The Best Cracker?
Back by popular demand I have one of my popular product review blogs – this time on crackers!
Crackers to tend to be quite a stable food purchase for many families. Little ones like them as they are easy finger food and can be transported without a lot of damage. Crackers are traditionally made from flour. Something you may not know is the holes in crackers are called "docking" holes. The holes are placed in the dough to stop overly large air pockets from forming in the cracker while baking. Oatcakes (as they are made majority from oats) do not need to have these holes.
I have strictly reviewed pre-packaged crackers/flat breads/oatcakes on the marker rather than homemade recipes. If you can make your own crackers at home they will typically come up more nutritionally sound than something that needs to be preserved and keep stable on a shelf. Personally, this is something I very rarely have time to do unless I am doing a baking session with the boys - which is more for their learning. Of course I would like to but in the long list of meals/snacks/lunches/dinners....I need to make at home, crackers tend to fall to the bottom of that - I am sure I am not the only one here!
This is the first important point to keep in mind. You will be hard pressed to find a 'perfect' premade cracker - and certainly the more nutritious the ingredients generally the price goes up as well. As an ambassador for Nairns Oatcakes I had a fair idea of what was top of the list here however it is always helpful to know just what-is-what with options available on the market. There will be a sacrifice nutritious with pretty much every option - so I hope this blog helps to know what are some of the key points to consider when it comes to crackers.
I have not covered every single cracker option, rather selected what was very popular - both in terms of shelf height (the most popular are always smack in the middle at eye height) and also what my wonderful online community requested I had a look at! I also hope this blog helps you so see where your favourite cracker sits inline with others, the same if a new cracker comes out on the market - in addition you may also see some brands that might be helpful to try out.
The key nutrients I have pulled out to look for are sugar and added sugar, sodium and protein.
What is very tricky looking at the food labels on cracker is they do not separate any natural sugar from added sugar. You must look at the ingredients list. If you see 'sugar' listed it is added. Not to mention the gazillion names for sugar (check out my blog 50 names for sugar). Sodium is added for flavour and to keep the cracker stable - what I found interesting was that often the crackers with the more nutritious ingredients added (such as oats, including my beloved oatcakes, and seeds) they had a higher level of sodium - to keep it preserved. I have included protein as a 'quality' nutrient to look for - generally the higher the protein the more extra nutritious ingredients are also in the cracker - seeds as mentioned before add extra protein, good fat, iron and B-vitamins. While in small doses this still puts the cracker above others.
Note - you may need to turn your phone sideways to view this table in full!
|Cracker||Sugar (g/100)||Added Sugar||Protein (g/100)||Sodium (mg/100)|
|Peckish Brown Rice||1.4||Yes||7.6||170|
|Peckish with Kale/ Vegetable||3.4||Yes||7.2||475|
|Ceres Organic Black Rice Crackers||0.8||No||6.8||198|
|Hurley W/G Rice Crackers||<1g||No||7.7||340|
|Griffins Snax Original||6.5||Yes||6.1||810|
|Vita-Wheat 9 Grains||1.8||Yes||12.2||452|
|Huntley & Palmers Baked Oat Thins||2.9||Yes||12.8||669|
|180 Degrees 4 Seed Oat Crackers||2.1||Yes||9.9||569
|180 Degrees Lavish||4.3||Yes||11.7||994|
|Huntly & Palmers Baked Flat Bread (Sesame, Cumin & Coriander)||1.3||Yes||10.6||720|
|Basil & Parmesan
|Nairns Original Organic||0.8||No||9.6||1610|
|Nairns Super Seeded||0.2||No||13.4||720|
|Health Discovery Four Seeds Turmeric and Cumin||3.6||No||20||690|
As a general rule of thumb I do not recommend (or buy for our boys) the crackers at the top of the list - the rice crackers, cruskits, salada or Snax just as they do not provide very much nutrients and are more processed with added sugar and lower levels of protein. However there were two varieties of rice crackers there which did not have added sugar - the Huntley and Palmers wholegrain rice crackers and Ceres Organic Black rice crackers. So if you have little ones who just love rice crackers these are significantly better options. Interestingly the new Peckish vegetable options had the most added sugar of their range! Snax I know are terribly popular but they unfortunately fall to the bottom of the cracker list with the highest amount of added sugar, as well as high amounts of sodium (despite no extra nutritious ingredients)
Speaking of sugar you can see from this table that a lot of prepackaged crackers will have added sugar - I would try to avoid any with this as much as possible. Keep in mind you will find it hard to just switch down to a cracker without this for little ones if they have been used to something else. You might need to 'slowly' step down the cracker options before handing them something with a lot of seeds or an oatcake. For those that love 180 degrees crackers, yes they do have some good ingredients in there but they do have added sugar.
As I mentioned above the crackers and oatcakes that have higher amounts of protein and are more nutrient dense typically have higher amounts of sodium. This does include the organic Nairns Original Oatcake which has the highest amount, closely followed by the 180 degrees Lavish cracker. My top pick from the Nairns range (and out of all of the crackers I reviewed) is their new super seeded oatcake which as you can see has less sodium, even less natural sugar (neither have added sugar) and more protein from the seeds! Interestingly the Ryvita Original has one of the lowest amounts of sodium without any added sugar. A more new option to the market is the Health Discovery Four Seeds Turmeric and Cumin crackers which also have no added sugar and the highest amount of protein but at $19 a box I feel this is very expensive for most families.
I hope this helps a bit to know what to look for. I do not know if there will be a perfect premade cracker but there are options on the market which do provide more nutrients! I do have a simple homemade cheese cracker recipe on my website - but save this for when you have a bit of time (and energy) to let your little ones loose with some flour :)
x Dr Julie Bhosale