In USA, August 31 is observed as trail mix day, a snack most favored by hikers and backpackers. But trail mix recipes aren't a favorite with hikers and backpackers alone. The healthy and delicious ingredients in trail mix are wooing moms to pack them for kids to munch at the movies or snack at school. Working men and women find healthy trail mix as a portable on-the-go breakfast, anytime energy snack that tastes good. Trail mix is good fuel for busy young athletes and students.
Buying trail mix at grocery stores or health stores may be the easiest way but not necessarily cost-effective. Advantages of making homemade trail mix is more variety, choice of ingredients to suit personal taste and a check on calories. Devoid of cooking, you can easily involve kids, choose fresh ingredients and prepare signature trail mix recipes. Place them into purses and school bags, to school or work and everyone will munch them happily. When packed in a gift jar, healthy trail mix makes for a personalized birthday gift, Christmas gift, thanksgiving gift or Halloween gift.
What to mix for trail mix?
Hikers and backpackers are fond of trail mix for various reasons.
- Packed with combination of protein, healthy fat and whole grain.
- Provides body with a mix of both simple and complex carbohydrates.
- Small amount of fat is good as it will help keep blood sugar levels stabilized.
- Extremely portable.
- Can be stored easily (almost smash-proof).
Common ingredients of trail mix are dried fruits, nuts, seeds and cereals.
Dried fruits: Dried fruit in trail mix not only satisfies the sweet tooth, it serves as an alternate to fresh fruit and has long shelf life. Dried fruits are healthy, loaded with fiber and satisfying to snack. Dried fruit is a good source of fiber as well as vitamins and antioxidants. Examples of dried fruits are standard raisins, golden raisins, apricots, dried cranberries, dried apples, figs, plums or prunes and dates.
Nuts: Nuts are a great base to any trail mix because they are high in protein, keep you satiated for long hours, fuel and repair your muscles. Nuts also contain omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, Vitamin E and healthful antioxidants. Examples: Walnuts, almonds, pistachios, macadamia nuts, peanuts, cashews and pecans. For the calorie conscious, peanuts and cashews which are high in fat can be replaced with soy nuts.
Seeds: Flax seed, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds (Pepitas), sesame seeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds have many of the same nutrients as nuts. They are also packed with important vitamins and minerals. Also, the seeds contribute to trail mix being salty and crunchy. Dehulled seeds are a good source of fiber for trail mix.
Granola and Cereals: Cereals are most economic source of energy. It provides vitamins and minerals. Almost any kind of cereal can be added to your trail mix to give it a little extra crunch and texture. Avoid sugary cereals. Examples: oats, Granola, bran flakes, cheerios etc. Try unsweetened coconut flakes for variety.
Other ingredients: Any kind of small cracker or pretzel. Small cheese crackers and pretzel sticks are a great addition to trail mix. Adding dark chocolate or peanut butter chips, miniature marshmallows, honey, caramel, peppermints will contribute to trail mix sweetness.
For a spicy trail mix: Trail mix recipes not only satisfy sweet cravings but even salty cravings. There are spices that can be added to change trail mix flavor and have a fragrant aroma. Using spices can turn trail mix spicy and tasty. The ideal choice would be adding a teaspoon of curry powder, herbs or Moroccan spices, cinnamon powder, garlic powder, nutmeg, cayenne and pumpkin spices. Adjust spice powder quantity to suit personal taste.
Ideal ratio: The most recommended trail mix ratio to ensure consuming a snack that's full of protein, fiber and vitamins. Nutritionists recommend any of the two ratios when a healthy trail mix is prepared.
- Three parts healthy stuff to one part of other ingredients.
- 2 parts nuts, 2 parts dried fruits and 1 part sweets.
Trail mix recipes: Way back in 1960s, a simple combination of peanuts and raisins made for a simple trail mix. Since then, hundreds of trail-mix recipes have evolved. Be it a trail mix for kids, a healthy trail mix or a spicy trail mix, you can bring in an interesting twist by choosing ingredients that suit personal preference and taste.
Trail mix for kids
Kids are happy when they are allowed to participate and contribute in preparing food. Trail mix devoid of any cooking activity is ideal for kids to be involved. Also, kids are more likely to eat something more willingly when they have helped make it; waiting to accept compliments or offer suggestions for improvement.
When making trail mix for kids, it would be appropriate to mix ingredients such that nuts and seeds are 1 ½ times more compared to other ingredients. However, ratio can be tailored to match kid's personal preference or sensitivity, if any, to the ingredients. Just ½ a cup of healthy trail mix is enough to regulate kid's blood sugar and keep hunger at bay until dinner is served.
Yet another way to woo kids is to set out raisins, sunflower seeds, nuts, roasted soy nuts and dried fruits. Let kids scoop ¼ to 1/3 of a cup, mix into small bag and munch.
On a cozy afternoon, the kids may prefer spicy trail mix. Here is a combination that is sure to quench mid-afternoon appetite. Mix in equal or more or less ratio according to kid's liking, peanuts, salted cashews, dried banana chips, pineapple pieces and coconut flake. Stir the mix thoroughly. Store the spicy trail mix in an air-tight container.
Healthy trail mix
A healthy trail mix is a cocktail of fiber, protein, healthy fat and antioxidants. Prepackaged trail mixes have excess sugar, oils and preservatives. Homemade trail mix is a healthy trail mix if,
- Almonds, walnuts and peanuts are used in their low or no-salt versions.
- Ingredients with sugar, artificial colors or flavors and preservatives are avoided.
- Only unsweetened fruits are used.
- The trail mix is organic and all natural, with no added sugar.
- Organic dried fruit and nuts are used in a healthy trail mix.
- Super fruits like blueberries, goji berries which are exceptionally high in antioxidants are used.
Experiment with different combinations. Include or exclude ingredients to make it a healthy trail mix. Stir the mix thoroughly. Store the homemade healthy trail mix in an air-tight container.
- Cashew nuts, dried cherries and dark chocolate chips.
- Almonds, walnuts, dried apricots, dried cranberries and milk chocolate chips.
- Roasted almonds, dried ginger and dark chocolate chips.
- Almonds, sunflower seeds, curry powder and coconut flakes.
- Pecans, raisins, dried figs and peanut butter chips.
- Almonds, pecans, dried cranberries, coconut flakes, chocolate chips.
Or combine 4 cups of whole grain cereal with raw almonds, roasted peanuts and raisins, ½ cup each; add a handful of dark chocolate chips for a healthy sweet trail mix or a tablespoon of curry powder to enjoy spicy healthy trail mix.
Spicy trail mix recipe I
Blend peanuts, almonds, cashews, sesame sticks and corn sticks. Mix powdered pepper or curry powder. Mix well and store in an air-tight container.
Spicy trail mix recipe II
Popcorn 1 cup
Cereal 1 cup
Peanuts, pretzels 1 cup each
Ground cinnamon ¼ tsp
Garlic salt 1 tsp
Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce 1 tsp
Hot sauce ½ tsp
Mix all the ingredients and toss well. For a crunchy finish, spread on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degree Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Stir in between. Cool and serve.
Eating trail mix the healthy way
- Snack on trail mix but not as a meal.
- Exercise well. Trail mixes are high in calories.
- Just because trail mix is healthy, doesn't mean you must overeat.
- Shake the mix before eating. Otherwise all heavy ingredients settle at the bottom.
- Don't give preference to a particular ingredient or get choosy.
- For maximum longevity, store in sealed, opaque containers in the refrigerator and take out only as much as you'll need at a time.
- If you detect even the slightest trace of rancidity in the taste of nuts or seeds, it's always better to discard the trail mix.