The pretzel has truly stood the test of time with earliest accounts dating the knotted treat to the 7th century, crafted by monks and German bakers as a delicious reward for saying your prayers. Thankfully, there are no longer parameters for enjoying pretzels as they now line grocery store shelves in the hundreds, ranging from traditional sourdough twists to little pretzel bites for fast snacking.
Pretzels, although never waning from snacking popularity, have earned somewhat of a bad rap in recent years as diet fads like Keto and other low-carb diets have taken the world by storm. Many view the pretzel as "empty calories," devoid of nutritional value and high in sodium, fats, and unnecessary carbohydrates. However, that's not always the case, and pretzel makers have begun shying away from the "baked good" narrative to cater more toward a health-conscious public.
That being said, it can be tough to decide which pretzel to dunk in your hummus. Many brands claim "healthy" when really, they're masking a conglomerate of unhealthy ingredients and additives. We looked for three main criteria when choosing the healthiest pretzels on grocery store shelves to help take the guesswork out of snack time.
How we chose the healthiest pretzels
Finding better-for-you pretzels can be challenging because many options are packed with sodium. But with a little know-how, finding the best pretzel that fits into your balanced and healthy diet can be a breeze.
We tried to follow the following criteria when picking what we consider the healthiest pretzels on the grocery store shelves:
- Low Sodium: Sodium is a silent killer in this day and age as many pre-packaged foods are choked full of salt that both heightens flavor and preserves the fresh look of foods. That being said, the CDC recommends no more than 2,300mg of sodium per day for the average adult—while most Americans are currently ingesting upwards of 3,400 milligrams per day. Too much sodium can be linked to a slew of health concerns, like heart disease and even osteoporosis, so it's important to find a pretzel that isn't going to consume your entire sodium recommendations in one sitting.
- Little to No Added Sugar: Many pretzel companies – and many health food companies, for that matter—claim that their products are low in fat or sodium but are then higher in added sugars to "make up" for the loss in taste. This is especially true in coated pretzels such as yogurt-covered pretzels which, although many companies claim are healthier than chocolate-covered varieties, can contain shocking amounts of added sugars. Added sugars, when eaten in excess, can be linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver disease amongst other issues, so it's important to eat these added sugars in small quantities.
- Protein/Additional Nutritionals: Each of the brands chosen in this round-up contains at least 1 gram of protein and provides other nutrients such as fiber, potassium, and/or iron. Pretzels, depending on how they're made, can be a source of different nutritionals, and depending on the oil in which they're prepared, can contain omega-3 fatty acids as well. By looking for sneaky nutritionals, you can fuel yourself while snacking, and you may be able to stay fuller for longer, reducing cravings and binge eating before your next meal.
The 8 Best Pretzels On The Grocery Shelves
Best: Fitjoy Pretzels
Fitjoy pretzels are an all-around great choice, as they have no added sugar, a mere 3g of fat, and even boast a gram of protein. Additionally, one serving of Fitjoy pretzels provides 2% of your daily potassium needs which can help maintain a regular heartbeat and prevent potassium deficiency. These pretzels are A-okay for those with Celiac or gluten intolerance as they're grain-free and certified gluten-free.
Best: Savor by Suzie Pretzels, Roasted Garlic and Herb
Mother-created after her daughter was diagnosed with both Celiac disease and being on the autism spectrum, these delicious little wonders are gluten-free, vegan, kosher—and the list goes on. With no added sugars, 1 gram of fiber, and 1 gram of protein, this is a great alternative to your normal snacking. The garlic and herb variety is to drool over, and Savor by Suzie pretzels come in a variety of different flavors with each bag raising awareness of and providing employment for autistic and neurodiverse people.
Best: BeyondTwistz Pretzels
BeyondTwistz pretzels boast a highly unique quality—a whopping 18 grams of protein per serving! Sourced from pea and wheat protein, these plant-based pretzels are also high in fiber at 4 grams per serving with no added sugars, and if that's not enough, each serving also provides 15% of your daily iron needs. No more empty snacking here as these pretzels genuinely provide a nutritional benefit and will help you stay full until your next meal rolls around.
Best: Real Food From The Ground Up Cauliflower Pretzels
Made of cauliflower and cassava, these delicious pretzels are certified gluten-free and come with no added sugar. They feature the perfect amount of saltiness and even provide 2% of your daily iron, calcium, and potassium needs! How do they do this? These pretzels are created with a vegetable blend of spinach, broccoli, carrot, tomato, beet, and shiitake mushroom —but we promise you can't taste the veggie medley. All you taste is that classic pretzel crunch.
Best: Snack Factory Organic Pretzel Crisps
Do these count as pretzels? We say they do! Snack Factory's USDA-certified organic pretzel chips are thin and deliciously snackable, perfect for healthy dips like hummus or guacamole. These pretzel chips have no fat and a lower sodium count than many pretzels on the market which is a definite benefit so that you're not exceeding your daily recommended sodium intake in one sitting. These pretzels also contain only 1g of added organic cane sugar, so you won't be inhaling too much hidden sugar, either.
Best: Whisps Cheese & Pretzel Bites
Sometimes, we need a little more than just pretzels at snack time. To make these snacks, Whisps took their delicious 100% real cheddar cheese, and pieces of perfectly salted pretzels and baked them together into a crunchy bite. This delicious combination makes for a pretzel snack with a whopping 7 grams of protein and 0 grams of sugar. With a combo like pretzels and cheese, what's not to love?
Best: 365 Whole Foods Pretzels
Whole Foods 365 brand offers a wide selection of healthier snacking options, and their pretzels are no exception. Each serving of these pretzels provides 2g of fiber and 3g of protein with very little fat composition and no added sugar. As these pretzels do contain soybean oil, we want to note that limited consumption—like all things—is not a bad thing despite its bad rap.
Best: Snack Factory Sea Salt Pretzel Crisps Bites
Pretzel chips are a great alternative to your classic potato chip as they are naturally lower in fat and calories while providing 3g of protein and 6% of your daily iron needs per serving. These pretzel crisps also only have 1g of added sugar which, although we would prefer none at all, is still much better than certain other snacks which, on top of hidden sugars, can feature unwanted ingredients such as artificial dyes (Red-40, specifically) and artificial sweeteners to claim a certain level of nutritional value. We say opt for these at your next party, and they're sure to be a hit.
2 Unhealthy Pretzels To Avoid
Worst: Unique Snacks Extra Salt Splits
With almost 1,000 milligrams of sodium per serving, these pretzels can't be considered "healthy" and may even pose some health risks for those who are already experiencing hypertension or other heart-related issues. Although the FDA recommends up to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day per the average adult, this number dramatically drops to about 1,500 milligrams—as recommended by the ADA—if you're already facing high blood pressure. Therefore, if you do choose to indulge, we recommend that you don't exceed the serving size and drink lots of water when you are finished to balance out the extra sodium intake.
Worst: Utz Sourdough Special Pretzels
At first glance, the packaging on these Utz Sourdough Pretzels makes it seem like this is a long-lost recipe from the "Old Country", and therefore, it has to be healthier, right? Unfortunately, only five of these pretzels contain 450 milligrams of sodium. As most of us aren't sitting down to eat only five pretzels, it's easy to overindulge, and with little added nutritional value and a high sodium count, these little guys just aren't worth the health risks.
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- Source: Effects of excess sodium infographic. (n.d.). www.heart.org. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/effects-of-excess-sodium-infographic
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- Source: Nutrition, C. F. F. S. a. A. (2022b, February 25). Sodium in your diet. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/sodium-your-diet