Trail mix is a great snack because it packs a caloric punch, but doesn't take up a lot of space. When hiking mountains or just spending a long day away from home, trail mix can easily fit into a backpack or purse and give you the energy you need when your resources run low. But, not all mixes are created equal--some are just sugary snacks that provide little besides sugar and fat. Make the most of this healthy snack by adding these five ingredients into the mix:
Almonds are full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and muscle-building protein. They are also high in vitamin E and dietary fiber. Almonds are an excellent source of energy and can be included whole or sliced. Stay clear of salted varieties that might make you feel extra thirsty out on the trails.
2. Dark Chocolate
Trail mix is supposed to provide your body with the calories and nutrients necessary to keep you moving. A smattering of dark chocolate chips is a great way to add a little sugar and a healthy dose of antioxidants to the mix. A little bit of the sweet stuff helps raise lowered blood sugar levels and gives the body energy it can use right away. But, you don't want the whole bag to be sugary, so don't overdo it. Unlike milk chocolate or sugar-coated candies, dark chocolate has a strong, rich flavor and a little bit goes a long way.
Seeds are a great way to add variety to your trail mix while also adding healthy fats and protein. Toss together unsalted sunflower and pumpkin seeds; just be sure they're shelled ahead of time. To get a dose of heart protecting Omega 3 fatty acids, sprinkle on freshly ground flax seeds. The human body cannot produce Omega 3 fatty acids, so we need to get these essential nutrients from food sources. Besides being beneficial to our hearts, they also help our brains and may even ward off or improve depression.
4. Unsweetened Fruits
Whether you want to stay true to the classics and add raisins to your trail mix or try something new and go with dried cranberries or apples, stay clear of sugar-coated, sweetened varieties. Dried fruits provide vitamins and minerals, but also contain fructose, a natural sugar. They are naturally sweet and satisfying so added sugars are only adding empty calories. Check ingredient labels to make sure sugar is not listed. For a truly tasty treat, chop up dried pineapple and apricots.
Oats are high in fiber and have been shown to help reduce cholesterol and protect the body from heart disease. If you're making your own trail mix, toast rolled oats in the oven on a baking sheet to cook. Flavor with a few drops of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Trail mix is a great snack if you pack it full of healthy ingredients and stay clear of overly sugared fruits and candies. Because it's made to provide lots of energy (calories) in a small serving, be sure to watch your portion sizes so you don't go overboard.