When Pirate’s Booty hit grocery stove shelves, it quickly became the snack to reach for. The cheesy, crunchy, puffed rice and corn snack was embraced by kids and adults alike as a healthier alternative to chips and cheese puffs. Since then, the brand has expanded its product line to include flavors such as Ranch and Veggie, and you’ll find bags of their Veggie and Fruit Sticks on shelves, too.
It’s the original Aged White Cheddar Pirate’s Booty that remains the favorite, though, even after the trend has simmered down. But is it actually a healthy choice? Let’s take a look.
What’s in Pirate’s Booty?
Cornmeal and rice flour are the two main ingredients in this baked (not fried) snack. The ingredient list also includes a mix of sunflower and expeller-pressed canola oil, cheddar cheese, whey, buttermilk, salt, and natural flavors. It doesn’t contain any artificial colors or preservatives, it’s naturally gluten-free and also low in sodium and sugar.
A one ounce portion of Pirate’s Booty — about 1 1/2 cups or 36 puffs — contains 140 calories; 6 grams of fat (of which 1 gram is saturated fat); 18 grams of carbohydrates; and 3 grams of protein.
So, Is it Healthier?
Pirate’s Booty is certainly a more wholesome choice than some crunchy, salty, cheesy snacks out there. However, Pirate’s Booty is definitely not a nutritionally-rich snack. It’s low in protein and it doesn’t contain any fiber, which means you might find you’re still hungry soon after eating it.
Other cons? Sunflower and canola oil aren’t as healthy as, say, olive oil or avocado oil. Both sunflower and canola oils contain a lot of omega-6 fatty acids, too much of which can lead to inflammation and put you at risk for a number of chronic illnesses. And, while there’s an incredible amount of conflicting information about canola oil, it is heavily processed. (It’s known as an RBD oil, which stands for refined, bleached, and deodorized.)
Finally, if you’re concerned about consuming genetically modified ingredients, specifically corn, rice, and vegetable oil, and non-organic dairy, you’ll need to carefully select your bag. Only some bags are certified GMO-free and contain organic dairy. Look for the Non-GMO Project label at select retailers, which you can locate on their website.
All of this is to say, if you’re craving a handful of Pirate’s Booty, the cleanest choice is the non-GMO version. But even then, it’s not a particularly healthy choice.
What to Eat Instead of Pirate’s Booty
If nothing but cheese puffs will do, we highly recommend Lesser Evil’s “No Cheese” Cheesiness Paleo Puffs.
Or try one of these three better-for-you snacks.
Popcorn is naturally gluten-free and low in calories, with the added perk of being a whole grain. That means it comes with good-for-you fiber that will help fill you up.
Opt for organic, non-GMO options with heart-healthy oil. We like:
- Good & Gather’s Organic Olive Oil & Himalayan Salt Popcorn
- Trader Joe’s Organic Popcorn with Olive Oil
- Lesser Evil’s Organic Popcorn with Himalayan Pink Salt
2. Cheese Crisps
Cheese crisps are seriously salty and, of course, cheesy. They’re also protein-rich, naturally low-carb, and gluten-free.
The best store-bought brands contain nothing but cheese (we like Whisps Parmesan or Cheddar Cheese Crisps, which are made from responsibly sourced cheese from 4 local Wisconsin farms), but this is another snack that’s easy to make yourself, if you’re up for it.
3. Roasted Chickpeas
Roasted chickpeas are crispy, gluten-free, and will totally solve your salt tooth. You’ll get both good protein and fiber from roasted chickpeas, so a handful or two will definitely keep you satisfied well after snacking.
You can buy organic and non-GMO roasted chickpeas like Saffron Road, but these brands still contain canola and sunflower oil, albeit organic. Instead, DIY them. Sprinkle them with nutritional yeast or grated Parmesan to make them cheesy.
Welcome to Is it healthy? Our new column looks at everything from cheese puffs to chicken wings. Of course, healthy is a relative term: What’s healthy for one person may not be healthy for another, but the idea is to get into the nitty-gritty nutrition of staples, like shrimp, and trendy foods, like monk fruit. Want a particular food covered? Email us at email@example.com.