The other day I was walking through the grocery store looking for a quick snack. I was hungry and needed to eat something fast before my blood sugar levels got too low. I think the appropriate expression is “hangry”!
I went in search of some trail mix, one of my favorite snacks. Nuts and seeds are a fantastic source of fiber and healthy fats. Both of these components help fill me up and help me feel full for longer. The healthy fat and fiber also helps to ensure my blood sugar stays in normal ranges and doesn’t spike really high (like it would if I ate a sugar filled snack).
It’s important to keep our blood sugar in normal ranges. When we let it dip or spike on a regular basis it can be dangerous for our health and eventually lead to problems like insulin resistance and diabetes.
Undressing Trail Mix – What’s In The Package
When I grabbed a few packages off the shelf and turned them over to read the ingredients I was shocked by some of the items listed. It amazed me what many companies were using in these products, a product that most people would assume is a healthy choice for a snack.
There were 4 main red flags that I noticed in these products. I thought I would share them with you here so that you can look out for them the next time you are on the hunt for a healthy trail mix snack.
4 Red Flags To Avoid When Buying Trail Mix
Red Flag #1: Hydrogenated Oils
If the product contains hydrogenated oils leave the product on the shelf! Hydrogenation is the process where companies add hydrogen atoms to a liquid fat to make it solid. When they partially hydrogenate the fat it creates trans fat. This type of fat is the devil fat! Research has illustrated that trans fats can be a major contributing factor to heart disease. They can increase LDL cholesterol and in particular the small dense LDL particles that damage our arteries. They also reduce HDL cholesterol, increase triglycerides, and make our platelets stickier. Fully hydrogenated oils don’t have the same trans fats because the oil has been turned completely into a saturated fat. That being said, if you see the word hydrogenated in any form listed in the ingredients, I would recommend looking for a different product.
Red Flag #2: Genetically Modified Oils
Many companies are using genetically modified oils in their trail mix products. It won’t say specifically on the label whether the oil has come from genetically modified crops, however, three of the most common genetically modified oils are soybean, cottonseed, and corn oil. If you see any of these oils listed in the ingredients there is a strong possibility that they were made from genetically modified crops. Typically companies use these oils because they are cheaper. In my opinion, I would avoid products that contain these oils.
Red Flag #3: Sulphites
Sulphites are added to the product when it contains dried fruit. They add this preservative in to help stop the fruit from turning colour (for example, to stop apricots from turning brown). The FDA indicated that approximately 1 in 100 people are sensitive to sulphites and that people with asthma have a higher probability of being sensitive. If possible, I would try to avoid products that contain sulphites, especially if you have adverse reactions.
Red Flag #4: Sodium
Many companies often add LARGE amounts of salt to their trail mix. This helps boost the flavor and often makes us over-consume the product. In many cases they are using a cheaper refined salt and not high quality Celtic sea salt or Himalayan salt. Although sodium is important in appropriate amounts, the form found in many of these trail mix products if often poor quality and the amount is too high. If you can’t find a product that uses a high quality salt, opt for the lightly salted or better yet, get the unsalted options.
How To Make Your Own
When buying trail mix aim to find a brand that doesn’t contain any of these 4 red flags. Also, another great option is to make your own! It’s really easy. You can simply add a bunch of nuts and seeds into a bag. That’s it! If you want to add some sweetness to jazz it up a bit try adding in sulphite-free dried fruit (my favorites are apricots and coconut), dark chocolate chips, or carob chips. Also, if you really want to wow yourself, coat the nuts/seeds in coconut oil or olive oil and sprinkle with your favorite herbs/spices or a drizzle of tamari, then dehydrate for 6 hours or bake at 350ºF for 15 minutes. Let cool before mixing in fruit or other jazzy-bits. You can store it in an air tight container in the fridge or freeze it if you made a large batch and you want to store it for longer.