Homemade trail mix is a practical and healthful way to get kids to eat a variety of vitamin- and nutrient-rich foods. Trail mix is a fun finger food for younger children and an inexpensive replacement for sugary afterschool snacks. Making these snacks should not only encourage children to get creative in the kitchen, but educate them about healthy eating choices.
Healthy trail mix contains proteins, grains, fruits and fiber. Peanuts are the base of many commercially available trail mixes, and the mix will be more flavorful if tree nuts, mixed nuts or sunflower seeds are included. Granola is a good base for children with allergies but is not as rich in protein as nuts and seeds. Use unsalted nuts to reduce the amount of sodium in the finished mix.
Dried Fruit and Sweets
Dried fruit is a great addition to increase vitamin C, fiber, and carbohydrate content. Fruit such as cherries, pineapple, peaches, apples and bananas are favorites of many children. Allow children to select their favorite fruits to add to the trail mix, but encourage them to try new foods too.
Many commercially available trail mixes include candy-coated chocolate candies, marshmallows or baking chips. Your version can have them too, but these ingredients include processed sugar that won't help make it healthy. Add some in moderation if it makes the mix more appealing to children, but always in small amounts.
Whole grain cereals are fine to include in the mix. Sugary cereals should be avoided, as trail mix should be a healthful way to add energy without the risk of the crash that comes from highly processed carbohydrates. Look for whole grain o-shaped cereals, cereal squares or other finger-food friendly cereals.
Snack sized pretzels, oyster crackers or rice crackers can be substituted for the cereal, with dried peas or other veggies can be used in place of the dried fruit.
Mixing the Trail Mix
Nuts and seeds should be added at a 1.5 ratio to the rest of the ingredients. An example recipe is 1 1/2 cup of nuts/seeds, 1 cup of dried fruit, 1 cup cereal. Ratios should be tailored around the child's tastes or sensitivity to the ingredients. Kids are more likely to enjoy eating foods they helped make. So have the child clean his hands and construct part of the trail mix, dumping and mixing the different items into a large bowl. Store your final mix in an airtight container.
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