Pre-packaged trail mix may have added ingredients like candy, chocolate, or extra sodium or sugar that will wreck your healthy eating habits. If you want to make sure your trail mix is delicious and chock-full of healthy ingredients, incorporate the following into your favorite grab-and-go snack.
Nuts pack a punch in terms of taste and nutritional benefits. Yes, most nuts are high in fat and calories, reasons you might be hesitant to add them to your diet. But their high-fat content and calorie number aren’t good enough reasons to rule them out, especially since nuts offer a great dose of fiber, protein, and a range of vitamins and minerals.
“Nuts are high in fat, low in carbs, and a great source of several nutrients, including vitamin E, magnesium, and selenium,” according to Franziska Spritzler, writer for Healthline.com.
Nuts are also a great source of antioxidants, she adds. “Choose raw or dry-roasted and unsalted nuts to avoid too much extra fat and sodium. Walnuts will give you some omega-3 fats, while almonds are packed with vitamin E and iron. Other good choices are pecans, pistachios, and macadamia nuts,” according to Dana Angelo White, M.S., R.D., A.T.C., writer for FoodNetwork.com.
Focus on sweet nutrition
When you’re on the go hiking or walking through the great outdoors or you’ve just completed a heart-pounding workout, you need something to raise your energy and replenish your carbs and glycogen levels, according to Laura Dolson, writer for VeryWellFit.com. Adding dried fruit to your trail mix will help balance the saltiness of nuts with a splash of sweetness, vitamins, and fiber.
“Dried apricots are high in iron, and dried cranberries are packed with vitamin C. Other fun choices are dried blueberries, cherries, dates, mango, pear, pineapple,” according to White.
Look for unsweetened and organic
Dried fruit offers a burst of sweetness and a pop of color to trail mix, making it irresistible. However, some dried fruits may add more sugar to your mix than you want, throwing off your nutritional calculations and sabotaging your health goals.
“When buying healthy trail mix ingredients, try to find organic ingredients and unsweetened dried fruits. Be sure to read the fine print. Often dried cranberries have added sugar listed in their ingredients,” according to Deborah Duncan, creator of TheHarvestKitchen.com.
Add flavor and texture
While you’re mixing in nuts and unsweetened fruits, you can add in extra elements of texture and crunch with pumpkin seeds and/or sunflower seeds. Sunflower seeds offer health benefits including vitamin E, B vitamins, copper, selenium, and essential fatty acids, according to Duncan.
“Whole grain cereal, mini pretzels, toasted soybeans (‘soy nuts’) or air-popped popcorn will give you a dose of crunch to balance out the flavors and give your mix some extra texture. Crunchy foods also help relieve stress making trail mix a wise choice to fend off an afternoon slump,” according to White.
Making trail mix is simple. Grab the healthy ingredients you love minus sweetened options, stir together, and keep sealed in proper containers so it stays fresh, delicious, and accessible when you need a midday pick-me-up, a post workout snack, or a healthy treat on the go.