Healthier Homemade Cheese Pretzels

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I grew up in a Philadelphia suburb, so I've had my share of soft pretzels. But Philly isn't the only place making soft pretzels these days. You can find the baked-dough twists in airports, malls and carnivals nationwide. There's also the frozen variety. The problem is, these mass-made pretzels are often loaded with calories and salt.

Depending on the size, a regular soft pretzel (123 to 149 grams) can have 340 to 480 calories and 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams of salt. The lower range is for the plain pretzels and the higher stats are for those with alluring toppings like butter, cheese, pepperoni and sugar.

But there's no need for the numbers to be high. I made smaller versions for fun and, even when multiplied by four, they have fewer calories, fat grams and sodium milligrams than their traditional counterparts (and that's including the cheese on top!).

Thanks to store-bought dough, they're a snap to prepare. To make whole wheat pretzels, use a whole wheat dough. For a spicy version, top the pretzels with sliced, pickled jalapenos before baking. For a sweet version, substitute a drizzle of honey and a sprinkling of ground cinnamon for the Parmesan.

Parmesan Studded Soft Pretzels

For larger pretzels, divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, roll the dough out into longer ropes (about 24 inches each) and proceed as directed.

Cooking spray

1 pound frozen bread dough, thawed according to manufacturer's instructions

1 egg white
2 tablespoons shredded Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

2. Cut the dough into 16 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 15-inch long rope. Pull up the ends and fold them over the middle, creating a pretzel. Transfer the pretzels to the prepared baking sheet and brush with the egg white. Sprinkle the cheese on top.

3. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Enjoy warm.

Makes 16 pretzels
Nutrition Info Per Pretzel
Calories: 83 (31 grams)
Total Fat: 1 gram
Saturated Fat: 0 grams
Total Carbohydrate: 14 grams
Sugars: 1 gram
Protein: 3 grams
Sodium: 173 milligrams
Cholesterol: <1 milligram
Fiber: 1 gram

Robin Miller is host of Quick Fix Meals, a nutritionist and author of 10 cookbooks, including “Robin Takes 5” and “Robin Takes 5 for Busy Families.” She is the busy mom of two active boys. Her boys and great food are her passion. Check her out at www.robinmillercooks.com.

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