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Revisiting The Simplicity of a Saltine

You probably think of saltines for when you’re sick, but maybe not for a party…yet. Let’s discuss.

Updated 11/2020


There are good reasons to be conversing about crackers. Cold and flu season starts right around the holiday party season. Ironic that these happen at the same time of year, right?

Picture a typical holiday appetizer buffet loaded with crackers and stuff to put onto crackers. Yep, we’ve probably been to similar parties.

You probably think of saltines for when you’re sick, but maybe not for a party…yet.

Let’s discuss.

“A saltine or soda cracker is a thin, usually square cracker made from white flour, yeast, and baking soda, with most varieties lightly sprinkled with coarse salt. It has perforations over its surface, as well as a distinctively dry and crisp texture.”


Yes, yes, flour and salt. Take a moment to consider what these ingredients do in baked goods. They’re not in there for no purpose. We can reduce salt where there is not as much functionality (like at the table or when cooking). Consider balance and variety over the course of a day and week.

We know some foods are more nutritious than others. Pair them to make “all” your choices make sense.

In today’s world of wanting “clean”, “simple” food (short ingredient lists), and the story of the different things we eat, it only makes sense to revisit some oldies but goodies. At least to me. (…and you already know how I feel about the use of the word “clean” when we really mean “simple”).

Saltines were invented in 1876. You want something with history? That sure qualifies. Between Wikipedia (see link above) and other sources, you can read about the other cool details like why saltines have holes, or why there is salt sprinkled on top (it’s not to make us mad that there is salt. As noted previously, there is actually a functional reason for it.)

Beyond the simple ingredients and interesting history, let’s discuss other details. Obviously, it’s not a source of fiber. However, think of how we eat crackers. Typically with fruit and veg platters (Oh, hey, fiber) and with cheese or meats. So in context and totality, these little squares can fit in and provide a vehicle to pair with other options from other food groups.

Did I mention there are less than 10 calories per saltine cracker? Yep. Compared to other crackers without fiber that may have 40-50 calories merely being used as a vehicle for other foods? You see where I am going.

Okay, okay, you are wondering when I am going to get to the salt part of the saltine. Just because the word “salt” is in the name doesn’t make them salty. Read the Nutrition Facts Panel. Even on food you think you know.

This is not saying these tasty little squares are a “super food”. This is simply saying don’t forget to pay attention to all the details. So here’s what to do:

Read the ingredients.

Check out the Nutrition Facts. Think about all your choices and consider the big picture. I’ll repeat myself on this one because it’s that important.

When you hear dietitians say “all foods can fit”, that isn’t license to be willy nilly.

Think of it like this:

I’d say “what do you like to eat?”

You’d tell me.

We’d discuss how to balance that choice with other things to ensure you are getting a nutritious meal or snack.

We’d also look at the big picture. You like to eat a lot at once? A choice like this with a mere <10 calories per cracker might be a good option sometimes. I might also suggest popcorn (the air popped or with-a-small-amount-of-butter kind) because it’s a whole grain with a decent serving size. Yep. Popcorn. It’s a whole grain (and Oh hey, fiber). #mindblown

It’s ok to try something new. It’s also ok to stick with something that’s been around a while. Let’s try this:  say “This is something I like or have a good memory about. How can I do it better?” I got you.

It’s okay to eat things you like. In fact, I recommend it. It’s also okay to know that some foods are more nutrient-rich than others and need the buddy system to be paired with something else that’s more nutritious to help it make sense in the bigger picture.

Not every food can be a superstar (and it doesn’t need to be). BUT every food can be part of a meal or snack that provides variety, interest, and nutrition. Some are just better at it than others and that’s why mixing up your choices helps make it make more sense.

It’s your move.

By Kim Kirchherr

I am a dietitian working in food and fiber (agriculture) through retail, addressing opportunities to make things better for people and planet.

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