Remember when you were a little kid at camp and G.O.R.P. was the best part of your hike? The way the M&Ms would smear all over your Good Old Raisins and Peanuts when the plastic baggie got crushed in your knapsack?
Trail mix has grown up quite a bit since then. Even though it’s still one of the quickest, easiest, most portable, energy-dense snacks around. This works out beautifully when you’re hiking, running, cycling or doing pretty much any strenuous activity. But, it can pack a hefty caloric punch if not eaten or prepared mindfully. Anything in your pantry can become a trail mix ingredient — and we’ve got a few new ideas for how to twist your trail mix game, for healthier, more delicious, “adult-like” snacking.
First, a few key tips to remember:
These bite-sized, nutritional dynamos are packed with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber and a whole host of vitamins and minerals. To keep sugar and salt from creeping in your mix, choose unsalted and unsweetened nuts. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, cashews and peanuts are favorites, but higher-fat options like macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, pecans or pine nuts are good in moderation.
If you have a nut allergy, or are simply looking to mix it up, seeds add some crunch and extra nutrition to your trail mix. Hemp seeds, for example, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, protein, zinc, iron and potassium. Toss in a handful of hemp, pumpkin, sunflower, flax or sesame seeds for a super crunch.
In moderation, dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, vitamins and a shot of carbohydrates your body needs when working hard. But, if not consumed carefully, it can become a sugar bomb. Look for unsweetened apricots, apples, plums, peaches, berries, cherries, figs and dates to sweeten your trail mix.
Adding fibrous complex carbohydrates to your trail mix helps boost your energy and keep you full. Avoid highly processed or sugary cereals and stick to pretzels, air-popped popcorn, puffed rice, shredded wheat or even your favorite savory cracker.
It’s easy to have your healthy trail mix turn into a dessert when adding sweets, so add just a sprinkling of chocolate chips, butterscotch, chocolate-covered coffee beans, cacao nibs or even mini marshmallows. And, when it comes to chocolate options, always choose the darkest chocolate you can find!
These surprising additions were nowhere to be seen in the trail mix of your childhood. Sultry cinnamon and nutmeg, spicy ginger, grounding turmeric and kicky cayenne pepper are all tasty options to sprinkle in your mix. Look for intriguing international flavors to make your mix pop: wasabi peas, sesame sticks, coconut flakes or even candied ginger and coffee beans.
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Here are a few smarter, healthier, fresher ways to enjoy the same old super-portable snack:
SWEET + TART SEED MIX
Pumpkin seeds + Goji berries + Black sesame seeds + Turmeric + Black pepper + Pinch of sea salt
Your favorite granola + Golden raisins + Cacao nibs + Bee pollen + Hemp seeds + Pinch of sea salt
SIMPLE + SOPHISTICATED
Raw almonds + Chocolate chunks + Shredded coconut + Sea salt + Cinnamon
ASIAN MOVIE NIGHT
Popcorn + Black and white sesame seeds + Pumpkin seeds + Toasted nori flakes + Togarashi spices
Cashews + Dried mango + Coconut flakes + Cinnamon
Raw Pecans + Dried apples + Maple granola + Pumpkin seeds + Nutmeg + Cinnamon.
Goji berries + Pistachios + Dried blueberries + Flax seeds + Dark chocolate chunks
Hazelnuts + Almonds + Chocolate-covered coffee beans + Bee pollen
Peanuts + Dried strawberries + Shredded wheat cereal + Sea salt