Ditch the store bought trail mix and make your own!
Whether you are hitting the trails skiing, running, hiking or just feeling that mid-afternoon lull, trail mix is the ideal snack to boost your energy fast. Sadly, many of us avoid trail mix because it has gotten a bad rap as high in calories and fat content. While it’s true that most store-bought trail mixes are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, making your own trail mix can be less expensive, simple, and a lot more healthy!
Trail mix is generally composed of four main ingredients: nuts; seeds; fruit; and fun stuff. There are many benefits of adding nuts and seeds to our diet. Nuts are one of nature’s richest foods. The omega-3 fatty acids, protein and fiber in nuts helps us to feel full and satisfied longer. They are a heart healthy source of fat which our bodies need for energy, vitamin absorption, cell building and insulation. Nuts and seeds also provide us with good-quality protein, vitamins and minerals. Be sure to select nuts and seeds that are unsalted and either raw or dry-roasted. Nuts that are purchased ‘pre-roasted’ are cooked at high temperatures that destroy nutrients and contain unhealthy denatured oils and excess sodium.
Nuts are one of nature’s richest foods. They provide a good-quality of protein and are higher in fat than seeds. Almonds, brazil nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts are an excellent source of vitamin E. Most nuts have a general cross section of B vitamins and are well endowed with the minerals calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc and other trace minerals.
I generally, include two different kinds of nuts in my trail mix, about 3/4 cups of each. Almonds, cashews and pistachios are good choice if you are looking to reduce calories, while Macadamia nuts and pecans have the most calories. Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and peanuts are all excellent sources of vitamin E for skins and eye health.
Seeds are rich in minerals, iron, and zinc. I love to add pumpkin seeds because they provide a strong source of magnesium and and zinc. They are a great source of protein and contain a good balance of amino acids. They are also high in iron, as well as calcium and phosphorus. For people with high blood pressure, unsalted sunflower seeds are very high in potassium and low in sodium.
Dried fruit is delicious and can boost low blood sugar after physical activity. Look for a brand that does not have added sugars or preservatives? With the right choice, dried fruit can be a good source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium and vitamins. Often, dried fruit is coated with sugar, so select fruits that are unsweetened or sweetened in 100% fruit juice, and avoid those sweetened in high fructose corn syrup or other sugars. Try sprinkling a bit of sea salt over the fruit to bring out the flavor.
I like to add some fun stuff to my trail mix, but this is totally optional. Sweet and salty additions, added in moderation, can add flavor and provide a bit of a pick-me-up to tail mix. A bit of chocolate can satisfy those cravings, but look for dark chocolate with 70% cocoa and avoid milk and sugar filled chocolate. Salty treats could include mini-pretzels, air-popped popcorn, homemade granola or organic rice crackers.