It seems no office party, house party, or other festive event is complete without a tray of cheese and crackers–it’s practically a party staple. But when it’s your turn to fill the platter, a quick trip down the cracker aisle can be overwhelming: You’re faced with a wall of crackers in a variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and flavors. Which ones should you get?
To simplify, think of crackers as an opportunity to knock out one of your daily servings of whole grains, which will help narrow the field tremendously. However, choosing a box because the picture on the front looks like it contains wheat isn’t enough. Crackers can be made from an assortment of grain types, so a little investigating is necessary to ensure you’re getting what you think you are.
When crackers are on your shopping list, take a couple of minutes to consider the following suggestions to make your choice count:
1. Whole grain as the first ingredient.
Separating whole grain from refined grain crackers can be difficult, especially when the terms “multigrain” or “wheat” are in the cracker’s name. But don’t just rely on the front of the package. Turn it over and check the ingredients list. The first ingredient listed should be a whole grain, such as whole wheat, oats, rye, or quinoa. Don’t be fooled by terms like “wheat flour” or “enriched flour,” both of which mean refined flour.
2. Check the serving size.
A one-ounce serving can equal a widely varying number of crackers, depending on the type. Don’t assume that because 20 crackers is a serving for one kind, it counts as a serving for all types of crackers. You could end up consuming far more calories, fat, and sodium than you intend. It’s important to flip the package to view the suggested serving size for each product.
3. Watch your additions.
Crackers, especially whole grain, can be a fairly healthy food. However, over doing it on what goes on them–cheese, pepperoni, peanut butter, flavored butters, and more–can create a less than healthy snack. Keep moderation in mind in both the number of crackers you eat, and what you enjoy on them.
– Heidi McIndoo, M.S., R.D.
Reprinted with permission from Environmental Nutrition, a monthly publication of Belvoir Media Group, LLC. 800-829-5384.www.EnvironmentalNutrition.com. (c) 2012 BELVOIR MEDIA GROUP DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.