Trail mix too frequently gets a bad name. Granted, trail mixes are high in sugar and fat. However, the fat comes from the nuts and seeds and the sugar from the dried fruit and other ingredients that are occasionally added. There is no need to feel guilty about grabbing a handful of your favorite trail mix as our bodies need both fat and sugar in order to function properly. In fact, when it comes to snacks, trail mix is often on the healthier side. The name itself reveals that this mixed snack is a food taken along on hikes because it’s easy to carry and nutritious.
The beauty of trail mix is that everyone can decide how they would like it to taste and what ingredients should be included. For those keen on making their trail mix with organic products, the basis of trail mix consists of many nutritious ingredients that are produced at very high-quality in the United States. The state of California itself is one of most well known places for producing excellent nuts and seeds, such as California Almonds or California Walnuts.
By taking a little extra time to whip up a trail mix, you’ll find that it’s one of the best ways to satisfy your appetite. With its protein, healthy fats, and all the sugar you need, trail mix fits the bill perfectly. Keep reading to get started!
Step 1: Nuts & Seeds
Can’t get enough of nutritious nuts? Trail mix has no boundaries when it comes to the amount or variety of nuts you plan on including in your mix. The options here are seemingly endless! Here is a quick overview of some of our favorites:
California Almonds – With their subtle, buttery flavor and versatility, they can easily be eaten by themselves or as part of a mix. Almonds contain natural plant protein, healthy fats to provide energy throughout the day, and 15 essential nutrients. Want to know more about almonds? Find out more here.
American Pecans – When it comes to America’s native nut, great taste is just the beginning. Not only do they offer a rich and buttery flavor, but they are incredibly nutrient-dense, boasting multiple vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds. The pecan has rightfully earned its reputation as a nutrition powerhouse. Learn more here.
American Pistachios – Small, green, and convenient – they make the perfect snack. Among other things, the fresh and piney nuts contain lots of good nutrients and fats. Not to mention, the pop of color they can add to your trail mix! Discover their sweet and savory potential here.
American Peanuts – In the United States, peanuts have become a staple snack, but are becoming increasingly popular in Europe. Naturally cholesterol-free and considered nutrient-dense, peanuts contain many vitamins and minerals. Did you know this famous nut isn’t actually a nut? We explain more here.
California Walnuts – Crunchy with a bit of a tang is one way to describe the popular, nutritious walnut. In fact, more than 99% of the walnuts in the U.S. are grown in the fertile soils of California’s Central Valley. Internationally, California walnuts supply two-thirds of the world’s walnut trade. It comes to no surprise, as they are the only nut significantly high in ALA Omega-3s, which are essential fatty acids critical to various body processes.
U.S. Sunflower Seeds – Power-packed with healthy fats, protein, fiber, minerals, vitamin E, and phytochemicals, sunflower seeds aren’t just decorative and tasty, but also can provide nutritional value. So what is the difference between sunflower seeds and kernels? Find out here.
Once you’ve chosen your favorite nuts and seeds, it’s time to decide how you’d like them to taste and feel. You can buy raw nuts, as they tend to be the healthier option, but you can also decide to roast, toast, salt, sweeten or mix them with a variety of different spices. This is where your creativity can go free range.
Step 2: Dried Fruit
Next to a crunchy mix of nuts and seeds, some juicy and sweet dried fruit are the perfect addition. Dried fruits are ideal for trail mix, not only because they bring in a new texture and different flavors, but also because they have a long-lasting shelf life. From a dietary perspective, the high sugar content of dried fruits may seem off putting at first, but exactly this aspect makes them a great snack to replenish low blood sugar levels after physical activity.
When it comes to the choice of dried fruit, there are a few things to consider. In regards to quality and health, we recommend opting for sun-dried fruit that aren’t sugar-coated and, ideally, unsulfured. The next choice is based on the flavor you desire. Here are our some of our favorite dried fruits:
California Prunes – Rich and smooth, with an ability to enhance both sweet and savory flavors, California Prunes are naturally nutritious and surprisingly versatile. California Prunes are big on “no” – like no added sugar, no cholesterol, no sodium, and no fat. And that makes it easy (and smart!) to say “yes” to the tasty fruit. Learn more about the dried purple plum here.
U.S. Cranberries – Cranberries are not just any fruit – they are America’s Original Superfruit. When dried, cranberries get a deep burgundy color and offer a characteristic tart flavor. Mixing in dried cranberries to a trail mix provides a fun tangy flavor with a hint of fruity sweetness. In addition, cranberries can be considered a nutrient-dense food and provide an excellent source of antioxidant vitamins C and E. You may know how the little red berries look and taste, but do you know how they are grown and harvested? Keep reading here to find out!
California Raisins – Another delicious way to add some natural sweetness to your mix is with the help of California Raisins. Natural seedless grapes are sun dried for about three weeks on strips of paper between the vines. The extreme heat of the California sun caramelizes the natural sugars in the grapes, giving them their distinctive color and incomparable flavor. Find out more about the snackable, whole fruit here.
Montmorency U.S. Tart Cherries– These ruby red orbs have broken out of the pie shell and onto the superfruit stage. Tart cherries are a good source of vitamin C, vitamin A, and copper, and contain flavonoids, including anthocyanins. Use Montmorency tart cherries to add a pop of color, a nutrient punch and a hint of sweet-tart flavor. Learn more here.
3. Something Fun!
Staying healthy certainly doesn’t mean you can’t treat yourself! Balance is the name of the game. So go ahead and add a handful of your favorite treats to the mix – anything goes. While dark chocolate and popcorn are the classics, feel free to sprinkle in whatever nibbles you like.
With so many options and ingredients, it may seem overwhelming to choose the perfect mix. The good thing is, there is no right or wrong answer! Need some more inspiration? If you want to stay on the nutritious side, then this Healthy Trail Mix may be just for you. A mix of salty, sweet and crunchy, Dr. Arjmandi’s trail mix with California Prunes makes building strong bones fun and delicious!
If you prefer salty over sweet, then the savory Trail Mix developed by Andrea Schirmaier-Huber could be right down your alley. This trail mix recipe lets you experience California Raisins with some savory flavors including rosemary and thyme.
For those with the desire to try something new, the On the Go-ji Berry Trail Mix with U.S. Popcorn is just for you. Rich dark chocolate and tart goji berries add a yin-yang flavor twist to this energy-filled snack mix, fueling you at work or out on the trails.
Once prepared, you can store the mixture in a ziplock bag, jar, or airtight container to keep it fresh. Enjoy!