks for kids. I give them to my 5-year-old son. They taste great and packed with nutrients and fiber!” says registered dietitian nutritionist Sandra Murray Gultry, MS, RDN, LDN, CSOWM and owner of It’s All About Choices. This wholesome Annie’s pick packs in organic whole wheat flour, sunflower oil, and a bit of real cheddar for a subtle flavor. You’ll find zero artificial preservatives in this box.

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12. Best Gourmet: Rustic Bakery Handmade Sourdough Flatbread

1 ounce (28 g): 80 calories, 2 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 2 g protein

Although it doesn’t meet our fiber requirements, Rustic Bakery is a dietitian-approved cracker when you’re whipping up a fancy cheese plate. “Hands down the best store-bought crackers are from Rustic Bakery. The sourdough option is my favorite because the baking involves fermentation, which attracts yeast and bacteria. These live organisms digest the complex starches in the dough. The length of time that the dough ferments is directly related to the break-down of gluten in a process called hydrolysis,” says Laura Lagano, MD, RDN, CDN, integrative & functional nutritionist with an in-person & virtual private practice. Lagano notes that fermented crackers like this can be helpful for people who are sensitive to gluten, but they’re still not best for individuals with Celiac disease.

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The worst crackers for your health.

Most of the crackers that didn’t meet our healthy cracker criteria fell on the worst list because they’re made with refined grains, lack fiber, are high in sodium, or contain added sugars.

1. Worst: Nabisco Wheat Thins Original

PER 16 CRACKERS, 31 G: 140 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 22 g carbs (3 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein

Wheat Thins contain a decent fiber and protein content, but the five grams of sugar per serving is simply unnecessary.

RELATED: 150+ recipe ideas that get you lean for life.

2. Worst: Carr’s Table Water Crackers

4 crackers, 14 g: 60 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated), 80 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 1 g protein

White crackers don’t have much nutritional value, it’s true, but plain crackers are a lifesaver for when you’re sick or just want something to pair a slice of Swiss with.

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3. Worst: Keebler Club Crackers, Original

PER 4 PIECES: 70 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 9 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 0 g protein

Definitely plain, but not so great. These Keebler Club Crackers pack in sugar and salt without any fiber or protein.

4. Worst: Ritz Roasted Vegetable

PER 5 CRACKERS, 16 G: 80 calories, 3 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 1 g sugar), 1 g protein

While this recipe contains dehydrated vegetables, the main ingredient is still refined flour. Plus, it packs in hydrogenated oils and high-fructose corn syrup, one of the unhealthiest foods on the planet.

5. Worst: Ritz Bits, Cheese

PER 13 PIECES, 31 G: 160 calories, 9 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 2 g protein

Soiled with sugar and partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil—you can definitely find a better cracker to nosh on.

6. Worst: Cheez-It Original

PER 27 CRACKERS, 30 G: 150 calories, 8 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 230 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 3 g protein

Cheez-Its’ lack of fiber won’t prevent your hunger from soaring minutes after you nosh on these savory bits.

7. Worst: Keebler Club Crackers, Multigrain

PER 4 CRACKERS, 14 G: 60 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 10 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), <1 g protein

While it’s marketed as a plain, multi-grain cracker, you’ll find more sugar than fiber in this deceitful pick.

8. Worst: Keebler Town House Flatbread Crisps Sea Salt & Olive Oil

PER 8 CRACKERS, 15 G: 70 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 11 g carbs (<1 g fiber, <1 g sugar), 1 g protein

The 4 grams of fat here come from inflammatory soybean oil. Hard pass.

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Crunchy whole wheat crackers that are perfect for snacking. So much healthier and cheaper than store-bought!

Nearly every day after arriving home from middle school, I dropped my backpack on the floor next to the kitchen table and walked straight into the pantry to rummage around for a snack. Mom had designated an entire shelf to quick grab-and-go finger foods, located at just the right height for short preteens to stare at and reach.

