What is Trail Mix and How Do You Make Your Own?
Trail mix is sometimes jokingly called elaborate muesli, and we can see why. Many people mention that trail mix looks a lot like common breakfast muesli, which is true in part.
As a breakfast with skimmed milk, or a delicious addition to your puddings or yogurts, trail mix is a winner every time.
Normally comprised of ingredients such as nuts, dried fruits and an array of seeds, a good trail mix should benefit any hiking adventure to assure good nutrition and energy delivery.
You do not have to pay exuberantly for commercial trail mix at your local supermarket. Besides, with all the processing of such products, you can not be guaranteed of a good quality trail mix.
Not all trail mixes are good for you and it all depends on what is inside, but this is all the more reason to make your own trail mix.
The Good and the Bad
We all know that most readily made trail mixes are for sale at just about any food store, but are they good for you? Make no mistake, they are not created equal.
Most commercially produced trail mixes are covered in excess salt and sugars and contain unhealthy extras that have no nutritional value.
Let us have a look at the good and bad side of these ingredients before we select the best contents for our trail mix.
Do not be fooled by the old sugar and fat myths that give trail mixes a confusing reputation. Contrary to popular belief, your body does not need sugar to function and any added sugar (such as the preservative value of it in dried fruit) is unnecessary.
People often mistake dried fruit for a diet food, but looking at the amount of sugar needed to preserve dried fruit, think again. Even dried fruit in itself has been dehydrated and leaves very little of the original nutritional efficacy of the fruit.
The nuts and seeds in trail mix is of utmost importance, as it contains omega-3 fats and countless high protein sources for the body’s recovery and performance.
What we want to do is to utilize good fats and proteins to create a strong environment for nutrient uptake. When we hike, we use already stored fats and sucrose as energy.
To replenish that energy, we do not want to thrust our system full of processed sugar. This will cause a high spike in insulin and prevent effective utilization of stored fats as energy.
Our Best Ingredients
Take care not to add too many sugary items in your trail mix. What your body needs for optimal energy use, is fat mobilization. To assure this, a solid amount of nuts and seeds should take precedence over your other goodies.
Most nuts are high in good fats and protein, so don’t hesitate to use any nuts you like for your mix. Try to avoid nuts that are coated in salts and hydrogenated oils and opt for the raw variety.
They maintain their flavor and are free of the bad fats and salt content that can hike up your blood pressure and dehydrate you. You can dry roast your own nuts in your own kitchen to give it that oaky taste or you can just enjoy them raw.
Peanuts, almonds, pecans, cashews and a variety of others are a good choice, not to mention delicious.
As with nuts, seeds contain very healthy fats (Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids) that assure your hormone levels do not cause unnecessary hunger spikes or flood your blood with sugars.
Aside from these beneficial fats in seeds, they are also known to be rich in minerals and vitamins such as phosphorous, vitamin E and do not forget the all important fiber. These are all good digestives that will prevent you from feeling bloated and heavy after eating on your hike.
Look for pumpkin seeds, sunflower, flax seed, sesame and more to add.
- Dried Fruits:
As mentioned before, take care not to use dried fruits high in sugar. Opt for sun dried fruit, preferably unsulfured. These are the healthy alternatives to the overly processed dried fruits people often mistake for health food.
Extras to Treat Yourself:
Just because we hike in the woods does not mean we are savages! Why, we can treat ourselves for our hard-earned post-exercise indulgence.
Healthy choices include popcorn and even shavings or fragments of dark chocolate, but feel free to add whatever you think would go well with your other ingredients. Pretzels and some sweet treats could make up a small part of your potent, healthy trail mix.
Now that we have examined the best options for a home made trail mix, here is a loose recipe to help you slap together your own version.
Trail Mix Recipe guide:
1 cup of sundried fruit
1 cup raw seeds
1.5 cups of crushed, raw nuts
0.5 cup of fun stuff you choose (for instance half a cup of dark chocolate shavings)
Spice to taste, using nutmeg, cinnamon and salt.
Feel free to alter measurements according to your own taste, required intake and time spent on your hike.
Trail mixes are best made to fit the hiker and you can decide what you need more or less of.
Remember to hydrate even while eating your trail mix. It will add to your sense of fullness sooner and help you to better enjoy your hike!
In addition to it making a great goodie bag to snack on while on any kind of hike, you can add these ingredients to natural, raw honey, shape it into bars of any size that suits you and leave them in the fridge overnight.
In the morning roll them in a light layer of flour to avoid any harsh stickiness and pack it into your cooler bag. It’s important to remember not to use processed, runny honey as that won’t hold any form and just end up being an awfully sticky mess.
Thinking Outside the Box
We definitely have our tried and trusted favourites when it comes to trail mix but there are a few other options that may be equally as effective but something different.
- Dried tuna. This is similar to beef jerky but is thinly sliced layers of tuna preserved in salt until it is dried out completely. Many people who prefer fish to red meat find this an absolute delight to snack on while hiking or camping.
- Fruit Leathers are a similar type of trail snack, only instead of being fish or beef – it is dried fruit mixed with sugar to give you a healthy boost outdoors.
- Sports drink ice lollies. Though these might not last very long if not kept in an ice pack, they are a healthy way to stay cool, hydrated and properly energized. Turning your sports drink into ice lollies may also make it seem like you are treating yourself to something sweet while you are enjoying the great outdoors.
- By using plain gelatin and Vitamin Water or any sports drink, you can make fun alternatives to ice lollies by making sports jellies. These are healthy, keep your blood sugar at an appropriate level so you don’t get dizzy and lightheaded, and are super fun to chew on while walking.
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