Eating a small snack or two throughout the day helps boost your nutrient intake, so you're more likely to get the vitamins and minerals you need to stay healthy. And as an ultra-portable food, crackers are a convenient and delicious snack choice. Most crackers are relatively high in carbs, so you'll need to plan ahead if you want to include them in a low-carb diet. If you don't mind the extra work, you'll be able to satisfy your crunch craving with fewer carbs by making your own low-carb crackers at home.
Higher-Carb Crackers to Avoid
Saunter down the cracker aisle and you'll see a wealth of flavored cracker options -- from savory cheese and herb-flavored crackers to sweetened varieties. But many of these flavored crackers are relatively high in carbs. An ounce of cheese crackers, for example, has 16 grams of net carbs -- meaning it has 16 grams of digestible carbs -- while an equivalent serving of graham crackers has 21 grams of net carbs. An ounce of cheese-flavored sandwich crackers -- two crackers with peanut butter filling in between -- has 15 grams of net carbs per ounce. If you're following a very low-carb diet -- like an Atkins 20 induction diet -- a single ounce of flavored crackers will take up at least three-quarters of your carb allowance for the day. That leaves little room for other sources of carbs, like veggies, so you're likely to feel hungry and deprived.
Plain Crackers Have Carbs, Too
While flavored crackers tend to be higher in carbs, that doesn't make their plain counterparts low-carb. An ounce of plain melba boast, for instance, has 20 grams of net carbs, while an ounce of whole-wheat crackers has 17 grams of net carbs. A 1-ounce serving of multigrain crackers also contains a significant amount of carbs -- 18 grams.
As is the case with flavored crackers, you'll likely face difficulty fitting these into a very low-carb diet -- and crackers, of any kind, are not on the list of Atkins 20 foods allowed in Phase 1. On the other hand, if you follow a moderately low-carb diet with enough "space" for crackers, these plain and whole-grain versions are your healthiest options. Crackers made with whole grains tend to be higher in fiber than those made with white flour -- for example, an ounce of whole-wheat crackers has 3 grams of fiber, compared to 1 gram of fiber in graham crackers. That fiber helps to fill you up, so that you won't feel deprived, and prevent constipation to keep your digestive system moving.
Choose Lower-Carb Cracker Toppings
It's not just the crackers that can add carbs to your daily intake -- it's the toppings, too. If you're topping your crackers with sugary spreads like honey or jam, you're taking in additional carbs, and even commercial peanut butter contains added sugar, supplying 4 grams of net carbs per 2-tablespoon serving. Hummus also has about 2.5 grams of net carbs per tablespoon, which can add up to a significant carb intake if you're not watching your portion size.
Keep your crackers as low-carb as possible by choosing protein-packed toppings. Sprinkle your crackers with Parmesan, which is virtually carb-free, or add an ounce of cheddar cheese, which has just 0.5 gram of carbohydrate. Top your crackers with a quarter-cup of cottage cheese -- it has 2 grams of net carbs -- or cut up a quarter-inch slice of tomato to use as a topping. Each slice has just 0.5 gram of net carbohydrate and can likely cover four to five crackers.
Making Low-Carb Crackers at Home
Because most store-bought crackers are made using carb-rich grains, you'll face difficulty finding a truly low-carb cracker at the grocery store. However, you can make your own "crackers" at home using fresh Parmesan cheese for a very low-carb snack. Shred fresh Parmesan with a fine grater and spoon the cheese onto a baking sheet, so that each "cracker" has about 1 tablespoon of cheese. Sprinkle with your seasonings of choice -- try black pepper and garlic powder, cumin and cayenne pepper -- and bake until golden brown and crispy, three to five minutes. You'll end up with a portable snack with a satisfying cheesy crunch that'll rival the flavor of any store-bought cheese cracker.