Written by Sophie Wagner, Viterbo University Dietetic Intern
Buttery, crispy, with a slight salt taste, what’s not to love about a Ritz cracker? A popular childhood snack, it’s not uncommon for people to grow out of their love for Ritz crackers. Opting for healthier carbohydrate sources such as brown rice or whole wheat bread is generally the reason. I wouldn’t classify a Ritz cracker as a health food but they’re not harmful to you. As unoriginal as it is- everything in moderation. Ritz crackers are fine to eat as a part of a well-balanced diet.
The Oils in Ritz Crackers
“But Ritz crackers were banned in some countries!” This is true. At one time Ritz crackers were banned in many European countries, due to the presence of an ingredient called “partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil”. Partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil contains trans fat. There isn’t any benefit to having trans fat in your diet. Even a small amount can lead to harmful consequences such as increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and lowered HDL (good) cholesterol. In fact, the FDA banned trans-fats in foods back in the summer of 2018.
Fortunately now Ritz crackers are no longer made with that ingredient. This oil has been replaced with canola and palm oil. Canola oil is rich in monounsaturated fatty acids which help lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Palm oil on the other hand has a higher level of saturated fat, a fat that is not heart-healthy. However, it still contains some polyunsaturated fatty acids, which are beneficial for you. Although palm oil isn’t the healthiest ingredient on the market it has arguably more health-promoting properties than something like coconut oil, which is mostly saturated fat and little mono- or polyunsaturated fatty acids.
The uses for Ritz crackers are endless! You can use them as a chip for a spread or dip, like Pine Rivers cheese spread or as an alternative to bread for your tuna or chicken salad. As someone who loves sweets, particularly chocolate and peanut butter, when writing this I couldn’t stop thinking of the treat my grandma used to make. It was two Ritz crackers with peanut butter smeared in the middle, dunked in chocolate. Tasty! You can see an image of it to your right. Ritz crackers are great to use to create a sharable appetizer. As more of an entrée option, crushed Ritz crackers can also be used for the meatloaf breadcrumbs or as a hot dish thickener.
Ritz Crusted Chicken
This week’s call to action is a dinner recipe that is sure to satisfy all. Using Ritz crackers as a breading on chicken breasts creates a buttery, salty outside of a juicy chicken breast.
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 1 cup crushed Ritz Cracker crumbs
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
- Ground black pepper to taste
- 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
- 1/2 cup butter (cut into chunks)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Place the beaten eggs and Ritz cracker crumbs in two separate shallow bowls.
- Add the garlic salt and pepper to the Ritz crumbs and stir until well-combined.
- Dip the chicken in the eggs until all sides are completely covered. Dredge the chicken in the crumbs to coat.
- Arrange the chicken in a single layer on a 9×13-inch baking dish. Place chunks of butter around the chicken.
- Cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked all the way through. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. It should read at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.