In addition to the packaged chewy chocolate chip cookies and fudgy cupcakes, that shelf held a wide variety of less sugary snacks: mini pretzel twists, fruit-filled granola bars, Goldfish, Triscuits and Wheat Thins. Although the big one-pound bags of pretzels usually disappeared in less than a week between my younger brother and me, the crackers were always a popular choice too.

We’d alternate between craving the simple woven wheat style of the larger Triscuits and the slightly sweeter, less messy Wheat Thins. I generally preferred the latter, mainly because they were smaller and I could eat more! But regardless of which snack we chose, we’d set the box in the middle of the kitchen table and take turns politely reaching in to grab a few crackers while starting on our homework.

Eventually, my brother and I started gravitating towards healthier snacks like fresh fruit or veggies with dip, so Mom stopped buying quite so many boxes of kid-friendly crackers at the store. Instead, those were replaced by more “adult” tasting varieties from Trader Joe’s flavored with rosemary, thyme, and other herbs for Dad to snack on at night.

However, with this recent heat wave (106°F in September??), my family and I lost the desire to cook dinners, and we turned to lots of salads or smorgasbord evening meals instead. Because my dad still enjoys his nightly crackers, albeit with gourmet goat cheese and Brie lately, I decided to bravely turn on the oven and bake these Homemade Wheat Thins for him!

Although I probably should’ve made a double batch… It turns out my brother loves them too and has been snacking on them in the afternoons!

Truth be told, these aren’t quite exactly like Wheat Thins. When I looked at the ingredients list and saw three different kinds of sugar, I knew I could make my recipe healthier! So we’re trading the processed ingredients for 100% wholesome ones, which means this DIY version is clean eating friendly.

Even better, these require just 5 ingredients, all of which you probably stash in your pantry already! Whole wheat flour, salt, coconut oil, maple syrup, and water. That’s it! I skipped baking powder or baking soda because I prefer my crackers to be nice and flat, instead of puffy and raised in the center. That look is fine on my cupcakes, but… I’ll keep my crackers thin, thanks!

The secret to crunchy crackers is to roll them out as thin as possible. Aim for less than 1/16”, if you can! I always roll mine out with a silicone rolling pin because that has a non-stick and more even surface than wooden ones, and I do it right on the silicone baking mat on which I plan on baking the crackers.

My other trick is to slice the flattened cracker dough into squares using a pizza cutter! It results in straighter lines than a knife, but either will work.

Then pop the tray in the oven, wait impatiently, and snack to your heart’s content!

Homemade Wheat Thins 5.0 from 7 reviews

Yields: 4 servings These crunchy whole wheat crackers are a healthier version of the popular store-bought brand. They’ll stay crunchy for at least 5 days if stored in an airtight container.

  • 1 cup (120g) whole wheat flour (measured correctly)
  • ½ tsp salt, divided
  • 1 tsp coconut oil, melted
  • 2 tbsp (30mL) pure maple syrup, room temperature
  • ¼ cup (60mL) water, room temperature
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Make a well in the center. Pour in the coconut oil, maple syrup, and water. Stir until all of the flour mixture is fully incorporated.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured silicone baking mat, and lightly knead a few times. Roll the dough into a 1/16” thick rectangle. Slice the dough into squares using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife. Prick the center of each square with a fork, and sprinkle with the remaining salt. Slide the silicone baking mat onto a baking sheet, at bake at 350°F for 28-32 minutes or until crunchy. Cool the crackers on the baking sheet for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Notes: Honey, agave, or brown sugar may be substituted for the maple syrup.
For a gluten-free version, use this recipe instead or the following gluten-free flour blend: ½ cup (60g) millet flour, ¼ cup (30g) tapioca flour, ¼ cup (30g) brown rice flour, and ½ teaspoon xanthan gum.
{vegan, clean eating, low fat, low calorie} 3.2.2925

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