It is time to honor one of the most beloved (and famous) snacks in the world—trail mix!
That is because August 31st is National Trail Mix Day.
Trail mix is indelibly linked to hiking.
Lightweight, portable and nutritious, hikers use trail mix as an easy way to keep alert and energized.
Of course, trail mix is not exclusive to hikers. It is a healthful, satisfying snack that can tide you over between meals or give you a boost after a vigorous workout.
Let’s find out a bit more about this snack legend.
A Quick Review of Energy Density
Trail mix is traditionally made with nuts, dried fruits and optional extras like chocolate, which makes it very energy dense. That means a little goes a long way.
Simply defined, energy density is the amount of energy (or calories) contained in a particular weight of food.
Leafy, cruciferous and non-starchy vegetables are low in energy density, starchy vegetables, whole grains, and legumes are moderate, while seeds and nuts are highest in energy density.
By balancing the energy density of your meals, you will get the best of all words—a diet that satiates and still lets you maintain a healthy weight.
For that reason, if you are watching your weight, you should limit the quantities of energy-dense foods (including trail mix).
Trail Mix: a Centuries-Old Tradition
A common myth is that trail mix was invented by two California surfers in 1968.
The concept of mixing nuts and dried fruit has been popular for centuries—although it has not always been called ‘trail mix.’
An equivalent of trail mix was eaten by Native Americans for thousands of years.
In Europe, trail mix has been a snack since the 17th century. In Germany, Poland, Hungary, Scandinavia and other European countries, it was called ‘student fodder’ or ‘student oats.’
In 1913, the Oxford English Dictionary mentions ‘gorp’ as a term for trail mix used by hikers.
The verb gorp means ‘to eat greedily’ and it is also an acronym for ‘good old raisins and peanuts.’
How to Make Trail Mix
Most store-bought trail mixes contain way too much sugar, oil, and salt. To ensure that your trail mix is genuinely nourishing, it is preferable to make your own at home with a few simple ingredients.
- Nuts: They provide a solid base, add texture and flavor, and are jam-packed with protein and fiber that fill you up and give you a sustained energy boost. Use raw or dry roasted nuts such as pecans, almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts that are salt- and oil-free.
- Dried Fruit: Use fruits with little or no added sugar that are oil-free. You can add dried cranberries, apples, blueberries, pineapples, raisins or dates.
- Extras: For a sweet addition, chocolate is always a good choice, or you might consider banana chips or coconut flakes. To add a bit of spice, try ginger, wasabi peas or cayenne pepper.
Here is our recipe for Mix and Match Trail Mix that will help you whip up a batch that is absolutely delicious!
Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD
Rosane Oliveira, DVM, PhD is Founding Director of UC Davis Integrative Medicine and Adjunct Assistant Professor at the Department of Public Health Sciences at the School of Medicine at the University of California Davis. Blending a life-long passion for food and nutrition with over 20 years of scientific experience in genetic research, Dr. Oliveira is devoted to educating people about how food and lifestyle choices can affect genetic expression–i.e. how genes are turned on and off and either cause disease or promote health. She is a native of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and has lived in the US since 2003.