If you ask me, pretzels are one of the best snacks on the planet.
As a proud member of the “Carb Lover’s Club,” I’m no stranger to pretzels. They’re definitely one of my top 3 go-to snacks (cereal is another one).
Like most bread out there, pretzels get a bad rap when it comes to health, so I want to help set the record straight.
Are pretzels a healthy snack?
As with any nutrition breakdown, determining if a food is “healthy” is very much subjective. But we can break down the nutrition to make that decision for ourselves.
Generally speaking, pretzels are a very healthy snack. They are made with minimal ingredients, are relatively low in calories, and contain little to no fat.
Of course, not all pretzels are created equally, which we’re going to find out in the next section.
Some pretzels will be made with lots of butter or sugar, which will obviously change the outlook a bit. For our purposes here, we’re just talking about classic pretzels you’d be snacking on, like hard pretzels or a very basic soft pretzel.
While most pretzels are generally healthy, there are certainly exceptions.
If you prefer to eat low carb, or you’re following a keto diet, then pretzels are not going to be very appealing. A small handful of mini pretzels is going to provide you with around 25g of carbs, which can add up quickly if you go back for multiple servings.
And if you opt for a large soft pretzel, you may be looking at nearly 100 grams of carbs!
Are pretzels high in sodium?
If you need to eat low sodium, you may be put-off my the idea of snacking on pretzels.
A serving of Snyder’s Pretzel Rods (which is 3 rods) will give you 290mg of sodium. Depending on your restrictions, that may high for you.
Lucky for you, unsalted pretzels exist!
Snyder’s also makes unsalted mini pretzels, which have 0mg of sodium per serving. If you find them needing a little bit of salt, buying the unsalted variety allows you to add your own salt to control exactly how much you are consuming.
So, if you need to watch your sodium intake, pretzels may still be a great option for you!
Calories in pretzels
There are many different types of pretzels, so let’s take a look at the calories and nutrition of many of the different types out there.
Hard Pretzel / Pretzel Bite Calories & Nutrition
As a child, my pantry was always stocked with pretzels. Whether it was mini pretzels, pretzel rods, pretzel nuggets, you name it- I’ve always been a fan of snacking on pretzels. Let’s look at the calories of some of the popular pretzel snack options out there….
Mini Hard Pretzels
Mini pretzels just scream “Halloween” to me- there’s always that one house that hands out the mini bags of pretzels instead of candy.
These mini pretzels will be nearly identical in nutrition to other hard pretzels out there: nuggets, rods, twists, etc, so you can use this to determine the nutrition of your favorite hard pretzel shape.
Serving Size: 20 Mini Pretzels
110 Calories, 0g Fat, 25g Carbs, 3g Protein
Pretzel Crisps are exactly what they look & sound like- flat hard pretzels! They’re perfect for dipping, but if you want to snack on ’em on their own, here’s what the nutrition looks like (nearly identical to other hard pretzels out there):
Serving Size: 11 Pretzel Crisps
110 Calories, 0g Fat, 24g Carbs, 2g Protein
Soft Pretzel Bites
Pretzel nuggets dipped in cheese are my favorite movie theater snack of all time! These are ones you need to be careful with, because it can be very easy to consume 20+ pretzel nuggets at a time without even realizing it. But, a serving is only 6 of them…
Serving Size: 6 Bites
140 Calories, 0g Fat, 30g Carbs, 4g Protein
Peanut Butter Filled Pretzels
You may also find pretzel nuggets stuffed with cheese, but we’re looking specifically at the peanut butter-filled pretzels here. Peanut butter + pretzels is an all-star combination, but it will add a fair amount of fat to the nutrition. Many people assume that the peanut butter adds protein as well, but as you can see below, the protein is not much higher than any other pretzel options, so tread lightly.
Serving Size: 10 Pretzels
140 Calories, 6g Fat, 17g Carbs, 4g Protein
Soft Pretzel Calories & Nutrition
Soft pretzels vary greatly in size, and the ingredients may differ depending on who is making them, so all soft pretzel calories will be different. Let’s look at a few different pretzels of different sizes to get a rough idea of the nutrition for soft pretzels.
