Most kids will happily eat Goldfish crackers till they have little orange fishies coming out their ears. My boys and I, aided by my friend Susan and her family, set out to see how some healthier versions of cheese crackers stacked up against the Goldfish.
I chose three alternatives to test alongside the Goldfish to see if the kids would approve of a healthier choice.
Late July Organic Bite Size Cheddar Cheese Crackers – ($2.99 for 5oz) These were the only crackers that were USDA Organic certified.
Trader Joe’s Cheddar Cheese Squares – ($1.99 for 8.8 oz) Although not organic, Trader Joe’s uses natural ingredients in their products – a better alternative than some of the conventional counterparts
Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies – ($2.99 for 7.5 oz) – Made with organic wheat flour and the rest natural ingredients, these little bunnies are obviously looking to replace the fishies with their size and kid appealing shape.
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish Baked Snack Crackers – ($1.99 for 6.6 oz) – The cracker that most little ones devour by the fistful right after they graduate from dry Cheerios.
So what did the panel of five kids ages 4-9 and three grown-ups have to say in a blind taste testing (blind for the kids at least)?
First up were the Late July crackers – Four kids gave them a thumbs up and when even said “these are awesome.” One kid thought they were Cheez-it crackers and when I told him they weren’t he said, “then I don’t like them” which got him thrown out of this round. The grown ups also thought these crackers were good.
Ingredients: Organic wheat flour, organic cheddar cheese blend [(organic cheddar cheese (organic cultured pasteurized milk, salt, enzyme), organic nonfat milk, organic whey, organic sweet cream, salt, disodium phosphate, lactic acid, enzymes, natural flavor, mixed tocopherols), organic buttermilk], organic palm oil, organic oleic safflower oil and/or organic oleic sunflower oil, organic evaporated cane juice, sea salt, leavening (baking soda, cream of tartar), soy lecithin (an emulsifier).
Next, we tried the Trader Joe’s squares – Thumbs down across the board – kids and grown-ups alike. Trader Joe’s usually puts out good products, but these were stiff and bland at first. Then they had a bad aftertaste.
Ingredients: Enriched flour (wheat flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid), white cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes [microbial]), high oleic sunflower oil, sea salt, organic barley malt, sugar, leavening (monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate), natural flavor (milk), onion powder, cayenne pepper, enzymes [microbial], annatto (for color)
We moved on to the Annie’s bunnies – Thumbs up across the board. In fact, when the taste test was done the Annie’s bowl got emptied quickly and my friend’s four-year-old daughter asked if she could keep the box. Annie’s also offers a completely organic version of their bunnies, but my grocery store did not carry them.
Ingredients: Organic wheat flour, expeller pressed vegetable oil (safflower and/or sunflower), salt, aged cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), yeast extract, paprika, annatto extract for natural color, ground celery seed, onion powder, yeast
Finally, we tried the Goldfish, and while it was a blind taste test, the kids obviously knew what these were. Everyone gave them a thumbs up, but that was to be expected. The purpose of this taste test was to find a healthier version that was comparable in taste to the standard.
Ingredients: Unbleached enriched wheat flour [flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamin mononitrate (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2), folic acid], cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes), partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening (canola and/or soybean and/or cottonseed oils), contains 2 percent or less of: salt, yeast, sugar, yeast extract, leavening (baking soda, cream of tartar), spices, annatto (color) and onion powder
I also wanted to point out the sodium content on each of these because it’s pretty high.
Late July: 310 mg/28 gr
Trader Joe’s: 450 mg/30 gr
Annie’s: 250 mg/30gr
Goldfish: 250 mg/ 30 gr
What are my thoughts when all is said and done?
Favorite all around – Annie’s Bunnies. Everyone liked them, they contain fewer ingredients than the Goldfish, and importantly they don’t contain partially hydrogenated oils like the Goldfish do. They are more expensive than the Goldfish.
Healthiest cracker – The Late July crackers were made with all organic ingredients, but their sodium content is significantly higher than the sodium in Annie’s Bunnies. I would call it a draw between the Late July and Annie’s to be healthier than the other options, yet I wouldn’t call either of them health food.
The high sodium content of all of these crackers makes me think twice about serving any of them as regular snacks. However, if you have a child who is addicted to Goldfish and you want to improve the nutrition of his snacks a little bit, I’d switch to the Annie’s Bunnies to get rid of the partially hydrogenated oils. Otherwise, I’m not seeing any one of these crackers as being so much better that it stands out above the rest.
Does anyone else look at the ingredients and see something that I’m not?