Whether you call it gorp, scroggin or studenterhavre, trail mix is a quick, easy, non-perishable and portable snack that can be made to be very healthy, filling and energizing! Here are 22 creative takes on the classic hiking snack…
Is Trail Mix Healthy?
This classic hiking snack tends to get a bad rap health-wise these days. There are elements of it that you do need to be aware of. Dried fruit, for example, sounds super healthy, but it really is a powerhouse of sugar, and nuts, while extremely nutritious, are also very fatty. Yes, they are full of healthy fats, but even healthy fats should be eaten in moderation, and it is easy to mindlessly snack on trail mix all day! Then, there is the issue with certain ready-made trail mixes, in relation to what they are made out of. Sugared nuts, for example, or ‘yogurt bites’, which are hardly yogurt and largely artificial flavors and sugar, might be part of the mix. Then there are banana chips, which are deep-fried in, most likely, cheap and unhealthy oil, and often coated in sugar. Sometimes chocolate chunks are added, which, again, are ok in moderation, and actually have some health benefits if they are good quality dark chocolate. But, certain mixes will come with milk or white chocolate that are full of cheap, artificial ingredients and sugar. The list goes on!
Having said all that though, you can find good quality whole food trail mixes, and you can make your own. If eaten in moderation and when you are doing a lot of exercise, like a long-haul hike, they can be healthy, beneficial and well-worth a go! It is also important to be aware of what you are eating for the rest of the day, including breakfast, lunch and dinner, because nutrition should be looked at in 24-hour cycles (and even weekly cycles for that matter). In order to maintain a balanced diet, you need to eat all the essential nutrients in a day and ensure you fast, either overnight or intermittently. For example, if you eat oats for breakfast and a vegetable soup for lunch, then you should make sure you eat a protein-packed dinner. If you snack on trail mix throughout the day, you should reduce the amount of sugar you consume alongside it, and slightly reduce your fat intake in your other meals. Again, this is all dependent on the type of trail mix you choose, how much of it you eat, and how strenuous your exercise is (how many calories you are burning).
Uses For Trail Mix
The classic one here is, of course, hiking. Long-haul hikes, especially hilly or mountainous ones in hot weather and with a pack on burn a serious amount of calories, and you need to be hydrating and refueling if you’re going for several hours. Trail mix is perfect for this, especially if it is full of nuts, because they provide slow-burning energy.
For the same reason, trail mix can be a handy snack for any kind of prolonged physical activity like hiking, such as cycling. Another option, if you work in an office and find yourself hitting the vending machine around ‘tired o’clock’ in the afternoon, you can bring a healthy trail mix option instead. It is sure to keep you awake, energized and focused! Be careful not to over-indulge though, especially in a stationary job like office work! If you have a physical job, on the other hand, it can be the perfect handy, portable snack for work to keep you fueled and strong between meals. Because it is such a portable and fairly non-perishable snack option, it’s also a great one for camping.
Building A Classic Trail Mix (To Your Liking!)
The simple trail mix recipe consists of some or all of the following, and you can add in or leave out whatever you want, to your liking! But be aware, nuts, seeds or oats should be the base – we wouldn’t recommend leaving them out and just making a mix of dried fruit and chocolate! That will most likely lead to a very quick sugar crash and food craving. Go for a nice mixture of some of these ingredients:
Nuts – You can use any nuts you like. Raw nuts that are unseasoned and unsalted are the best options, but if you can’t find raw, go for roasted. If you can find raw but prefer roasted, buy the raw ones and dry roast them at home, either on a tray in the oven, or on an unoiled non-grease pan over the hob. Some of our favorites are almonds, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts and pistachios.
Seeds – Again, go for any type you like – sunflower, pumpkin, linseed (flaxseed), sesame – the list goes on! Seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition, and, although oily and fatty, are extremely high quality and good for you. You will get a great dose of protein, magnesium, iron, and a great number of other vitamins and minerals. They are best raw, like nuts, and unsalted.
Dried Fruit – We always try to include less fruit and more nuts and seeds into our trail mixes, but that’s not to say dried fruit doesn’t have its benefits. If you are using trail mix as an energy snack on a physically difficult hike, or during an intense physical job, then you can actually suffer from low blood sugar, which means you need a sugar boost. Dried fruit is great for that, but, when choosing it, you need to be careful not to get the stuff that’s coated in refined sugar. Go for sun dried fruit that’s as natural as possible.
Extras – Don’t be afraid to change it up a bit each time and add some fun or decadent options (in moderation!). After all, if it’s the same every time, you’ll soon get bored of it! Good quality dark chocolate chunks are great little additions that taste so good with nuts! You can also add popcorn, oats, granola or natural yogurt balls. These recipes will give you some more ideas…
Trail Mix Recipes
Healthy Popcorn Trail Mix – Let’s kick the recipes off with this easy-to-prepare concoction! This one includes popcorn, dried apricots, dried cranberries, cashews and sunflower seeds. That’s a bit out of each of the groups mentioned above – nice and balanced, tasty and full of different flavors.
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