Trail mix consists mainly of nuts, which are rich in proteins and good cholesterol, and dried fruit, which contain vitamins and antioxidants. Because of its ingredients, the trail mix earned its reputation of being everyone’s go-to healthy snack. But is it? Here are seven questions to ask before purchasing another trail mix bag.
#1 – What is the ratio of nuts, fruits, and extras?
When picking a trail mix, the proportion of nuts to fruits to extras is always crucial. As a guide, a reasonable ratio of 50% nuts, 40% fruits, and 10% sweets or crunches is often recommended for a basic fruit and nut trail mix. With this kind of combination, you get a good balance of healthy and delicious. A trail mix with too many extras and very little nuts or fruits should be a warning sign.
#2 – What extra ingredients are there?
We all enjoy a great blend of sweet, salty, and spicy flavors bursting in our mouth. Plain raw nuts taste boring if not paired with raisins or dried strawberries. Today, trail mixes have evolved, adding more ingredients like seeds, crunches, and sweets.
Taking in mind the recommended 50-40-10 ratio, look into what makes up the remaining 10% of extra ingredients. Are there M&M candies or chocolate chips? Some mixes include tantalizing yogurt-covered pretzels, Reese’s cups, or potato/tortilla chips. If you’re observant, these supposedly “extras” do not even follow the healthy ratio of 10% anymore.
Extra flavors do not have to be unhealthy. You can look for healthier additions to still achieve that sweet or salty punch like dark chocolate chips (at least 70% cocoa), cacao nibs, coconut flakes, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
#3 – How are the nuts prepared?
Once we find a trail mix bag that contains a good amount of nuts, we may immediately grab it and go. However, it still helps to have a closer look at how these nuts were processed. Are they roasted, salted, or sugar-glazed?
Roasted nuts may have already lost some of their nutrients, while salted and sweetened variants may affect your sodium and sugar levels. As a rule of thumb, it is always best to opt for raw and unprocessed nuts. But if these are not available at your local grocery, just pick the healthiest mix you can find by checking the nutrition facts and ingredients list on the label.
#4 – How are the fruits prepared?
To preserve them for weeks to months, fruit in trail mix must be dried and their water content removed. This condenses all their natural sugars, fiber, and nutrients into a smaller package. However, other dried fruits are candied before drying. These are coated in artificial sugar syrups before drying. Others may also contain sulfites, preservatives that retain the fruit’s original color. Some fruits like banana chips are fried. In packed trail mixes, these differences can be quite difficult to tell. The best thing we can do is to simply read the labels carefully, especially the ingredients list and nutritional information.
#5 – Does it contain artificial flavors or coloring?
To find out if a trail mix contains these unhealthy ingredients, check the ingredients list on the label. The shorter it is and the more familiar the terms, the greater the chance that the trail mix is raw and unprocessed. On the other hand, a longer list with more “foreign”, complicated words is probably unhealthy. Terms like high fructose corn syrup, yellow 5 dye, red 40 dye, and cane juice are examples of synthetic flavors or coloring to watch out for. allstate customer service