Trail Mix the Superfood; Mixes For Your Health
The Evolution of Trail Mix
Trail mix, otherwise known as scroggin in New Zealand, UK, and Iraq, can be a perfect blend of energy and nutrition. It was first invented by/for hikers, although some debate as to who exactly or what year, but somehwere in the early 60's people put peanuts and raisins together possibly fashioned after the idea of granola- similar idea. Ironicaly, I haven't put those two original ingredients in my trail mixes for years. There are just too many nutritious combinations available to experiment with.
Most stores and markets, especially health food stores, offer a variety of trail mixes premixed to do the thinking for you. The negative aspects to this is many of those pre-mixed contain a large ratio of peanuts and raisins to other ingresients that are healthier for you. They do this because peanuts and raisins are less expensve so often times you pay more for them just because they are mixed with a few optimal ingredients like cranberries or dark chocolate chips. This is why I make my own mixes. I would buy the pre-mixed only to have a bag full of peanuts and rasins left behind. Stores that carry bulk foods offer the ingredients separately, it just takes more effort o your part to mix everything.
One of the things we have forgotten about trail mixes is they were invented to be a light weight snack with high energy (calories) per ounce. Unfortunately people are eating several handfuls as a single serving. Since trail mix was originally for outdoors folks, such as hikers who expend a lot of calories, this made it an ideal snack food for active people. Now there is so much research to support all the health benefits of various trail mix ingredients, everybody is munching on it, even while sitting on the couch, but you should be careful of how much you eat if you are not consistently active. Trail mix is high in calories so it doesn't take much.
Getting smart about getting nuts
We'll start with the nuts: it's kind of like staring with the main ingredient and building from there. There are several more ingredients far more nutritious than peanuts and if you're like me, you could be allergic to peanut mold. Did you know about peanut mold found in many bulk foods that contain peanuts in the mix? If you want to use peanuts and avoid the mold, the best choice is from a fresh sealed can. Otherwise check out your other options:
- cashews, macadamia nuts, filburts, pecans- sweet nuttty flavors, best with dried tropical fuits like papaya, pineapple, banana, dried date pieces, and coconut.
- almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts- great for your health, true superfoods. These nuts have more distinct flavor so pair them with stronger flavor ingredients like dried cranberries, prunes, goji berries, acai, cherries, bluberries, ginger, raisins, apple, chocolate chips.
I think of cashews and macadamias as summer/tropical type nuts, meaning they go with fruits and ingredients from tropical regions and fruits of the summer season. Of course you can get any of these ingredients (dried) year round- the beauty of trail mix.
Almonds and walnuts are the opposite side of the spectrum. I tend to think of them as stronger flavored nuts so they need to be paired with other dried ingredients that have pronounced flavor as well like cranberries, apples bits, blueberries, pumpkin seeds, crystalzed ginger, chocolate ships (dark or carob too).
Trail mix treat?
Trail mix was intended to be healthy so I'm not going to suggest you add things like pretzels, marhsmellows, candy, or sugar coated anything else. Those ingredients offer no added nutrition- just fillers. However, if you don't eat trail mix because it has nothing you enjoy in it then I would suggest adding a little treat so you get the benefits of the other ingredients. If you like m&m's I suggest Sundrops, similar to m&m's but without artificial color dye. Concerning dried fruits; check ingredients and avoid sulfites or sulfur dioxide- horrible processing ingredient. If you're like me and could stomach anything if it was chocolate covered, then try dark chocolate chips for added antioxidants. You can have a treat and be healthy too.
I'm not going to give you exact proportions and measurements of each ingredient, but I strive for equal fruit and nuts, and then a little of the "treat" ingredient.
1. Honey harvest
- chocolate chips
- dried apple
- Honey roasted peanuts
- shred or flake coconut
2. Berry Treat (loaded with anti-oxidants)
- brazil nuts
- cherries (tart)
- m&m's (healthy version)
3. Goji Goody
- goji berries
- date pieces
- shred coconut
- pumpkin seeds
4. Brain Booster
- Walnuts (brain food)
- dark chocolate chips
- sunflower seeds
- yogurt covered raisins
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