Remember GORP, the acronym for “good old raisins and peanuts?” Luckily, today’s trail mixes go way beyond those mundane ingredients. And there’s an almost overwhelming variety of healthy snacks beckoning to you from grocery store shelves.
The bad news? Many of those crackers and chips labeled healthy are anything but. For example, nutrition studies show many of those so-called veggie chips and straws are primarily made from potato starch and food coloring.
So what should you look for in a healthy snack? Go for foods high in fiber and protein, which will maintain peak energy while you hike, kayak, or just laze on the sand. If you’ll be away from refrigeration, stay away from meats, cheeses, and other foods that need to stay cool.
Here are some ideas for nutrient-dense, heat-proof, and packable pick-me-ups.
Nuts for Nuts (and Seeds)
The workhorses of the snack aisle, nuts and seeds are rich in protein, fiber, and nutrients like minerals and B vitamins. They’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. The only problem with nuts and seeds is the salt and oil they’re so often coated with. So choose raw nuts or lightly roasted nuts when possible. But, say experts, if the only way you’ll eat nuts is if they’re roasted and salted, then go for it. The benefits far outweigh the downsides.
Dependable Dried Fruit
Fresh fruit is generally a healthier choice than dried- let’s get that out of the way. This is because drying concentrates the sugars, making dried fruit higher in calories. But it’s not always easy to pack fresh fruit on the go, and dried fruit goes great with the nuts mentioned above. And drying concentrates the nutrients; apricots, raisins, prunes and figs are rich in iron, beta carotene, vitamin E, niacin, iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
Forget movie theater popcorn, which is as much butter (or fake butter) as actual corn. But air-popped popcorn makes a healthy, high-fiber snack that’s not only satisfying but provides the perfect blank canvas for toppings. Try adding herbs and spices such as Italians seasonings, curry powder, or turmeric for a new twist on this simple snack.
Hopefully hummus has already become one of your snack and lunch-time staples, but dried chickpeas are often overlooked as an on-the-go snack option. Crunchy and chock-ful of protein, they’re great plain, lightly salted, or spiced with curry, chile, or pretty much any other flavor you like.
Souped Up Soy
Whether the label calls them edamame, soy nuts, or soy beans, these little legumes are a super snack choice for travel and outings. Did you know a quarter-cup serving contains a whopping 17 grams of protein and 3.5 grams of fiber? As with nuts, try to go light on the oil and salt when possible.