April 1, 2008

Perfect Pickings: Nut Mixes/Trail Mix

Let me begin by saying that all nut products will contain (heart-healthy) fats -- there is no use in looking for low-fat trail mix!

Expect 10 - 12 grams per quarter cup serving.

Contrary to popular belief, raw and roasted nuts are virtually identical.

An ounce of raw almonds contains 164 calories, a mere five less than an ounce of a roasted variety.

What differs between the two is sodium content.

Whereas an ounce of raw almonds contributes 0 milligrams of sodium, that same amount of roasted almonds contains 100 milligrams.

You won't find too many nutritional differences among commercial trail mixes.

The overwhelming majority packs in 130 - 150 calories, 75 - 100 milligrams of sodium, 2 grams of fiber, and 5 - 8 grams of protein per serving.

However, this is one product where a peek at the ingredients list comes in handy.

All trail mixes containing dried fruit, for example, will initially appear high in sugar, partly because food labels do not differentiate between naturally-occurring and added sugars.

This is where you need to read the label. Look for plain and simple dried fruit.

Hence, seeing "raisins, dried mangoes" (literally dried fruit) is much better than "dried cranberries [sucrose]" (fruit with added sugar).

Since berries are generally tart when dried, expect them to have sugar added on to enhance flavor.

While M&M's and caramel corn are tasty additions, they taint the nutrition profile of mixes consisting exclusively of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits.

If it's nutrition you are seeking -- stick to the tried and true classics.

Speaking of dried fruit, though, there is one component in trail mix that is especially worth looking out for.

Just one ounce provides 40 percent of a day's worth of saturated fat and 145 calories.

The sneaky culprit I am referring to? None other than dried bananas!

Their nutrient profile is inferior to that of a common banana (potassium, vitamin C, and fiber are significantly lower), and since they are deep fried in quite a bit of coconut oil prior to being dried, saturated fat content is off the charts!

Keep in mind that all trail mix is calorically dense (a quarter cup clocks in at roughly 150 calories); it was originally a snack consumed by people hiking for hours, in need of a quick and healthy energy boost.

That being said, if you're seeking a nutritious trail mix, Bear Naked's Pacific Crest Mix is one I have enjoyed a few times -- it's low in sodium and contains no added sugar.

Sometimes, I like to make my own trail mixes.

I usually throw in a whole grain (usually oat-based) cereal low in added sugar, sunflower seeds, almonds, cashews, raisins, and half a handful of cacao nibs (you could also break up a square of dark chocolate -- comprised of at least 75% cocoa, if you're loking to get some health benefits -- into small bits and mix it in!)

Although a good source of protein and vitamin E, you would need to eat a significant amount of trail mix (and calories!) to make it a high-fiber snack.

If you enjoy the combination of fruits and nuts and want it in an even more nutritious package, I suggest trying Lara, Clif Nectar, or Pure bars.

If they are hard to find in your area, click on each bar's name to be directed to their respective order pages.


Anto said...

Yeaiiii! :)
My own blog section! hehehehehe.
This is very helpful. Had no idea about the banana chips. Officially no longer my favorite.
:) Thank you!!!!

Anonymous said...

I hope this qualifies for Perfect Pickings. I love yogurt but I hate the fat free varieties for three reasons: taste, texture, and gelatin (I’m a vegetarian and fat free yogurt almost always has gelatin).

What’s the calorie/fat gram count I should be looking for in a “regular” yogurt?

Andy Bellatti said...

It does! Look for an answer soon.