You have plans to recharge your batteries by enjoying nature, going for long walks or even hiking? Well, there’s nothing like a trail mix to provide you with some energy when you feel hungry. Nutritious, easy to carry and tasty, trail mixes were created in the beginning of 20th century as a snack for campers and people who loved the wilderness.
Both nuts and dried fruits, the two original ingredients in trail mixes, are calorie dense foods, meaning a little goes a long way to provide the energy required for an outdoors lifestyle. This is enhanced by the combination of fiber, good fats and protein, which slows down the release of glucose in the bloodstream and provides long lasting sustained energy. Dried fruits and nuts are also packed with vitamins and minerals.
What started just as good old raisins and peanuts, has expanded to include many other ingredients. Some of these additions can be great, while others not. If you are buying trail mix, make sure to always read the nutrition facts and the ingredients list. Also be sure to check the serving size and stick to it.
What to avoid:
- Added sugar (HFCS, corn syrup, glucose, refined sugar)
- Partially hydrogenated oils (trans fats)
- Artificial flavours and colours
- Excess salt in nuts, pretzels and chips
- Artificial sweeteners
If you'd rather have more control over what you eat, you can mix and match according to your preferences. As a rule of thumb, stick to high quality ingredients. Here are some ideas:
- Raw, unsalted nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, cashews, Brazil nuts)
- Raw, unsalted seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
- Unsweetened, sulfite-free dried fruit (raisins, apricots, cranberries, cherries, goji berries)
- Cacao nibs or dark chocolate chips (70% or higher)
- Unsweetened, sulfite-free coconut flakes
- Roasted oats or buckwheat groats
If you are feeling adventurous and would like to try some less conventional ingredients, some options are roasted chickpeas or soy nuts.
Need some inspiration to begin with? Try this easy recipe:
Simple trail mix
Time: 5 minutes | Yield: 12 servings
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1 cup cashews, chopped
- ½ cup pumpkin seeds
- ½ cup dried apricots, chopped
- 2 tbsp dried goji berries or cranberries
- 2 tbsp chocolate chips (70%)
Mix well all ingredients. Store in airtight recipient. If you prefer your nuts to be crunchier, buy them raw and lightly roast them at 200 o F for 45 minutes. If the berries are too sour for you, soak them for 30 minutes on pure apple juice before mixing with the other ingredients.
Trail mixes are not only for the outdoors. You can enjoy them all year long as a great post-workout snack: the protein from the nuts and seeds help repair muscle damaged during exercise, while the carbohydrates from dried fruits replenish glycogen (energy) reserves depleted by physical activity.
My last advice is: although it is a healthy snack, don’t overeat it due to its high calorie count.