How to Make the Perfect Trail Mix
Here's the truth about the fat found in almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other nuts: It's as healthy—or healthier—than anything else in your diet.
It fills your belly better than any other snack on the planet while decreasing your risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, smoothing your skin, pumping you full of antioxidants and helping you lose weight. In fact, a study from Georgia Southern University found that eating a high-protein, high-fat snack like nuts can increase your calorie burn for more than 3 hours. Think about that. It means that next time you go to the theater, if you replace your Mike and Ikes with macadamia nuts and your Whoppers with walnuts, you'll increase your calorie burn for the full duration of the movie. And that's true even if you're sitting through one of Cameron Crowe's 180-minute marathon movies.
To that end, we've provided the blueprint for incorporating nuts into your diet—along with seeds and flavor enhancers that boost their nutritional impact and make the less-palatable nuts easy to handle. A quarter-cup of trail mix makes a perfect snack on its own, but it's also ideal for adding protein, fiber, and nutritional bang to any meal. Make it in big batches and scoop it into a sandwich bag before you head out for the day. Then you'll be prepared to fight hunger whenever it strikes.
Choose a Nut
Almonds are a good source of manganese and copper, minerals that help fight free radicals.
Brazil nuts were found to be more effective than supplements at providing selenium, an essential micromineral.
Macadamias deliver about twice as many healthy monounsaturated fatty acids as almonds.
Peanuts have been proven effective in preventing colon cancer, which is likely due to the concentration of beta-sisterol.
Pecans, according to a USDA study, display four times the antioxidant activity of almonds and nearly six times that of peanuts.
Pistachios are often overlooked for other nuts, but if you find them shelled, they make a flavorful and nutritious addition to trail mix.
Walnuts contain an impressive 2.5 grams of omega-3 fats per ounce. Research shows these fats can help ward of depression and heart disease.
Choose a Seed
Sunflower seeds contain about half your day's vitamin E in each ounce. That helps slow the visible effects of aging.
Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols that can lower cholesterol and bolster the immune system.
Hemp seeds are a good source of essential fatty acids.
Sesame and hemp seeds are nutritionally stacked, but they tend to slip through your fingers when you eat by the handful. As a general rule, limit them to mixes bound for spoon-worthy foods like yogurt and cereal.
Chia seeds deliver three times the fiber of sesame seeds and a payload of omega-3 fats.
Choose an Extra Crunch
General Mills Fiber One. Other cereals work just as well. Experiment at will with Grape-Nuts, Cheerios, and Kix.
Soy nuts are mature, roasted soybeans, so they bolster your mix with fiber, folate, and 11 grams of protein per ounce.
Wasabi peas are perfect for a spicy kick. The best varieties are those made without artificial coloring or dubious additives like monosodium glutamate.
Pretzels are a reliable source of salty crunch. They're nutritionally weak though, so sprinkle in sparingly.
Sesame sticks are like pretzels made with sesame seeds, which means they deliver an extra mineral package that includes copper and manganese.
Choose a Sweetener
Raisins are a top source of boron, a trace mineral crucial for bone health.
Dried apricots are a great source of fiber and vitamin A, an antioxidant that also protects your vision.
Blueberries have been shown in promote healthy cognitive functions.
Cranberries help prevent breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.
Dried goji berries are a great addition for both their antioxidant potency and sweet-tart finish.
Dried cherries boost your polyphenols, a cancer-fighting antioxidant nutrient group.
Banana chips are tasty, but often they come packaged with a dose of trans fats. Avoid the problem by seeking those varieties that have been fried in canola or coconut oils instead of partially hydrogenated oil.
Dark chocolate chips are proven mood boosters, and the darker the chocolate, the better. We like Ghirardelli's 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Baking Chips.