Though you might hear the words “trail mix” and immediately have visions of a snack tucked away in your backpack during a hike, trail mixes are actually the perfect snack for lots of reasons. They (often) contain a sweet and salty combination that’s irresistible, a mix of snackable textures, and best of all, nutrient-dense ingredients that pack a punch of satiety and other benefits. If, like me, you find yourself hitting a 3 PM slump each workday and reaching for a coffee, trail mix might be your answer.
We spoke to Jenn Baswick, RD, MHSc, the founder of The Intuitive Nutritionist, to learn more about what makes trail mixes such a powerhouse snack and which ingredients help you boost your brain and energy levels the most. Trail mixes are a great snack because they “include a variety of different nutrients, like carbohydrates, fat, and some protein,” Baswick shares. “This blend of nutrients makes them a balanced snack and good source of energy—and even allows for better blood sugar regulation than snacks that are predominantly carbohydrates.” Trail mixes are also shelf-stable, which makes them a great snack to keep on hand in your pantry.
But can trail mixes really support your brain? They sure can. Baswick says they really are a small but mighty snack: “Trail mixes contain carbohydrates within them, especially from dried fruits, and those carbohydrates are a source of glucose for the body. Glucose is the brain’s preferred fuel source.” But beyond the glucose-based energy boost trail mixes give your brain, they often contain nuts with “healthy fats, antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, and minerals that support brain health,” Baswick explains.
How do you choose the right trail mixes to support your brain and energy levels?
There are an almost infinite number of trail mixes to choose from, everywhere from Amazon and Target to health food stores. And that’s a good thing! “Honestly, my recommendation would be to go for any trail mix that sounds appealing to you,” Baswick says. “If you don’t enjoy the ingredients within a trail mix, you’d be less likely to eat it—so buy something that includes ingredients you’d enjoy and ingredients that align with your goals.”
To get the most energy and brain support from your snack, though, there are a few key nutrient-dense ingredients to look for, like:
- Pumpkin seeds (especially if they’re roasted!)
- Flax seeds
- Dried fruits
We’ve rounded up eight delicious and energy-boosting trail mixes (including a few of Baswick’s picks as a Registered Dietitian!) that’ll help you sail through your work, or even a hike, with ease.
Although trail mixes can be filled with nutrient-dense ingredients and overall are a “healthy” food, they don’t have to be expensive. This Gourmet Nut Power Up High Energy Trail Mix from Amazon is under $6, and is made with lots of dried fruits and nuts for brain and energy support. With walnuts, cashews, banana chips, cranberries, coconut, and papaya, this trail mix is actually made fresh to maximize freshness and taste.
Since this trail mix contains so much fruit, it’s perfect for those with a sweet tooth looking for an energy boost. The ingredients are also Non-GMO Project Verified, so you’ll feel good about the ingredients in each batch.
One of Baswick’s main goals as a Registered Dietitian is to support her clients and community in leaving the “shoulds” of diet culture in the past—so when asked to recommend trail mixes, she had two options in mind. The first is this Healthy Trail Mix from Nuts.com, but not just because it has the word “healthy” in the title.
“If you’re going for a balanced snack or have a health or nutrition goal, this option could be great for you,” Baswick shares. “It doesn’t have any added sugars or salt, and it’s a well-rounded snack with carbohydrates, healthy fats, protein, and fiber.”
This trail mix includes a blend of raisins, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, bleached peanuts, soybeans, almonds, walnuts, Brazil nuts, and cashews. You can buy it in large bags or even individual snack packs, perfect for on-the-go snacking.
Target’s Good & Gather Omega-3 Trail Mix contains 470mg of ALA Omega-3 per serving, which is almost 30 percent of the recommended daily value. Omega-3s are fatty acids that help us stay healthy: they’re essential fats that only come from the foods we eat, and these nutrients support brain function and heart health while reducing inflammation.
Made with dried sweetened cranberries, almonds, raw walnut pieces, pepitas and raw pecan halves, this trail mix has a nice blend of sweet and savory ingredients. You can enjoy this on its own as a snack or even pair with greek yogurt for even more of a protein-based energy boost.
Who says trail mix has to be sweet? If you’re looking for a spicy snack that’ll still give you an energy boost, this Great Value Tex Mex Trail Mix will be the perfect addition to your pantry.
It’s a spicy blend of Cajun peanuts, sesame sticks, salsa corn sticks, chili bits, pepitas, and almonds. The almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds, and peanuts are filled with nutrients to support your brain, but you’ll also love the flavorful punch of savory, salty, and spicy flavors.
Baswick’s other recommendation will help satisfy your craving for something sweet while supporting your brain and energy levels. This Apple Pie Crunch trail mix is a bestseller combining roasted almonds and cashews with organic pepitas (pumpkin seeds), diced cinnamon apples, and yogurt chips to give this mix a cinnamony, slightly sweet note. It’s also ideal if you love fall baking flavors.
“This one looks like a nice option if you’re opting for something that has a little more sweetness to it,” Baswick explains. “It does have a little more sugar than other options, but that’s nothing to be afraid of — just continue to enjoy this mindfully!”
And though it has a little extra sugar, this mix also includes pumpkin seeds, which are “particularly jam-packed with nutrients,” Baswick says.
This trail mix is fresh and crunchy with a blend of nine superfood ingredients: roasted pumpkin seeds (which gives an extra punch of nutritional value!), sunflower seeds, watermelon, flax seeds, roasted almonds, dried cranberries and blueberries, black raisins, and black currants.
The Nutty Gritties Mom’s Superfood Trail Mix is a rich source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids to boost your metabolism and support brain health—plus, it’s an energy booster and high in fiber to keep you feeling full for longer.
The founder of Daily Crunch fell in love with sprouted nuts during a trip to India, and while most of us don’t associate trail mix with sprouts, it does offer nutritional benefits! When nuts are allowed to sprout, some research shows that it boosts antioxidants, amino acids, and B-vitamins, as well as makes it easier for nutrients to absorb in your body.
This Sprouted Nut Medley in the Cherry Berry variety blends sprouted almonds, walnuts, and cashews with tart dried cherries and sweet blueberries. There’s no oil or added sugars in this trail mix, and the whole ingredients can help you feel more energized and focused during the day.
A simple trail mix can still taste delicious and give you those nutritional boosts you’re looking for, and this Planters NUTrition Omega 3 Snack Nuts Mix has simple ingredients that deliver. Made with cashews, walnuts, raisins, dried apple pieces, peanut oil, and sea salt, it’s not as “clean” or free of oil and salt as other brands, but offers a delicious trail mix and Omega-3s. In fact, this trail mix actually provides 40 percent of your daily Omega-3 ALA value to help you feel your best all day.
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