Superpretzel is the classic soft pretzel you’d buy to microwave at home, and what you’ll typically see at stadiums or at movie theaters. The classic SuperPretzels are actually one of the smaller soft pretzels on the market, resulting in the lowest calorie soft pretzel you’ll come across.
Pretzel Size: 64g
160 Calories, 1g Fat, 34g Carbs, 5g Protein
Is there a more delicious soft pretzel out there than Auntie Anne’s? Not to me! Just thinking of walking past Auntie Anne’s in the mall and smelling those hot, buttery pretzels automatically gets my mouth watering. Auntie Anne’s pretzels are relatively thin, but are known for their buttery flavor, meaning the fat content is slightly higher than other pretzels out there.
Pretzel Size: 123g
340 Calories, 5g Fat, 65g Carbs, 8g Protein
Target Food Court
Target may not be known for its pretzels, but they have a delicious option in their food court area! The pretzel is quite thick in size, and is over 2x the weight of a SuperPretzel, so the calories reflect that. At 450 calories, you definitely want to be careful with this one as a snack, as it eats more like a meal for most people.
Pretzel Size: 140g
450 Calories, 1.5g Fat, 91g Carbs, 12g Protein
If you go out to a restaurant, pub, or Biergarten, you’re likely going to be served a Bavarian pretzel. These are the big, buttery pretzels with that beautiful split in them. They’re going to be the highest in calories & fat, not only because they are by far the largest option out there, but because they are most often coated with butter as well. You’ll likely also pair these with some kind of beer cheese or dip (not to toot my own horn, but I have a fantastic recipe for pretzels & beer cheese here).
Pretzel Size: 170g
510 Calories, 11g Fat, 88g Carbs, 13g Protein
Pretzel Bun (Pretzilla)
I couldn’t let this post end without mentioning pretzel buns. These buns immediately elevate any burger or sandwich, so they need to be mentioned! A pretzel bun will be the same ingredients as any other soft pretzel, with the obvious difference of the shape. Looking at “Pretzilla” brand, their pretzel bun is 90g, putting it right between a SuperPretzel & Auntie Anne’s, and the nutrition reflects that.
Bun Size: 90g
250 Calories, 4.5g Fat, 45g Carbs, 6g Protein
How can you estimate the calories of soft pretzels?
In most cases, the nutrition facts of a soft pretzel aren’t going to be handed to you. Unless you’re ordering from a national chain, the nutritional info is likely not available.
So, how do you know how many calories are in your soft pretzel?
That’s where estimating comes into play!
Using the pretzel serving sizes above, you can estimate approximately how large your pretzel is, and then use the nutrition info provided here to estimate.
If you’re not quite sure how large your pretzel is, here are some general rules I would go by:
- A movie theater or ballpark pretzel is likely a SuperPretzel, unless it is made in-house. The case they are in will normally specify if they’re SuperPretzels.
- If you get a pretzel from a street vendor, I would estimate it right in the middle, somewhere between Auntie Anne’s and the Target examples. While you won’t be able to tell the exact size, it would be fair to estimate 300-400 calories for a rather large pretzel.
- When it comes to restaurants/pubs, I’d estimate close to the Bavarian pretzel nutrition. They are typically quite large, but they are also often prepared with extra butter, adding to the calories a bit. 500 calories is typically going to be a safe bet, even if it’s not exact.
Can you eat pretzels while dieting?
We’ll keep this short…
YES! Of course you can.
Many people will avoid pretzels while dieting because they are mostly all carbs, but there is no reason at all to fear carbs.
While it may be wise to not totally fill up on carbs (we don’t want to neglect protein), it doesn’t make pretzels off limits!
If you enjoy pretzels, you should 100% allow yourself to eat them while dieting.
They may not be a “diet food” per se, but depending on the type of pretzel you go with, it may not be a bad option at all.