For some reason, people still perceive pretzels as a healthy snack. This traces back to the low-fat craze that began in the 1980s. While it’s true they do not suffer from the oiliness of foods like potato chips and that they are slightly less caloric, pretzels are no mitziya*.
What is a pretzel, after all? Unless we’re talking 100 percent whole grain or whole wheat, a pretzel is simply ground and baked white flour with a lot of added sodium—often a good percentage of your RDA for sodium in just a single serving. Where’s the health here?
I was at Trader Joe’s and checked out some of their popular varieties.
(1) Honey Wheat Pretzel Sticks.
These look all grainy and brown, and the word “wheat” in the name sounds healthy. The primary ingredient is indeed wheat, but just ordinary wheat flour, which is to say refined white flour. The second and fourth ingredients are sweeteners, and there’s a teaspoon worth of added sugar in every serving. “Whole wheat” makes an appearance on the ingredient list, but only after the refined wheat and honey, and since the fiber per serving is only 1 gram, it’s obviously not a prominent player.
(2) Pretzel Slims.
A person to whom I am married but who shall remain nameless will sometimes eat these and not regular pretzels on what I can only surmise is the assumption that the term “thin” connotes something other than just the shape of the pretzel. The ingredients, calories, sodium, and the rest are identical to traditionally shaped pretzels, however. Sorry, dear.
(3) Gluten Free Pretzel Twists.
I hope people are starting to become more aware that “gluten-free” and “healthy” or “diet friendly” are not even close to being synonymous. In this case, the top three ingredients are corn starch, potato, and rice flour—very refined and nutritionally lame. Sodium is high at 320 mg per serving, about 15 percent of the 2,300mg RDA.
(4) Multi-grain Pretzel Nuggets with Sesame Seeds.
Despite the misleading name, the main ingredients in these, listed first, are white flour and soybean oil, the latter of which is a suspected obesogen. The sodium is better at 180 mg per servings, and the protein at 3g, but there’s still only 1g of fiber.
(5) Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels, no salt.
The peanut butter in these gives them 5g of protein, and the sodium is very low, but they are just white flour.
Despite these findings, there is nothing wrong with eating pretzels sometimes for a snack! Today’s post merely aims to tarnish pretzels’ “health halo”—except in the case of some 100% whole grain varieties such as Unique’s Sprouted Pretzels and Mary’s Gone Crackers GF Pretzels. Please click on the Comment button below to share any other whole grain varieties you may have come across that you liked.
*For those lacking Yiddish-speaking grandparents, this translates as, “a find.” And sorry that you don’t have fond recollections of your grandmother snickering and rolling her eyes at the use of this term!