Saturday, August 27, 2016

Healthy Trail Mix

Trail mix is a great snack because it packs a caloric punch, but doesn’t take up a lot of space. When car traveling, biking, gardening, or just spending a day away from home, trail mix can easily fit into a backpack or purse and give you the energy you need when your resources run low. But, not all mixes are created equal, some are just sugary snacks that provide little besides sugar and fat, so rather than buy something you can easily craft your own healthy snack. Trail mix is supposed to provide your body with the calories and nutrients necessary to keep you moving. A bit of sugar is not bad, but don’t overdo it.

There are a few items that are a must in any good trail mix:
·         Almonds
·         Dark Chocolate
·         Oats
·         Unsweetened Fruit

Our recipe is going to have more nuts (as we are competing in a contest with but I find the protein in nuts makes a trail mix stick better and give more energy, especially when I am out gardening or riding my bike.  And if you are wondering where the herb is… it is the chocolate!

The first thing I did to make this mix was prep some oats. Oats are high in fiber and have been shown to help reduce cholesterol and protect the body from heart disease. When making your own trail mix, toast rolled oats in the oven on a baking sheet to cook, then add flavor with a few drops of vanilla extract or a sprinkle of cinnamon. I went one step farther and stirred mine with melted dark chocolate that I drizzled over the oats while they were warm then gave a quick stir to create little morsels of oat and chocolate. You need only a small amount of oats in a blend because they give large amounts of energy.

Next thing I wanted was nuts, I went with peanuts, cashews, pistachios and the almonds. Stay clear of salted varieties that might make you feel extra thirsty out on the trails. I opt for dry roasted peanuts, unsalted cashews and Pistachios. Pistachios are a nut that has all the good cholesterols and fats you need for heart health and for feeling full which helps you eat less. For the Almonds I actually went with dark chocolate and coconut covered almonds.  I get the antioxidant properties of dark chocolate and the vitamin E in the almonds. The reason I use dark chocolate is because unlike milk chocolate or sugar-coated candies, dark chocolate has a strong, rich flavor and a little bit goes a long way.

Along with these I like the natural sweetness of dried fruits.  A dried fruit concentrates the natural sugars so there is no need to get sugar dusted or coated fruits.  The added vitamins and minerals along with the energy from the natural sugar (fructose) is very satisfying and the calories provide lasting energy instead of a quick high.  I am choosing two super fruits cranberries and goji berries.  Goji is the English translation of the Chinese word gouqi.  They are actually called wolfberries and are in the nightshade family, but is used in traditional Chinese medicine. Adding superfruits is a strong energy and health related addition to trail mix.

My husband has diabetes and superfuits give him the sugar regulating energies his body needs and keeping them unsweetened means we are not adding too much sugar to his diet.

For fun I am adding a few peanut M&M and chocolate covered expresso beans. Just enough that you get a bit of a surprise in each handful, but not so much that it ruins all the healthy benefits of the remaining ingredients.

So let’s blend:

Dark Chocolate and Fruit Trail Mix

1 cup cashews
½ cup dark chocolate oats
½ cup cranberries
½ cup goji berries
½ cup peanuts
¼ cup pistachios
2 Tbls peanut M&M
2 Tbls. coconut dark chocolate almonds

Blend it all in a big bowl by hand, then transfer to individual containers or bags for easy grab and dash.  Snack-size zip locks or single serve reusable plastic work perfect.. 

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