Although saltine crackers are low in calories, basing your entire diet on this food is not ideal. While a diet comprised of any one food would be nutritionally deficient, a saltine cracker diet would be particularly detrimental because of the sub-par nutritional profile of these crackers, both for weight loss and general health. Consult a doctor prior to beginning any diet plan.
Saltine crackers are low in calories, which would suggest that they'd be good for dieting. However, eating too few calories can harm your overall health. The U.S. Committee on Dietary Allowance advises women to never consume fewer than 1,200 calories per day and that men never consume fewer than 1,500 daily. A five-cracker serving of saltines contains just 63 calories, so women would have to consume more than 95 saltines daily, and men would have to consume at least 119 saltines each day to meet minimum calorie intake levels.
Fiber is an important nutrient to consider when dieting, as it promotes feelings of fullness, regulates blood sugar levels and promotes a healthy digestive system. A saltine cracker diet would be low in fiber, and obtaining adequate levels of fiber from the crackers would be impractical for weight loss -- each five-cracker serving of saltines contains just .4 g of fiber. Men should consume 38 g daily and women should consume 25 g, so a man would have to eat 95 servings, or 5,985 calories worth of saltines, to obtain enough fiber, and women would have to eat 62.5 servings, or 3,938 calories of saltines, to obtain enough fiber. Such high calorie intakes would result in weight gain.
Although some diets suggest restricting fat, this nutrient is essential for your health. A saltine cracker diet would be low in fat, as each five-cracker serving contains only 1.3 g. Thus, consuming 1,200 calories of saltines would provide just 25 g, while consuming 1,500 calories of saltines would provide just 32 g. According to the American Heart Association, fat should comprise between 25 and 35 percent of your calories, but fat comprises only 19 percent of the calories in saltines, so a saltine cracker diet would not provide adequate levels of fat.
Protein is required for building and repairing your body's tissues, and according to the May 2008 edition of "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," increased protein intake supports improved weight loss and appetite control. A saltine cracker diet would be low in protein, as each five-cracker serving contains just 1.4 g. Thus, women consuming 1,200 calories would take in just 27 g daily, while men consuming 1,500 calories would take in just 33 g. The Institute of Medicine suggests taking in .8 g of protein per kg of body weight daily, so these amounts would only be appropriate for women weighing 81 pounds and men weighing 90 pounds.
Saltine crackers are high in sodium -- each five-cracker serving contains 167 mg -- and too much sodium can be detrimental for dieting and general health. If you ate enough saltines to meet minimum calorie levels, women would consume 3,180 mg of sodium daily, while men would consume 3,976 mg. Both amounts are much higher than the daily suggested limit of 2,300 mg. Consumption of a high-sodium diet can lead to high blood pressure.
Inadequate Vitamin and Mineral Intake
Your body needs certain levels of vitamins and minerals to function properly. Unfortunately, a saltine cracker diet would not provide adequate levels of many nutrients. Saltines contain minimal levels of iron, calcium, zinc and magnesium, and contain no vitamin A, vitamin C or vitamin D.
- USDA National Nutrient Database: Crackers, Saltines (includes Oyster, Soda, Soup)
- MayoClinic.com; Dietary Fiber: Essential for a Healthy Diet; November 2009
- American Heart Association: Know Your Fats
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Protein, Weight Management, and Satiety; D. Paddon-Jones, et al.; May 2008
- MayoClinic.com; Sodium: How to Tame Your Salt Habit Now; March 2011