From ballgames to shopping malls to parties, pretzels are a widely available, beloved snack food. With all the different flavors and fillings, they’re a commonly craved snack by sweet and savory food lovers alike. However, are they good for you? We’re sharing the nutrition facts of different types of pretzels, along with their pros and cons and what to look for when buying pretzels.
What Are Pretzels?
Pretzels are a type of baked pastry with a shiny, brown appearance. Traditionally, they are shaped into a knot—a process that requires skill! However, there are all different shaped pretzels now, from sticks to twists to traditional knots. They’re typically salted, but now they come in unsalted varieties and a bunch of other flavors.
Types and Varieties
There are so many types of pretzels—they can be soft, hard, filled, coated and flavored. The plethora of options includes hard pretzels, pretzel chips, soft pretzel bites, flavored pretzels, peanut butter-filled pretzels, chocolate-covered pretzels, yogurt-covered pretzels, soft pretzels and pretzel buns. They can be found at grocery stores, movie theaters, sporting games, shopping malls and more!
Pretzels Nutrition Facts
For comparison’s sake, we’re sharing the nutrition facts of three pretzel varieties: a soft pretzel, chocolate-covered hard pretzels and salted hard pretzels.
|Nutrient||1 medium soft pretzel (USDA)||1 serving (28 g) of hard, chocolate-coated pretzels (USDA)||1 serving (28 g) of salted hard snack pretzels (USDA)|
|Protein||9 g||2 g||3 g|
|Total Fat||4 g||5 g||<1 g|
|Saturated Fat||<1 g||2 g||<1 g|
|Total Carbohydrates||80 g||20 g||23 g|
|Sugars||<1 g||11 g||<1 g|
|Fiber||2 g (7% Daily Value||1 g (3.5% DV)||1 g (3.5% DV)|
|Sodium||233 mg (10% DV)||138 mg (6% DV)||352 mg (15% DV)|
As you can see, each type of pretzel has a different nutrition profile. Salted pretzels (soft or hard) are generally higher in sodium but lower in sugar and fat. On the other hand, chocolate-covered pretzels are higher in sugar and fat but lower in sodium. All options have a similar fiber content (keep in mind the soft pretzel serving is much bigger).
Are Pretzels Healthy?
The pros and cons of pretzels vary a bit based on your health conditions and overall dietary needs.
- Good source of carbs. For those who need an energy boost, a blood sugar boost, or a pre-run snack, pretzels are a good source of carbs that your body can convert into quick energy.
- Convenient snack. When you’re on the go or looking for an affordable, tasty, shelf-stable snack, pretzels are a great option. Hard pretzels, in particular, are widely available, budget-friendly and easy to take with you for a snack.
- Easy to pair with fats and protein. For people concerned with the high carb content of pretzels, specifically those with diabetes or prediabetes, pretzels can be easily combined with protein sources for well-rounded snacks. For example, you can dip pretzels in nut butter, top pretzel chips with canned tuna, or eat them with cheese.
- High in sodium. Unfortunately, salted pretzels are quite high in sodium. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting your sodium intake to 2,300 mg daily, but Americans consume 3,400 mg daily on average. Especially for people with high blood pressure, limiting sodium is beneficial for health.
- Low in fiber. Most pretzels have a pretty low fiber content—less than 5% of the Daily Value in one serving. Fiber provides many benefits and is key for digestive health, cholesterol management, satiety and blood sugar regulation. That being said, some companies now make whole-grain pretzels with slightly higher fiber content.
- May be high in added sugar and saturated fat. While regular salted pretzels typically don’t have much added sugar or saturated fat, chocolate-covered or otherwise sugar-sweetened pretzels may have a lot. This is especially true for pretzels with added butter or a cinnamon-sugar coating. The Dietary Guidelines recommend limiting added sugars and saturated fat because they are linked with heart disease and type 2 diabetes, per the National Library of Medicine.
What to Consider When Eating Pretzels
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the serving size listed on a food label is meant to be the amount most people consume at once, but your normal serving size may be different from someone else’s, and that’s OK. Our energy needs are not all the same.
Since pretzels—particularly the regular salted kind—are mainly a source of carbs, you may want to add a source of protein and fat to bulk up your snack and make it more satisfying.
Carbs, particularly refined carbs typically found in foods like pretzels, are digested more quickly than fat and protein, so you may not keep your hunger at bay very long if you just have the pretzels. You may also find yourself eating a lot of servings without feeling satisfied.
Flavors and Fillings
Flavors and fillings will probably make the biggest difference in the nutrition profile of a pretzel. Many savory flavors—like honey mustard and onion—have a similar sodium content to regular salted pretzels; however, it’s best to check the Nutrition Facts label if you’re concerned about your sodium intake. Unsalted pretzels are a good option if you’re concerned about your sodium intake. Sweet flavors like cinnamon-sugar will probably have a higher added sugar content.
When it comes to fillings, meat or cheese are common, which will add protein and fat. This can help with satiety but might also add sodium and saturated fat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are pretzels a healthy snack?
Pretzels can certainly be a healthy snack, particularly when paired with sources of lean protein and unsaturated fat. On their own, they mainly contain carbs, so they could use pairings that round them out nutritionally. That being said, they are high in sodium, so if you have high blood pressure the unsalted variety may be your best bet.
Are pretzels healthier than chips?
Since there are so many varieties of pretzels and chips out there, it is hard to compare them directly. Both chips and pretzels tend to be high in sodium, but the exact content depends on the specific product. Since pretzels are baked, they tend to be low in saturated fat, whereas traditional chips are high in saturated fat since they’re fried.
What are the benefits of eating pretzels?
Pretzels are convenient, budget-friendly and easy for most people to tolerate. Plus, they can be easily paired with protein and fat for a well-rounded snack.
The Bottom Line
Pretzels are a convenient, budget-friendly snack that can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike. Since they come in so many varieties, their nutritional profiles can vary. Generally, their sodium content is their biggest drawback, so be mindful if you have high blood pressure. If you’re feeling inspired to make pretzels of your own, check out our Soft Pretzel Bites with Popping Pepper Butter recipe.