I worked for years at a health food store, and I can tell you that people love nuts and seeds! Trail mixes have to be one of the most popular things that people take out hiking, biking, camping and out to picnics. Nuts and seeds can be healthy, but there are some things you need to know to ensure you are eating the RIGHT nuts and seeds that promote health and give you energy, not the ones that will load the body with excess calories and fat and give nothing back!
- Look for a RAW trail mix. These raw trail mixes will often contain raw nuts, like almonds and cashews, and raw seeds, like sunflower and pumpkin seeds. Almonds are a great source of protein, and pumpkin seeds can help the immune system. These raw mixes usually contain raisins to sweeten, and sometimes shredded coconut to give flavour.
- Roasting nuts and seeds changes the good fats they did contain into bad fats. Try to avoid buying these types of trail mixes and instead stick to those raw trail mixes. Often in health food stores they will have some raw energy trail mixes to choose from.
- There are many different raw nuts that you can buy to make your own trail mixes: try mixing almonds, cashews, walnuts, macadamia nuts, and pecans. Each has a unique taste and nutrient profile, so try a variety!
- Stay away from salted nuts! North Americans have high sodium intakes, and often salted nuts and seeds can add to that without us even being aware. Be aware of how much salt is in the foods you are eating!
- Stick to eating a couple of handfuls at a time as to not over indulge!
- Sweeten your trail mixes with unsulphured dried fruit. The dried fruit found in pre-packaged mixes often contain sulphur, color (yes, that is how they keep those papaya chunks looking so bright orange!) and sodium benzoate (a preservative). Buy natural dried fruit with only the name of the fruit as the ingredient. Try using blueberries, cranberries (it can be hard to find cranberries without added sugar-try looking for ones that are sweetened with fruit juice), cherries (they are sweet on their own!), pineapple, papaya, and dates. I find that by adding shredded coconut I get a nice naturally sweet flavour in my trail mixes. I also like finely chopping natural dates and adding them for a sugary taste!
- The chocolate chips found in pre-made trail mixes are usually hydrogenated (which means that they contain bad fats) and they usually contain other additives that the body doesn’t need. Try adding your own chocolate chips to your trail mixes. Use Enjoy Life chocolate chips for a more natural option. Or try using cacao nibs. They are bitter but make for a fantastic alternative to chocolate. Other people enjoy adding carob chips for an alternative. Play around with it.
- Store your raw trail mixes in the fridge to keep them from going rancid. Raw nuts and seeds contain those good fats that the body needs, but that can mean that they can go bad if left sitting out, especially if exposed to the sun. Raw nuts and seeds can usually keep for about 4 months, but can be kept a lot longer if kept in the fridge!
Recently I made a trail mix for hiking that contained raw almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, and unsweetened coconut. I then added natural chocolate chips and chilled them in the fridge overnight. I took them out hiking and had it as an afternoon snack!
What is your favourite trail mix? Do you have a special brand that you absolutely love and want to share? Or do you make your own?! Please share your ideas with us!