Rice crackers commonly top the list of "healthy" snacks because they have a short ingredient list and low on calories. Looking at the ingredient list of rice crackers at first appearance, it seems like a healthy snack choice made primarily with rice or rice flour. But according to health experts, rice crackers aren't as healthy as we might believe for a few reasons.
"Rice crackers and rice cakes are highly processed and differ depending on the brand and the ingredients added, such as flavours, salt and sugars and preservatives," nutritionist Fiona Tuck said.
Most rice crackers are made from white rice — white rice has the outer layers (the husk, bran, and germ) removed, which also removes many of the nutrients and fiber. White rice is considered a refined, high GI carbohydrate compared to brown and red rice.
Rice crackers are usually low in sugar and fat and can be included in a healthy diet when eaten occasionally. However, they are not the healthy snacks many people perceive them to be. They are usually made from refined white rice with very little fiber and protein, so their nutritional value is poor," Tuck said.
Rice crackers may be low in calories but according to health coach Kirsten Scott, relying on rice crackers alone as snacks can "sabotage weight loss," especially compared to healthier snacks such as veggie sticks with hummus.
Rice cakes are little more than refined carbohydrates (which are quickly digested and converted into sugar) that have been sprinkled with salt and possibly sprayed with some artificial flavoring.
Instead of taking your mind off of food, snacking on rice cakes on an empty stomach can induce a spike in blood sugar that might just leave you feeling sluggish and craving more rice cakes.
This is not to say all crackers or crispbreads are unhealthy, but it's important to make the right choices when it comes to ingredients and nutritional value. Here's a guide to help you choose the healthiest options.
Generally speaking, white-colored rice (or non-rice) crackers contain refined carbohydrates, so avoid these and go for darker-colored varieties which contain whole grains.
"Avoid the white crackers which often contain MSG and artificial flavours. They can be high in sodium too, so it's important to read the labels carefully before eating them," Tuck said.
Many varieties of crackers and crispbreads are high in sodium which can cause problems such as high blood pressure. "It is very hard to stop at a couple of rice crackers and therefore very easy to eat too much sodium. As a guide, look for less than 120mg of sodium per 100 grams," Tuck said.
According to Lowe, there is "no need for any form of additives or preservatives in rice crackers," so check the label and prioritize short ingredient lists. "If you see artificial flavours, MSG, preservatives or sugar put it back on the shelf," Tuck added.
Lastly, Look for whole grains and seeds. "Look for the healthier ones made from whole grains and seeds which ups the fibre and nutrient content," Tuck said.