Web Original: Give Your Diet the Right Twist

All pretzels are not created equal. Find that Philly taste without turning the staple snack into a diet disaster

When a Philly pretzel craving hits, it’s hard to follow the nutrition information on the back label. And the real deal, Philly street pretzels, don’t even have packaging or labels — handy if you’re on the go, but not so good for your waistline. So until the Philly pretzel companies cook up a whole-wheat, high-fiber version for health-conscious consumers, be picky about your pretzels.

[sidebar]The smartest choice: Soft Pretzel at Wawa. 300 calories (45 from fat), 680mg sodium, 56g carbohydrates. The Philly area’s best pretzel option isn’t exactly what we’d call healthy, but, if ya needa pretzel, ya needa pretzel. About 50 to 200 calories less than its most formidable competition, the only downside to this doughy twist is the five grams of fat.

A better bet: Philly pretzel-wise, there really is none. Just don’t make a habit of grabbing one before 10 a.m. and calling it breakfast. (We’ve seen you in the elevator.)

The what-did-I-just-eat treat: Unknown Philly pretzel, on various street corners and under various bridges. 400 calories, 3.5g fat, 79g carbohydrates. The University of Pennsylvania Health System has dissected those anonymous pretzels you find driving around the city, estimating that a six-inch twist will set you back about 400 calories. (Of course, six-inchers don’t really exist on Philly’s street corners. Normal size is roughly eight inches long, at an estimated 540 calories.) Now imagine eating 400 to 500 calories worth of enriched flour from the bag. Yum-o!

A better bet: One good rule when consuming something with brick-like density? Split it. Your body doesn’t need all the empty calories or the carb load in the Philly street pretzel. Your pancreas will thank you. Your friends may not.

The desperation option: Regular Salted Pretzel at Philly Pretzel Factory. 360 calories (zero from fat), 1100mg sodium, 70g carbohydrates. If sodium is every pretzel’s pitfall, this is where twists go to die. You know it’s bad when the makers start listing serving sizes by the half-pretzel — figures here are doubled for the normal consumer — and at more than 45 percent of you daily value of sodium, it’s no wonder. The only thing this close-to-original Philly pretzel has on the Wawa version — besides the Philly brand name — is the no-fat dough with about one gram less sugar.

A better bet: Regular Non-Salted Pretzel. We’re not sure why salted pretzels are even an option. Take a dip for more flavor with some spicy mustard — a good addition to the Non-Salt-Lick-style pretzel, as long as you don’t give into chocolate or cheese dip urges first.

The heart-stopper: Glazin’ Raisin Pretzel at Auntie Anne’s. 510 calories (35 from fat), 480mg sodium, 107g carbohydrates. This native Harrisburg franchise may not stick to the simple salt-and-yellow-mustard formula we expect from a traditional Philly pretzel, but it sure does have a lot of resourceful options. Just don’t let the trace amounts of fruit on the Glazin’ Raisin Pretzel fool you: At a quarter of the calories of your daily diet and 140 more calories than their Original Pretzel, not to mention 20 percent of your total daily sodium and 36 percent of your daily carbs, just one serving of this nutritional nightmare will leave you with a sickening-sweet, still-hungry feeling.

A better bet: Jalapeno Pretzel without butter. With about 100 calories less than their plain Original Pretzel (go figure), you don’t even have to sacrifice a unique taste twist with this 270-calorie treat, with just one gram of fat and only 19 percent of your daily carbs.