By Ashton Jackson, RD, LD/N
Watch out, “gorp” enthusiasts! It’s time we re-evaluate our good ol’ raisins and peanuts and examine what’s essential for a healthy trail mix recipe.
“Gorp,” more commonly known as trail mix, has long been touted as one of the best snacks for a busy traveler; it’s great not just for hiking up a mountain but also for long car rides or flights when sustenance is necessary but nutritious food is limited. It is an equally great option for “lifestyle changers”… providing a healthy dose of protein, good fats, vitamins and minerals without the need for refrigeration or any preparation. The only caveats: the ingredients and the portion consumed!
Visit your local grocery store and you’ll find a wealth of trail mix options. Food manufacturers are loading the shelves with every assortment you can imagine, and they continue to become more creative with the ingredients they combine. Traditional varieties are taking a back seat to those that include more “exciting” ingredients like chocolate candy, peanut butter cups, spicy “sticks” made of corn or grain, and a disproportionate amount of dried fruit varieties in relation to their “nut companions.” Consume too much of these sugar-laden concoctions, and you’ll find yourself tipping the calorie count in the wrong direction with no long-lasting energy to show for it.
An equally detrimental habit that often accompanies trail mix consumption is disregard for portion size. Trail mix is an energy-dense snack: it’s full of wonderful nutrients, but even a small quantity can pack a punch when it comes to calories. A quarter-cup serving of a traditional peanut and raisin mix provides at least 150 calories accompanied by 10 grams of (healthy) fat. Just imagine how quickly these calories add up if you zone out during your drive across town and consume a whole bag!
For the sake of maintaining good nutrition principles, variety and satisfaction, it’s time we take charge of our favorite nonperishable snack: why not make it yourself? Follow these simple tips and try a new healthy trail mix recipe … you’ll likely never want to purchase a pre-mixed variety from the store again!
TIP 1: PICK A HEALTHY FAT
Healthy fats in the diet allow for greater satiety, promote absorption of fat-soluble vitamins and are beneficial for management of chronic disease and inflammation.
Popular Healthy Fat Options for Trail Mix
|Nut/Seed Variety||Controlled Portion Size*|
|Pecans||4 halves OR 2 whole|
|Pumpkin seeds||1 tablespoon|
|Sunflower seeds||1 tablespoon|
*Portions equivalent to 1 healthy fat exchange using the Diabetic Exchange System for meal planning
TIP 2: CHOOSE YOUR FRUIT
Dried fruit is a great alternative to fresh fruit when you are on the go, jam-packed with all of the nutrients but without the risk of spoilage. When building your trail mix, be aware of the natural sugars; too much dried fruit adds up fast!
Popular Dried Fruit Options for Trail Mix
|Dried Fruit (Unsweetened)||Controlled Portion Size*|
|Apple rings||4 rings|
*Portions equivalent to 1 fruit exchange using the Diabetic Exchange System for meal planning
TIP 3: ADD SOME CRUNCH
Adding a controlled portion of an “add-in” is a great way to customize your trail mix to make it fit your own unique taste. It can also assist with satisfying cravings without going overboard. Try one of these in your next batch!
|Creative Additions||Suggested Serving|
|Popcorn||~ 1/2 cup|
|Pretzels||1 ounce (small handful)|
|Dried chickpeas||1/2 cup|
|Dark chocolate chips||1 tablespoon|
|Dried edamame||1/2 cup|
|Whole-grain cereal||~ 1/2 cup|
|Low-fat, low-sugar granola||~ 1/4 cup|
Reduce the risk of overindulging by pre-measuring and portioning your trail mix ingredients into individual containers or snack bags. Make enough each week to keep in the pantry so that it’s ready for the taking as you head out the door for your next hike, road trip or workday.
TIP 4: PORTION CONTROL
Need a Little Inspiration?
Here are a few of the healthy trail mix recipe combinations that the providers at LifeStyle Medical Centers love! Just portion each ingredient into small snack bags or containers and enjoy!
|COMBO 1||COMBO 2||COMBO 3||COMBO 4|
|6 almonds||6 cashews||10 peanuts||4 walnut halves|
|2 tablespoons raisins||2 tablespoons dried cranberries||1/4 cup freeze-dried banana slices||3 whole dried apricots|
|1/4 cup Quaker Oatmeal Squares cereal||1/4 cup Kashi Go Lean cereal||1/2 cup Whole Grain Chocolate Cheerios||1/4 cup low-fat granola|
If you love these recipes and are looking for more assistance with meal planning for your unique needs, give us a call to set up an appointment today! Each combo provides 1 healthy fat, 1 fruit and 1 starch using the Diabetic Exchange System.