As featured on Today Tonight.
Often promoted as a ‘healthier choice’ crackers can contain more salt than a packet of potato chips or a sausage roll, LiveLighter’s recent Healthy Crackers survey reveals.
“Some commonly eaten crackers contain more salt than hot chips, meat pies and ham. Adding toppings to already salty crackers, such as cheese or Vegemite, makes the salt content even higher,” says LiveLighter Dietitian, Amelia Harray.
The convenience of crackers has seen them grow in popularity with an ever-increasing variety on supermarket shelves, yet not all crackers are created equal.
“Consumers are unwittingly buying ‘healthy’ alternatives for school and work lunchboxes when in fact high levels of salt, low levels of fibre and in some cases saturated fat and added sugar, classify many crackers as junk food,” Ms Harray says.
Approximately 75% of our salt intake comes from processed foods, including salty snacks. Sodium is added to food to enhance flavour, increase shelf life and improve processing. “Most of the sodium we eat comes in the form of salt, which is why the terms are used interchangeably,” explains Ms Harray.
Maria Szybiak, LiveLighter’s Campaign Director says WHO recommends adults consume less than 5mg of salt per day (or 2000mg of sodium) for good health and to help prevent disease.
“There is a significant increase in the risk cardiovascular disease, hypertension and stroke by eating a diet high in salt,” says Ms Szybiak, “Processed snack foods, like crackers, can see salt hidden in a list of ingredients, so we unknowingly consume more salt than we should for good health”.
LiveLighter surveyed the nutritional content of 78 cracker products. Of the 78 included in the survey, 64 contained more than the recommended levels of salt.
Among the worst offenders were Arnott’s Country Cheese with 1,320mg of sodium per 100 grams and Fantastic Delites Flame Grill BBQ Rice Snacks with 1,070mg sodium per 100 grams. Those with the lowest levels of sodium included Ryvita Multigrain Crispbread with 240mg sodium per 100grams and Real Foods Sesame Corn Thins with 225mg sodium per 100grams.
“Healthier crackers are low in salt and high in fibre, making them a great lunchbox option” says Ms Harray, “However knowing which options are best and those that should be relegated to junk food status helps when it comes to packing a healthy lunchbox”.
LiveLighter’s Cracker Tips
- Read the Nutrition Information Panel and look for crackers with less than 400mg of sodium per 100g and more than 3g of fibre per serve
- Look for hidden salt offenders in the ingredient list, such as: garlic/onion/celery salt, meat/yeast extract, rock/sea salt, sodium and stock.
- What’s on top? Healthy crackers make a great snack, combined with avocado, a slice of low fat cheese, hummous or seed/nut spread.