If you're thinking that dried fruit is always a healthy snack, think again. It all comes down to what fruits you're using and whether it's store-bought or homemade. In general, if you make your own trail mix, you can limit sugary items, such as dried fruit, and balance the sweetness out with protein-packed and lower sodium choices, like unsalted nuts and seeds.
Of course, eating fresh fruit will save you additional sugars and calories, but if you're craving that denser, dried texture or looking for a sweet addition to a granola recipe, there's nothing wrong with adding in some dried figs. "Dried fruits can be a great way to deliver the nutritional benefits fruit has to offer quickly and conveniently. However, my words of wisdom, read the ingredients first! Sometimes dried fruits can often be coated in sugar and don't pack as much nutritionally as you'd like," says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, author and owner of Shaw Simple Swaps.
However, some fruits are more concentrated with sugars, salt, and other additives than others, making them way less diet-friendly than you'd imagine. And, if there's a coating, like a glaze or yogurt, forget about it, says Shaw. Here are the best and worst dried fruits to choose from.
The Worst: Mango
As mango is tough to come by in the winter time, or it just doesn't taste as good due to it's off season in terms of ripeness, it's tempting to go for dried mango, which is available year-round. However, dried versions are high in calories and sugars, says Shaw. (Plus, it's hard to stop eating them once you start!) There are about 20 grams of sugar per 1/3 cup serving, and there's very little fiber, so you won't feel as full after.
The Worst: Cranberries
Dried cranberries might taste great when paired with chocolate chips or coconut, but they can be super high in sugar. Plus, it's hard to find a store-bought version that doesn't contain high amounts of added sugar, says Shaw. For instance, there are about 26 grams of sugar in one 1/3 cup serving of dried cranberries. (That's a lot.) Instead, halve this amount and add in some fresh berries or a few extra nuts, instead.
The Best: Blueberries
Yes, blueberries can be eaten dry, and they're delicious. Of course, tossing fresh blueberries into oatmeal or freezing with yogurt is never a bad idea, but dried blueberries are perfect for granola recipes or trail mix. "Go for wild blueberries which are high in antioxidants," says Shaw. Although still high in sugar, the antioxidants are well worth it.
The Best: Prunes
Out are the days when prunes were associated with grandparents. Prunes are great for your bowels, says Shaw, as "they help keep you regular." Plus, they also contain "bone-boosting properties," she says, which can protect you from osteoporosis and bone fractures. Try adding them to oatmeals or eating plain as a snack with some protein. 5 pitted prunes have only 13 grams of sugar.
The Best: Dates
There are more healthier ways to eat them than wrapped in bacon (Try these almond butter stuffed dates for a party appetizer). "Nature's candy, it's a delicious snack when you're craving something sweet," says Shaw. Although high in natural sugar, they will keep you regular and you don't need to eat as many of them to still get that sweet fix.
The Best: Apricots
Apricots are "packed with fiber," says Shaw, making them a great snack or addition to a hearty trail mix. They also improve bone health and contain vitamin A, an antioxidant to support nail, bone, teeth, and skin health. About five or six apricots will have around 15 grams of sugar, which isn't a lot when you consider dried fruit, in general.