Make Your Own Delicious Trail Mix and Save Money

Trail mixes have become an ultimate on-the-fly snack; and not just for outdoorsy types hiking the Appalachian Trail or mountain biking at Moab. Even folks confined to daily trudges along inner-city sidewalks are now turning to trail mixes to help make their workday treks more healthful.

Grocery shelves show where trail mixes are headed. To meet the tastes and nutritional demands of sundry snackers, there are now more varieties of commercially-produced trail mixes than you can shake a walking stick at. It is estimated that there are over 100 “big name” trail mixes now available, along with countless small-production products.

While you can buy a pre-made trail mix, you can also make your own and save money. To get a feel for the basics of trail-mix recipes, one must go back to the 1830s, when Danish students were helped through school days by something called studenterhavre, or “student oats.” It consisted of oats, raisins and almonds—though, around Christmas, chocolates were thrown in. In America, outdoorsman Horace Kephart, hyped a similar quick snack, made by combining nuts, raisins and chocolate, in his The Book of Camping and Woodcraft (1916).

Modern trail mixes stick close to the core ingredients of dried fruits, assorted seeds and nuts. However, there have never been more readily available ingredients waiting to take part in a DIY mix.

Nuts are the meat of trail mixes. While peanuts dominate many commercial trail mixes—and that’s not a bad thing—there are a slew of nuts that can be thrown in to add heart-healthy fats, protein, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Beside peanuts, the top nuts are walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. Nuts that are healthy but should be used more sparingly are cashews, pecans and macadamia nuts.

When going nuts with DIY trail mixes, always avoid nuts roasted in partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, which is now considered a leading cause of heart attacks and is actually being phased out by the FDA. Salted nuts aren’t the worst thing to eat, however, if you’re doing a lot of sweating while out on that trail.

A trick to readying nuts for homemade trail mixes is to place them between pieces of wax paper and lightly crush them with a wooden roller; just don’t grind them into powder.

Adding dried fruits – particularly ones you’ve dried yourself—is one of the best ways to personalize a DIY trail mix.  Fruit drying machines, aka dehydrators, are reasonably priced and can quickly dry a slew of fruits and veggies, usually in a single night.

Tip: When readying fruits or veggies for trail mixes, it is often best to first cut them into smaller, trail mix-size pieces, making sure to spread them apart on the drying screens/racks. This reduces the drying time.

Top fruits to dry are bananas (sliced), seedless grapes (halved), strawberries (sliced), pineapple (diced), apples (diced), pears (small sections), blueberries (whole or halved, and dried quickly).

To add a final dash of healthfulness to your mix, shake in seeds of chia, pumpkin, hemp, sesame, sunflower, flax—and even wheat germ, quinoa and cumin. But just remember, some seeds lend a powerful taste to the mix.

While dried fruits offer a load of sweetness to trail mixes, a touch more can be added via shredded coconut.

Although increasingly popular, a trail mix loaded with sugar can quickly defeat the purpose of a “fast and healthy snack.” If your sweet tooth won’t take “no” for an answer, add some raw chocolate or cacao nibs to your mix.

While trail mixes can be stored for a short time in the fridge, they are tastiest and heathiest when eaten as quickly as possible after mixing.

Happy trail mixes to you.


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