Eating Healthy. Trail Mix: Making Me Nuts!!!
I see so much information about what healthy food is and what isn’t healthy I get confused. Lets Face it, Eating Healthy is difficult.
So here’s a Question – Is Trail Mix Healthy? Since its inception, trail mix has had a reputation as a healthy snack. But just how healthy is it really? Should this snack be saved for serious hikers, or is it perfectly fine to mindlessly munch on at your desk? I am gonna lay down some info and you can decide for yourself!
Trail Mix Has Been Around For 100+ Years
Its origins can be traced back to an outdoors-man named Horace Kephart, who helped plot the route of the Appalachian Trail. He recommended a mixture of nuts, raisins and chocolate for hikers in his 1908 book, The Book of Camping and Woodcraft.
Trail mix isn’t trail mix without a hefty dose of nuts. Popular additions include peanuts, almonds, walnuts and cashews. Nuts are a great snack. They taste fantastic, they’re convenient and they’re high in a number of valuable nutrients.
Most nuts have similar nutritional profiles. According to the Mayo Clinic, they contain significant amounts of unsaturated fats, omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, l-arginine and fiber.
- Unsaturated fats lower bad cholesterol levels.
- Omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart health.
- Protein helps muscles repair and rebuild, allowing you to recover from exercise and get fitter over time.
- Vitamin E helps prevent plaque from developing inside your arteries.
- L-arginine also helps with arterial health by making artery walls more flexible.
- Fiber helps to normalize bowel movements, lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar and keep you fuller for longer after eating.
The base of any nutritious trail mix should be nuts and dried fruit. These two foods have a lot going for them and are an upgrade over the typical ultra-processed snacks many people favor.
Most trail mixes include more than just nuts and dried fruit. These extra additions usually drag down the snack’s overall nutritional profile.
M&Ms candies or chocolate chips are a frequent addition. This type of chocolate offers little nutritional benefit and can quickly cause the sugar and calorie content to go way up. You do not need Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in your trail mix! That would not be an example of Eating Healthy!
Dark chocolate can bring something useful to the table, provided it’s at least 70 percent cocoa. This type of dark chocolate is packed with powerful antioxidant compounds known as epicatechins, which lowers blood pressure, improves blood flow to the brain and reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other horrible additions include yogurt-covered pretzels, sweetened cereals and potato or tortilla chips. None such foods are adding significant nutritional value to the mix, but they are adding extra sugar and saturated fat.
Calorie Dense Foods
The more nuts and dried fruit in your trail mix, the better. The further a trail mix’s recipe strays from the basic nuts and dried fruit formula, the worse its nutrition will typically be. However, it’s totally possible to overdo it even with the healthiest of trail mix blends. Too much of anything – no matter how healthy can actually be a bad thing!
Nuts and dried fruit are very calorie dense foods. They pack a lot of calories into a small volume. While this is good if you’re burning a lot of calories over the course of the day, it’s not so good if you’re just light to moderately active. Or if your activity is an effort to drop some weight!
Watch That Serving Size
When isn’t serving size important? I guess if you are eating spinach, then maybe its not so important…
Serving size is the ultimate x-factor when it comes to the healthiness of trail mix. If you’re torching a high amount of calories on a daily basis—serving size isn’t quite so important. You need calories to keep going, and trail mix can provide that. But if you’re not quite so active, serving size becomes critically important. Since trail mix contains so many calorie dense foods, its recommended serving size is often surprisingly small.
Most people go well above that serving size, typically downing closer to three or four servings in a sitting (OUCH!).
If you down four servings of that mix, you’re looking at a snack which contains 560 calories, 4 grams of saturated fat and 28 grams of sugar. If you’re someone who’s looking to lose weight or simply maintain a healthy weight while being light to moderately active, those numbers are going to make things tough. Snacking all day can really skyrocket the calories – and your body weight!
If you can stick to the recommended serving size or at least a portion that’s somewhat similar, trail mix can be a great snack for just about anyone (provided it doesn’t include a bunch of junk food in place of nuts and dried fruit). You can make sure you’re getting the most out of that serving size by choosing a trail mix that consists mostly of nuts and dried fruit. According to the Cleveland Clinic, you only need about five ounces per week of a variety of nuts to reap many of their most important health benefits. By weight, dried fruit contains roughly 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit. That means a little bit can go a long way for your health and wellness.
Still Unsure if Trail Mix is Right For You?
Need help meandering your way through ways to be eating healthy? Thats what we do – we dont sell quick fixes, we help you learn how to do it and apply it to your lifestyle.
Contact us at Lake Country Training