Living half a country away from my family and many close friends always means travel is a part of our get-togethers, typically by air. Airport layovers and in-air transit times typically occur during meal times and for long periods of time. One trick my smart momma always taught me is to keep healthy snacks in my carry-on to omit the need to pay for over priced, SAD (Standard American Diet) meals or snacks from fast-food chains and kiosks in the airport. It’s tempting to get that TCBY frozen yogurt or California Pizza Kitchen personal pan pizza, but I know they’ll only leave me bloated, gassy and not feeling my best. Earlier this month I visited my parents in New Jersey for a long weekend and my mom sent me on my way back to Kansas City with some of her homemade trail mix. This week I’m heading to Louisville, Kentucky for a work conference so I thought I’d share some quick tips for making healthy homemade trail mix – the ultimate energy dense snack for traveling, no matter if it’s by foot, air, bike, or car.
SIDE BAR // What are some places in Louisville I should check out?! We are staying at The Brown Hotel, which I hear is haunted (eek!) but I’d love to find a juice bar, fun coffee shop, or local provisions store nearby. Comment below with your favorite places to go in Louisville, KY!
AVOID THE STORE BOUGHT KIND
Prepackaged, store bought trail mixes are typically high priced and loaded with added refined sugars, sodium, hydrogenated oils, and pro-inflammatory fats like canola oil or soybean oil. Making your own trail mix, like any other dish, puts YOU in charge of what you’re putting into your body. Believe me, for a short time I managed a natural foods section of a grocery store which included the bulk bins with mouthwatering snack mixes, but a closer look at the ingredients and nutrition facts panel always made me rethink my choice of choosing the pre-made kind. Making your own takes practically no time! If you are already purchasing pantry staples in bulk, you probably have all of the ingredients already on hand. If you don’t shop the bulk section yet, check out my popular post on buying in bulk.
FOLLOW THE RATIO 2:1:1
Since trail mix can be tailor made to your taste preferences there really isn’t a strict recipe to follow. When I’m in the kitchen making a batch I always start with a base of 2 cups of nuts or seeds (the fat and protein portion of the mix), 1 cup of dried fruit (the concentrated carbohydrate source), and add in 1/2 cup of extras (superfoods/chocolate/dried legumes/coconut shreds/whole grain cereals like Kashi Toasted Oats) depending on what’s on hand or what flavor combinations I’m looking to achieve. Nuts and seeds offer healthy fats and protein to make us feel full and satisfied, and should make up at least 50% of the mix. Always use raw or dry roasted nuts/seeds, which means there is no added oils or salt. Be mindful of what kind of dried fruits and extras you are adding in, choose unsulfured dried fruits and ingredients with minimal added sugars and sodium.
The trail mix pictured follows an adapted version of this ratio:
+1 cup raw, whole almonds
+1/2 cup raw, shelled pistachios
+1/2 cup raw, shelled sunflower seeds
+1/2 cup dried berries
+1/2 cup dried tropical fruits
+1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
+1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon (keep reading to find out why I include this spice…)
ADD CINNAMON FOR BALANCE
Recent studies suggest this household spice may provide positive benefits for glycemic control. Since dried fruits, a staple in most trail mixes, are a concentrated source of carbohydrates, a teaspoon of cinnamon could help stabilize the blood sugar response. Plus, it adds in extra antioxidants and a flavor boost, so why the heck not?!
While trail mix provides a blend of all the macronutrients (protein/fat/carbohydrates) from whole food sources it is still very calorically dense. Because trail mix makes the perfect on-the-go snack, it is also very easy to overeat handful after handful…especially if you’re zoned out reading, talking on the phone, hiking, or driving. We’re all guilty of this mindless eating at some time or other, so don’t feel guilty if it does happen to you. Be prepared next time! In small 4oz mason jars or snack size ziploc baggies, measure out 1/3 cup of trail mix. If you are traveling for a few days, bring a few of the portions with you to have on hand for each day you’re away. Luckily trail mix doesn’t take up too much room and can be easily packed in a carry-on, purse, glove compartment, camera bag, backpack, fanny pack…you name it, you can pack it in.
What are you favorite trail mix ingredients? I love experimenting with new ingredient combinations to try, but I’m always partial to the basics for a tried and true trusted snack. Do you have any big summer travel plans happening? I’m itchin’ go get to Seattle (new niece/nephew on the way in July!) and explore some more of the Midwest – can you believe I’ve never been to Nebrasks, Arkansas, or even Iowa after four years of living in Kansas City? I guess that’s my #lifeunderarock…