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Are Saltine Crackers Good for Weight Loss?

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 28 January 2022

Crackers crumbled into a bowl of tomato soup or used as a base for tuna is as American as apple pie and country music. They’re so versatile they can be used on cheese platters, with tuna, or even with jelly, but are saltine crackers good for weight loss

Can You Lose Weight While Eating Saltine Crackers?

Saltines crackers are not the best choice for weight loss, but it’s still possible to lose weight if you only eat them on occasion. Or in other words, they aren’t unhealthy per se and don’t pose much risk of ruining your diet if you only eat a few. 

Remember, when you’re aiming to lose weight the best thing you can do is burn more calories than you eat, or create a calorie deficit [1].  So if a calorie deficit is being maintained then yes, you can justify eating small amounts of crackers. 

So are saltine crackers good for weight loss? Not really and here’s why.

Why Saltine Crackers Are Bad for Weight Loss

Saltines are an empty carb source whose popularity greatly increased during the Great Depression because they were widespread and inexpensive. That doesn’t mean they’re healthy. In fact, they basically break down to sugar and salt, and provide virtually none of the vitamins and minerals that help with weight loss. Let’s look at their ingredients to see why saltine crackers are not good for weight loss

  • High in Empty Calories

Five saltines contain about 70 calories and 1.5 grams of fat. While this isn’t significant on its own, these calories just break down to sugar. Unless you are about to work out, or have just worked out, this burst of sugar can do more harm than good, especially coming from a refined, processed source.

  • Low in Fiber

Fiber promotes a feeling of fullness, and is essential to a healthy heart, metabolism, and GI tract [2]. Saltines contain virtually no dietary fiber. That means that you would have to eat a lot to feel full, which is where you might run into the problem of eating larger quantities of undesirable calories, simple carbs, and sodium. 

  • High in Simple Carbs

Saltines are made using highly-refined flour, which is full of simple carbohydrates, and these are known to spike blood sugar and contribute towards obesity [3]. 

When blood sugar levels rise, your body releases insulin to break it down. When the sugar has been absorbed and your body stops producing insulin, you may quickly feel hungry again. See how this pattern can work against you? Simple carbs can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and metabolism, especially if you have diabetes, obesity, or heart disease [4] [5]. 

Five saltines contain 12g of carbohydrates. Weight loss efforts will grind to a halt if you load up on simple carbs because they don’t sustain your metabolism, and they provide you with little more than sugar. One of the best rules for weight loss is to focus on complex carbs rather than simple carbs.

  • Moderate Protein

Five saltines contain about one gram of protein, and you absolutely need protein to help build and repair muscles as well as lose weight [6]. Five saltines can give you an additional gram of protein to the fruit or cheese you eat them with, but the math is simple: one gram of protein per five crackers equates to five grams of protein with 25 crackers. Is that small bit of protein worth all the simple carbs and salt? It is pretty apparent that the math isn’t working in your favor. Saltines shouldn’t be considered a reliable source of protein.

  • Little Nutritional Value

Saltines were made to be a cheap, easy snack that stayed unspoiled while traveling or working. There are virtually no nutrients in saltines, except a tiny bit of potassium. No vitamins, no iron, next to no fiber, just simple carbs and salt. What else needs to be said?

  • High in Salt

Sodium encourages bloating and water retention, and, surprisingly, just five saltine crackers contain 150mg of sodium—roughly 7% of your daily recommended intake. Not only do these crackers not contain much nutritional value, but they also pose a risk of giving your body too much of what it doesn’t need in order to lose weight.

Saltine Cracker Diet

Any diet dominated by one single food item is already a bad idea, and especially so if it is a processed, nutrient-deficient food like saltine crackers. Like honey nut cheerios, saltines have barely any minerals, fiber, and protein. Not to mention, they’re high in simple carbs (quick burning carbs) and sodium which makes saltine a sub-optimal choice when dieting. 

Don’t get us wrong though, there’s nothing wrong with having a few saltines to stack some fresh fruit or a protein-rich slice of cheese every now and then. Just take it easy and don’t eat the whole pack in one sitting and be sure to eat a variety of foods. 

Healthy Crackers & Alternatives

If you’re adamant on having crackers, it’s best to look for whole grain flour, rather than enriched white flour. Whole grain is better because the bran and germ of the grain (aka fiber) is included where white flour is just quick burning carbs with no fiber. 

Some healthier crackers are as follows:

  • Triscuits Whole Grain Crackers
  • Simple Mills Rosemary Crackers (made with almond flour)
  • Annie’s Whole Wheat Bunnies
  • Whisps Cheese Crisps 

The key, really, is to read the ingredient list and avoid enriched white flour, especially if you are in a calorie deficit. 

An alternative crunchy snack could be roasted vegetable chips like beetroot, sweet potato, and kale chips. All of which are gaining popularity as low calorie snacks that have a higher nutritional value. You can make these at home easily and inexpensively, or you can find them increasingly available in stores.

All in all, it’s important to consider “weight loss foods” as part of a larger whole. That whole should provide you with sufficient nutrients, protein, fiber, and complex carbs, and should avoid processed and refined ingredients. 

Have no doubt, while they’re okay in small quantities, saltines are not good for weight loss and are best kept as an occasional snack.

References

[1] Strasser, B., Spreitzer, A., & Haber, P. (2007). Fat loss depends on energy deficit only, independently of the method for weight loss. Annals of nutrition & metabolism51(5), 428–432. https://doi.org/10.1159/000111162.

[2] Mayo Clinic. (2021, January 6). Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Fiber. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983?p=1

[3] Griel, A., Ruder, E., & Kris-Etherton, P. (2006). The changing roles of dietary carbohydrates. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 26, 1958-1965. https://doi.org/10.1161/01.ATV.0000233384.97125.bd

[4] Ferretti, F., & Mariani, M. (2017). Simple vs. complex carbohydrate dietary patterns and the global overweight and obesity pandemic. International journal of environmental research and public health14(10), 1174. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101174

[5] Cleveland Clinic. (2021, February 8). Carbohydrates. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/15416-carbohydrates

[6] Paddon-Jones, D., Westman, E., Mattes, R. D., Wolfe, R. R., Astrup, A., & Westerterp-Plantenga, M. (2008). Protein, weight management, and satiety. The American journal of clinical nutrition87(5), 1558S–1561S. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/87.5.1558S

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.