Nutrition Mix it Up Your Way with Trail Mix By BodyChangers, August 21, 2014 Before you head out for a summer hike through the mountains, whip up a quick and easy snack that will last past each mile post. Grab a bowl and mix peanuts, seeds, and dried fruit to create one tasty and high-energy snack: trail mix. Grab a few handfuls and enjoy this satisfying snack on the go – whether you’re on an outdoor trek, a road trip, or just sharing a treat with friends. The beauty of trail mix is that it’s not only portable and easy to take along on any trek, you can create a personalized snack that speaks to your unique nutritional needs, cravings, and taste buds. Load up your trail mix with ingredients that will not only satisfy your sweet tooth, but also provide you with protein and essential nutrients. Some common choices to include in the mix are nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits, and sweets. Nuts Use raw, dry-roasted, and unsalted nuts to avoid adding too much extra fat and sodium. Raw tree nuts (including pecans, walnuts, pistachios, cashews, and hazelnuts) have been linked to lower cholesterol, better heart health, and weight control. Out of all nuts, walnuts contain the most antioxidants, which help protect your body from the cellular damage that contributes to heart disease, cancer, and premature aging. Cashews are rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to all of your cells, as well as zinc, which is critical to immune health and good vision. Compared to other nuts, almonds contain the most fiber and are the richest in vitamin E. Seeds Sunflower seeds are an excellent source of vitamins E and B and are also rich in protein and heart-healthy fats. Chia seeds are high in iron, folate, calcium, and magnesium. Hemp seeds contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which promote healthy hair and skin growth. Omega-3s also reduce inflammation and boost brain and cardiovascular health. Pumpkin seeds are a tasty source of vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and protein. Flax seeds help lower cholesterol, make you feel fuller longer, aids in stabilizing blood sugar levels, and benefit eye health due to their omega-3 fatty acids. As with nuts, choose unsalted or low-sodium options. Grains Choose whole grains instead of highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium. Whole grains provide magnesium, a mineral used in building bones and releasing energy from muscles. Grains also contain selenium, which is important for a healthy immune system. Add grains to pack in nutrients such as dietary fiber, B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folic acid) and minerals (iron and magnesium). Gain extra crunch from whole grain cereal, mini pretzels, and toasted soybeans. Dried Fruits These will add natural sweetness and fiber to your trail mix. Try unsweetened dried cherries, applies, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, figs, pineapple chunks, mango, and dates. Nutrients become more concentrated in dried fruit due to dehydration. Just a ½ cup of most dried fruits have about the same amount of B vitamins as 1 cup of fresh fruit. According to the USDA Agricultural Research Service, dried fruit retains 100 percent of the fresh fruits minerals. Be careful not to overload your mix with dried fruit. The same number of calories fit into a smaller handful, so watch your portions. Sweets Adding a little something sweet, like a sprinkling of chocolate candy pieces, is okay – just make sure to add these treat-like options sparingly. Recipes Cranberry-Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix (makes 2 cups) ½ cup dried cranberries ½ cup chopped toasted almonds ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds ¼ cup toasted walnuts ¼ cup raisins Mountain Trail Mix (makes 1 ¾ cups) ½ cup cashews ¼ cup peanuts ¼ cup almonds ½ cup raisins 1 package (about ¼ cup) candy-coated chocolate pieces.