I think we have all found ourselves buying trail mix when we're in a pinch for a "healthy" bite. It is high-density nutrition, packed with protein and all the things our bodies crave when we're running low on energy - salt, sugar, and fat.
The trouble is - while packaged trail mix is a great option when compared with other processed on-the-go options - there can be a lot of sneaky beauty-busting ingredients hiding inside that innocent little snack pack. Think added sodium, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavorings, and ingredients from genetically modified organism (GMO) crops, like high fructose corn syrup and soy lecithin. With regard to GMOs, it's not necessarily the actual genetic modification that's concerning here; it's the pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides that are being dumped onto these crops, and into your foods, that are the problem, along with the ill-effects they have on the environment (but more on that in another blog post to come.)
And while, trail mix can be the lesser of evils when trying to find a decently healthy snack when you're in a pinch, I think we can do better! By making our own trail mix, we can get the same satisfaction we find from the packaged varieties, but with a whole lot more control over what's going into our bodies. We can also add super food ingredients! And if you're already buying the expensive, organic and quality trail mixes, that's awesome. But consider making your own - it can be less expensive and more fun! Plus you can switch up the ingredients from day-to-day, adding some variety. This would also be a super easy and fun kitchen activity for the kids in your life!
SIDE NOTE ABOUT SOAKING YOUR NUTS!
Soaking and drying nuts before consuming them is an added bonus. Here's why - seeds and nuts are the pods from which life spawns (just like an egg is in the animal world). They hold everything a new plant needs to begin life - just add soil, water, and sun, and voila! But mother nature has a way of protecting things that are vital to life. And, in this case, we call that protection phytates. Phytates (and phytic acid) are antioxidant compounds found in whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. While phytates are a phytonutrient and an anti-oxidant and protect against free-radical damage and cell overgrowth (cancers), they can also bind to certain minerals and prevent or slow their absorption. This means, if you have a diet high in nuts, seeds, and whole grains (and/or if you have a sensitive digestive system), you should consider soaking most of the time to make sure you are properly absorbing all those amazing minerals your consuming. But it also means - don't be paranoid if you don't have time to soak every time!
This is the same reason why soaking beans before cooking makes people less gassy, and why sourdough bread is easier to digest than non-sourdough. In both cases, the digestion process begins before we consume it - activating nutrients and neutralizing enzyme inhibitors. Here is a great resource about soaking your legumes.
The recipe for my go-to mix is below, but feel free to play around and choose your favorite flavors. The main thing is to get real, unsweetened, unsalted ingredients. If you have time to do a little prep before a busy week - lay out some jars and make yourself a bunch at a time - combining a slightly different "mix" for every day of the week, if you like. They make a great snack to grab on your way out the door in the mornings.
ANTIOXIDANT TRAIL MIX
(makes one 8-oz. serving)
- 1/4 cup almonds (preferably soaked and dried)
- 1/4 cup cashews (preferably soaked and dried)
- 1 Tbsp. Sunflower seeds (raw, shelled, unsalted)
- 1 heaping Tbsp. dried Mulberries
- 1 heaping Tbsp. dried Goji berries
- 1 heaping Tbsp. Unsweetened Coconut chips or flakes
- 1 Tbsp. Cacao Nibs
Combine ingredients together in a jar and shake to mix!
Nut soaking resource, here.
This mix is gluten-free, dairy free, added sugar and added salt-free, vegan. Cacao nibs, which contain a small amount of caffeine, are a high in anti-oxidants, meaning they absorb free-radicals in our bodies before they damage our cells.
Cacao nibs are also a great source of fiber, iron, calcium, and magnesium. The nuts and seeds in this recipe contain healthy fats, oils, and fiber (great for gut health!). Almonds are a good source of antioxidant flavonoids and have been shown to lower cholesterol and fight against heart disease and many cancers. Goji berries have the antioxidant beta-carotene, which has been shown to improve skin and eye health. Traditionally, they have been used to improve mood and ease depression and anxiety, and even boost fertility! Mulberries contain resveratrol, a polyphenol flavonoid antioxidant, that is linked to heart health. It has also been shown to increase the activity of mitochondria, producing energy within the cells and potentially extending their life (this could translate into anti-aging benefits!).
Most of these ingredients can be found in or near the bulk section of your local health food store. I like to compare the bulk vs. pre-packaged options for price and quality.
I hope you have fun making your own trail mix. I would love to hear what delicious concoctions you come up with - please share in the comments section!