diy trail mix

Chew on trail mix with these 6 crunchy and tasty recipes

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Whether you’re planning a hike, hitting the gym, or just trying to get through the midday slump at work, there’s one snack that has stood the test of time for adventurers and health enthusiasts alike: trail mix. This simple yet versatile blend of nuts, seeds, and dried fruits (sometimes chocolate, too) has cemented its place as a go-to snack for people seeking a convenient source of energy and nutrition. Beyond its reputation as a trailside staple, its crunchy texture and layered flavor profile include an abundance of nutrients, making it not just a tasty treat, but a legitimate nutritional powerhouse. In this DIY trail mix guide, we’ll talk about ways to customize this classic snack for a variety of needs.

As a dietitian, I’m also compelled to boast trail mix’s impressive nutritional resume because it checks a lot of boxes. Though probably most well known for addressing hunger while still being very portable (“dry” foods like nuts and seeds are good for that), the blend of ingredients includes the major macronutrients—carbohydrates, proteins, and fats (water is also considered a macronutrient, but we’ll assume you’ve already got that covered. Each has its own satiety profile—carbs help calm immediate hunger pangs, while the slower breakdown of proteins helps keep you feeling full through a few hours. Fats, with an even longer molecular chain, typically take the longest to break down, so they can satisfy your energy cravings the longest.

But satiating hunger isn’t the thing trick trail mix can do. Nuts and seeds can be a great source of vitamins and minerals like iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium as well as vitamin E and the B complexes. They also provide plant-based protein, which helps build and restore muscle without adding any saturated fats. Additionally, the dried fruit and granola found in most mixes can provide more vitamins like A, C, and K as well as plenty of fiber, which is chronically low in most Americans’ diets.

Trail mix is also an easy snack to assemble at home and customize at will. You can pick and choose your own ingredients according to your needs and you can save money by buying them in bulk.

But that’s enough nerding out on the biochemical genius of trail mix. Let’s get down to the fun part: trail mix recipes.

Basic Trail Mix

As described above, basic trail mix is defined by relatively equal parts nuts, seeds, and (typically) granola. The nuts can be anything but often include almonds, peanuts, cashews, walnuts, and pecans, which offer varied flavors and textures. Pumpkin and sunflower are typically the most commonly used seeds, but hemp and sesame also make the list. Granola clusters can be sourced from anywhere and because they’re often held together with honey, you get a nice mix of savory and sweet.

Additional add-ons can be chocolate morsels, yogurt chips, and pretzels. I like adding pretzels, or other simple, starchy carbohydrates, because they’re a good source of energy and are easy on the stomach compared to the fiber and texture of the other ingredients. Pretzels, specifically, also provide sodium, which is the most important electrolyte used by the body to maintain hydration and intracellular volume.  

Now, with all of the above, there are variables you tweak however you like. If you struggle with hypertension, which was redefined in 2017, consider unsalted nuts to help manage your blood pressure. If allergies or food intolerances are your obstacles, simply swap one ingredient for another. You can really customize the following recipes however you like, but let’s start with a generic template to build from. Here’s my base mix:

Ingredients:

The Runner Trail Mix

Running is usually considered an endurance sport, but sprinting definitely has an anaerobic component. In either case, carbohydrates are best suited for powering short or long runs and should be a key part of a runner’s trail mix. Be mindful of adding too much fiber as it could cause GI discomfort when you’re logging those miles. This mix gets most of its carbs from bananas, granola, and pretzels, which will provide energy while being easier on the stomach. 

Ingredients:

The Gym Trail Mix

Any time you’re pushing weight on the bench or in the squat rack, you’ll need to pay extra attention to protein. This mix will be targeted towards a higher count of the muscle-building macronutrient from various sources to ensure you’re hitting all nine essential amino acids. What’s more, the combination of the below ingredients includes a notable amount of leucine for signaling the body to start building muscle.

Ingredients:

The Pregnancy Trail Mix

What should you expect in your trail mix when you’re expecting? Pretty much the same thing as other trail mixes but with an extra focus on folate, iron, and antioxidants. Folate is important for its role in early fetal development. Infants also get their primary iron stores from their time in the womb, so a mother needs a sufficient amount to share with her child before birth. Lastly, antioxidants are important for everyone, but inflammation can have a more pronounced effect on a developing baby, so keeping it in check is a good idea. 

Ingredients:

The Vegan Trail Mix

Going plant-based has become really popular over the last few years, but vegans have been around forever. Trail mix has been a staple for us herbivores because it’s often difficult to find a meal without any animal products. The mix below is aimed at providing a variety of flavors so that the vegans can enjoy snacking, too.

Ingredients:

The Allergy-Free Trail Mix

There are now nine official foods on the FDA’s list of major food allergies, but don’t fret. There’s still a way to make a delicious allergy-free trail mix that will stave off hunger and taste great at the same time. Feel free to swap in or out any foods that you enjoy or swap out any specific items you might have a reaction to. Always check with your doctor first to make sure you’re good to go.

Ingredients:



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