Trail mix is a difficult snack to get just right. It can either be extremely energy-boosting, or it can leave you feeling unsatisfied and unhealthy. Most store-bought trail mixes are loaded with excess sugar and sodium, which in turn leads us to eat vast quantities of it. Because trail mix is portable and easy on-the-go food, eating a lot of it can result in high caloric intake without much nutritional benefit. However, if made properly with nourishing ingredients, trail mix can be an awesome snack. The trick to making a killer trail mix is to mix and match different flavors, textures, and types of ingredients to create a mix that not only tastes delightful but will keep you satisfied in between meals or during physical activity.
To get a well-rounded mix, try choosing a variety of ingredients that are nut-based, salty, sweet, or spicy. Here are 15 mix n’ match ingredient suggestions for your next healthy trail mix:
Start With Healthy Nuts
Nuts are nearly essential for trail mix. They provide a solid base to add more ingredients to while also giving rich texture and flavor. Nuts are the core of where trail mix nutrients come from as they are jam-packed with protein and fiber. Make your trail mix at least 50 percent nuts to keep it healthy and satisfying. While peanuts are inexpensive and a classic trail mix ingredient, try swapping them for other types of nuts that have more nutritional benefits. Go for either raw, unsalted nuts or lightly roasted nuts with low sodium. Unique in flavor and texture, try out these distinctive four nuts for a trail mix twist:
Almonds are the superfood of nuts. They provide the body with healthy fats and nutrients that can boost the function of your heart and blood flow. With so many reasons to add this nut to your diet, try this Activated Energy Mix with almonds instead of walnuts.
These creamy nuts are sure to upgrade any trail mix. Cashews provide a naturally smooth texture which is perfect when combined with other mixed ingredients that could be crunchy or chewy. Beyond tasting amazing, cashews provide sources of copper and magnesium and are lower in fat compared to other nuts.
4. Brazil Nuts
Adding Brazil nuts to trail mix is just one way to use this unique and delectable nut. Brazil nuts are great for those with thyroid abnormalities as they contain high levels of the mineral selenium. Brazil nuts also have a mild flavor that will bring richness and tenderness to the trail mix.
For a Hint of Salt
No trail mix is complete without a salty component. While sodium intake is important to moderate, quality sources of salt are crucial because they highlight the flavors in foods. For a healthy trail mix, try adding a salty component that also doubles as a healthy, crunchy carbohydrate. For those with nut allergies, adding alternative ingredients is necessary, so try adding one of these nut-free, wholesome, salty ingredients to your next trail mix:
Pretzels make a wonderful plant-based snack. They are full of healthy carbohydrates, which can provide quick energy and fullness. Use miniature pretzels to add to your mix, or try making your own. For those with gluten intolerances, these Vegan Pretzel Sticks are perfect for that salty fix.
Packed with heart-healthy antioxidants, popcorn makes a perfect ingredient for a healthy trail mix. Skip the microwaved popcorn and go for whole-grain kernels. A sprinkle of sea salt will boost flavor, but don’t be afraid to try one of these exciting hacks to take your popcorn to the next level.
7. Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds have all kinds of health benefits that make them a great ingredient for mixes. Loaded with protein and fiber, adding these seeds is an awesome alternative for those with nut allergies. Sunflower seeds also contain vitamin E, which is important for converting food to sustained energy.
8. Dried Edamame
Edamame is a plant-based, energy-boosting superfood. Try adding dried, roasted edamame to your next mix as a salty, crunchy, protein-packed ingredient. Loaded with soy-based nutrients, edamame is gluten-free and nut-free.
Sneak in Some Sweet
Sweet ingredients are ideal for balancing out your trail mix. It’s easy to overload on these sugary ingredients, so paying attention to how much you add is important. Adding just a sprinkle of something sweet can satisfy that craving, but skip the candy and go for naturally sweet, whole foods that can help curb your sugary snacking instead. These four sweet ingredients are a naturally sweet and healthy way to upgrade your trail mix.
Who doesn’t love this salty-sweet combination? Use dark chocolate or cocoa nibs when adding this ingredient to your mix. Dark chocolate is an excellent source of antioxidants and can help ward off sweet cravings. There are many varieties at grocery stores, and if you’re feeling adventurous, try making Homemade Raw Dark Chocolate. Don’t forget, though — a little goes a long way.
10. Dried Cranberries or Raisins
In moderation, dried fruit is a lovely plant-based ingredient for trail mix. Avoid dried fruit that has excess sugar and preservatives added. Raisins, mulberries, goji berries, and juice-sweetened cranberries are easy to find without refined sugar and can provide ample sources of fiber and antioxidants. Try making this Healthy Raisin Trail Mix to optimize the use of dried fruits.
11. Banana Chips
For a crunchy yet sweet ingredient, use banana chips. Bananas are one of the best fruits to dehydrate as they are energy-boosting and potassium-packed. Throw a handful of these chips into your next mix, and your energy and sweet tooth will be fulfilled.
12. Coconut Flakes
This Activated Energy Mix uses coconut flakes to make a sustainable, healthy mix. Go for unsweetened coconut flakes to get natural, subtly sweet tastes. Beyond tasting wonderful, coconut flakes contain healthy fats and are full of fiber.
Get daring and spice things up! Spicy ingredients will add a snap to your trail mix and antioxidants! Between the nutty, sweet, and salty flavors, a little spiciness is needed in any trail mix. Spicy ingredients can be great for boosting metabolism and some even aid in digestion. Here are three awesome, easy, and spicy trail mix ingredients:
For that sweet and spicy ingredient, opt for adding dried ginger. Avoid candied ginger as this is often loaded with extra sugar, and just use a small amount of dried ginger since its flavor is pretty strong. Using ginger effectively will help with digestive ease, and nausea, and can help maintain higher energy levels.
14. Wasabi Peas
Nothing packs a punch like wasabi. Skip the sushi and try wasabi peas as a healthy ingredient to your trail mix. Wasabi peas will balance out the sweetness in a trail mix while providing a spicy kick to your bite.
15. Cayenne Pepper
Using spices in your trail mix is an excellent way to add a tremendous amount of flavor. Cayenne pepper is a great go-to spice to use because of its health benefits and distinctive pungency. This ultimate super spice will taste well with most other trail mix ingredients, and only a dash is needed.
These are just 15 ingredients for a more interesting and healthy trail mix. The sky’s the limit on other ingredients you can use; just remember to keep it plant-based and nutrient-packed.
Do you have a fun, flavorful, and favorite trail mix ingredient?
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