I love a good cracker, but finding one that meets my nutritional criteria can be a bit of a challenge. Many of the crackers that look healthy, with claims like “multigrain” or “high fiber” may actually be made with refined grains or can be packed with a lot of unwanted additives. Like my previous post about cereal I use a few tricks to select the best of the bunch. First, the cracker must be 100 percent whole grain. Words like “wheat” or “7 grain” can appear on packages that contain a mixture of refined and whole grains, and a cracker that’s brown can be colored by molasses or caramel. That’s why my first stop is always the ingredient list. In addition to the inclusion of only whole grains, the list should read like a recipe, with common, recognizable ingredients. Here are four options that fit the bill, including the ingredients, and my favorite ways to enjoy them:
Mary’s Gone Crackers
I’m bonkers about the herb version of these crunchy gems, which are made from: organic short grain brown rice, organic whole quinoa, organic brown flaxseeds, organic brown sesame seeds, filtered water, organic garlic, organic herbs, sea salt, organic wheat free tamari (water, whole organic soybeans, salt, organic alcohol or organic vinegar).
One of my favorite ways to use herbed crackers is to crumble them as a topping in place of croutons on a salad like this one from my Pinterest page. If my crunch tooth is nagging, I’ll leave out the quinoa and add crackers.
RW Garcia Gluten Free 5-Seed Crackers
I really love this brand’s onion and chive flavor. The ingredients are: organic stone ground white corn, sunflower oil or corn oil, onion powder, hemp seeds, brown flaxseed, poppy seeds, black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, dried chives, sea salt, water, trace of lime.
I love that Wasa keeps it simple. In the light rye version, the only ingredients are whole grain rye flour, water and salt. That’s it!
Manischewitz Whole Wheat Matzo
The only ingredients in these yummy brick oven-baked matzo are stone ground whole wheat flour and water.
I love to spread these crispy crackers with vegan pesto or olive tapenade and top with fresh basil and sliced tomatoes. If you eat dairy you can also sprinkle on feta, Parmesan, or part-skim mozzarella and make matzo pizza – just bake in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about five to seven minutes.
The biggest challenge with crackers is to not eat too many. Choosing filling whole grain versions helps. Just be sure to stick with the serving size stated on label and combine crackers with other healthy foods, rather than eating them straight from the bag or box.
Cynthia Sass is a registered dietitian with master's degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she's a SHAPE contributing editor and nutrition consultant to the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays. Her latest New York Times best seller is S.A.S.S! Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.