Grocery Store Spotlight: Making Sense of the Cracker Chaos

If you’ve been reading my posts, you know that I’ve been stressing the importance of reading labels when it comes to selecting what foods we want to put into our bodies and that I promote a properly prepared whole foods diet.  Today I got the idea to occasionally write a post called the Grocery Store Spotlight, where I’ll compare different brands of a selected food and help you decipher which one has the most nutritional value.  Hopefully, I’ll get a collection of these going after a while, and my readers can use them as a guide in their grocery shopping.  As always, I’d love to take your requests on what foods to compare in these posts.

So, for my first GSS, I took a closer look at the ingredients of some of the most popular brands of crackers.  There is a whole aisle of brands to choose from, but they are not all equal.  Here’s what I found out!

Ritz Crackers: These may look like a healthy snack for kids on the grocery store shelf, but when you look closer, you see that it’s packed full of high fructose corn syrup, soy and hydrogenated fat!  When I saw all these ingredients, I immediately tossed out the box that has been sitting in my pantry for months!

Ingredients: enriched flour, riboflavin, soybean oil, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, salt, leavening, high fructose corn syrup, soy lecithin, natural flavor, cornstarch. 

Wheat Thins: We’re looking at a lot of ingredients (and a lot of sugar) for one little cracker! It looks a little more natural than the Ritz, but still not the best choice.  Dang it, I’ve always loved Wheat Thins!

Ingredients: whole grain wheat flour, unbleached enriched flour, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid, soybean oil, sugar, cornstarch, malt syrup, invert sugar, monoglycerides, leavening, vegetable coloring.

Triscuits: They still contain the soybean oil, but with only four ingredients, Triscuits are a much more natural choice than the Ritz or Wheat Thins.

Ingredients: whole wheat, soybean and/or palm oil, salt

Now that we’ve compared three of the most popular cracker brands, here are a couple of alternatives.

Back to Nature Organic Stroneground Wheat Crackers: You can find these in the natural section of your local grocery store.  Most of the ingredients are organic and there are no hydrogenated oils or artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.

Ingredients: organic unbleached enriched flour, organic safflower oil, organic ground wheat flour, organic wheat flakes, organic whole brown flax seed, organic evaporated cane juice, organic brown rice syrup, sea salt, leavening, organic barley malt extract, soy lecithin.

Trader Joe’s Original Savory Thin Mini Crackers: These are a great wheat-free alternative for those of you that are sensitive to gluten.

Ingredients: rice meal, sesame seeds, sesame flour, safflower oil, tamari powder, maltodextrin, salt, garlic powder.

In my opinion, the Triscuits or the Back to Nature crackers are the best choices.  They contain more whole ingredients, no hydrogenated oils, sugar or artificial additives, and they actually taste good!

It’s important that we do this kind of detective work every time we fill our grocery carts.  As a rule of thumb, the fewer ingredients, the better.  Remember when selecting starchy carbs like crackers, you always want to go for whole grains whenever possible.  Some people even say if it doesn’t grow from the ground, swim in the ocean or come from the farm, you shouldn’t buy it, but I don’t think that’s realistic for my life.  There are parties, vacations and meals out, and sometimes I just have to make the best choice given the situation.  I may not be able to be perfect all the time, but I can do little things like serving Triscuits instead of Ritz at my next book club meeting.

Have a great day and don’t forget to send me your ideas for the next Grocery Store Spotlight!  Happy shopping!

7 Comments

Filed under Grocery Store Spotlights, Healthy Tips

7 responses to “Grocery Store Spotlight: Making Sense of the Cracker Chaos

  1. Jess Landes

    JoAnna – I really enjoy your blog – super informative and full of mirth.

  2. Good thing I love Triscuits! Do the reduced-fat ones have any strange ingredients to make them reduced-fat?

  3. Great question, Char-Mar! I compared the regular Triscuits with the reduced fat, and there is no difference in the ingredients they use. There are 4.5 g of fat per serving in the regular Triscuits and 3 grams of fat per serving in the reduced fat. I would go with the reduced fat since it probably contains less of that soybean oil, which isn’t the best for us. Hope you’re doing well. I would love to get together sometime and catch up on married life!

  4. Rosie

    Thanks, JoJo! I will stick to Reduced Fat Triscuits from now on. But the next conundrum…. What do I put on top of it?!

    • Rosie, why not put a little all-natural almond butter for protein? Or maybe some fresh avocados for healthy fat? A little bit of goat cheese would be delicious as well. With all of these toppings, you would obviously want to limit your quantity, but this would make a great snack!

  5. I’m glad someone is finally making sense of the cracker chaos! Right now, I’m trying to avoid most crackers but sometimes you just can’t resist and Triscuits are a long time favorite. Love this GSS spotlight and could so see you doing it as a regular bit on a morning TV show!

  6. Thanks Shira! Let me know if you think of a particular food you want me to investigate. Someone suggested I look at spaghetti sauces next, which I thought was a great idea. It’s pretty eye-opening when you compare the ingredients of these common foods side by side!

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