Certain types of crackers aren't the best choice when you're trying to lose weight and reduce your chronic disease risks. But you can include specific varieties of healthy crackers — in moderation — in any reduced-calorie meal plan and effectively lose weight.
Add weight-loss-enhancing, protein-rich foods to your crackers to make an excellent healthy weight-loss snack.
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Healthy crackers, such as those made from whole grains, may support your weight-loss efforts. But healthy crackers alone can't help you lose weight.
If weight loss were as easy as adding healthy crackers to your diet, then waistlines would be shrinking instead of expanding. While there are many techniques used to promote weight loss, they all boil down to the same thing: reducing your total calorie intake.
To lose weight, you need to create a negative calorie balance by eating fewer calories than your body burns, exercising more or, ideally, both.
Your exact calorie needs for weight loss depend on many factors, including your age, gender and activity. For safe and effective weight loss, women generally require 1,200 to 1,600 calories daily, while many men need about 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day — suggests the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute.
Read more: Recommended Caloric Intake for Weight Loss
Healthy Crackers Versus Unhealthy
Crackers are commonly labeled as unhealthy because many varieties are highly processed. They are also made with refined grains and contain lots of sodium. Refined grains generally provide less fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals than whole-grain foods.
The excess dietary sodium can lead to high blood pressure and increased heart disease risks. Therefore, when choosing crackers to include in a healthy weight-loss meal plan, choose healthy crackers such as low-sodium whole-grain, whole-wheat or rye varieties of crackers.
Calories in Crackers
Approximately five low-sodium whole-wheat crackers contain about 90 calories, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. This is a reasonable number of calories to include as a snack in a reduced-calorie diet.
For example, if you're following a 1,500-calorie weight-loss plan, one healthy cracker snack would only take up 6 percent of your daily calories for the day.
Concerns About Carbs
Crackers are high-carb foods, and though carbohydrates are an essential nutrient your body needs daily, foods high in carbs may not support your weight-loss efforts as well as other nutrients. A review published in May 2008 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that protein is the nutrient that provides the most satiation — to a greater extent than carbs or dietary fat.
Though five low-sodium, whole-wheat crackers contain about 14 grams of carbohydrates, they provide fewer than 2 grams of dietary protein. Aim to obtain at least 45 percent but no more than 65 percent of your calories from carbs, notes the Institute of Medicine — which is 135 to 195 grams daily when eating 1,200 calories a day.
Read more: How Can Protein Help You Lose Weight?
Eat Protein With Crackers
Eating a healthy, protein-rich food with your low-sodium, whole-grain crackers is an excellent way to boost satiety. This, in turn, can help you control your overall calorie intake for effective weight loss.
Try low-sodium, low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat milk or yogurt, black or pinto beans, grilled chicken cubes, unsalted nuts and seeds or reduced-fat, low-sodium cheese with your crackers to complete your healthy snack and help you shed pounds.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 26: "Basic Report: 18429, Crackers, Whole-Wheat, Low Salt"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Healthy Eating Plan"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Protein, Weight Management and Satiety"
- Institute of Medicine: "Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients"
- American Academy of Family Physicians: "What It Takes to Lose Weight"