Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Make Your Own Healthy Trail Mix

Trail mix can be an incredibly healthy snack full of antioxidants, good fats, and fiber. Instead of paying an arm and a leg at the grocery store for it, I recommend you make your own. Here's how:

The Ingredients

There are three basic categories of ingredients that you'll use: dried fruits, nuts, and sweets.

Dried Fruits

Dried fruits contain many of the nutrients found in fresh fruit, though usually in smaller amounts. They also taste slightly different from their fresh counterparts, so even if you don't like a certain type of fruit, you may like the dried version.

Get unsweetened dried fruits if possible. You can look at the back and check the ingredients to see if sugar was added, and check the label to see how many grams of sugar it contains. Pick one or two dried fruits from this list:

Coconut flakes (not dried)


Nuts are full of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, fiber, antioxidants, and protein. Look for unsalted and raw (not roasted) nuts to maximize healthiness. Choose one or two varieties of nuts from this list:

Macadamia nuts
Sunflower seeds


Adding some sweets makes the mix more satisfying to your sweet tooth. Then when you have a craving for something sweet, you can grab some trail mix instead of some cake, ice cream, or a cookie. Dark chocolate chips are a great choice here since they are packed with antioxidants and contain less sugar. Pick just one from the list below:

Dark chocolate chips
Semi-sweet chocolate chips
White chocolate chips
Butterscotch chips

Put It Together

Here's a simple recipe:

1 cup nuts
1 cup another kind of nuts
1 cup dried fruit
1 cup another dried fruit
1 cup sweets

If you only use one kind of nuts, then use would use two cups to keep the ratio the same. The formula above gives you a good variety of tastes without having to buy twenty different ingredients.

You can experiment with many different combinations to find what you like best. Every time you go to the grocery store, buy another type of nut or dried fruit and mix it with the other ingredients you already have.

My favorite recipe is:

1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
1 cup pineapple
1 cup cranberries
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Just remember, even though this is healthy stuff, it's quite calorie dense thanks to the nuts. You don't want to eat too much. A half cup is a good serving size and makes a great afternoon snack that will hold you over until dinner.

Mike Ross specializes in fitness for seniors and helps them find simple and effective ways to live healthier. His book, "The Balance Manual," teaches seniors how to do balancing exercises at home with no equipment.

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