Giada De Laurentiis' Favorite Trail Mix For Travel Days

Giada De Laurentiis is a busy person with a lot on her plate. When she's not writing cookbooks, producing cooking shows, or creating content for her fans, she's probably traveling. Whether jet-setting for business or pleasure, she is always on the move. One day she's in New York to film the "Today Show," and the next she's in Italy visiting family and researching local cuisine. From Rome, she might hop a flight to Las Vegas to oversee the two Giada De Laurentiis signature restaurants she opened there, before flying back to the Hamptons or Pacific Palisades to spend time with her daughter.

Her Giadzy website has a whole section dedicated to the incredible world destinations she visits — full of travel tips. One of her most practical pieces of advice is to always have snacks with you when you travel, and her favorite is trail mix.

Created in the early 1900s, trail mix was devised as a portable, nutritious, and high-energy food that campers and hikers could pack in and eat on the go. For these reasons and more, it makes sense that Giada would rely on it for her trips and active lifestyle. Made from nuts and dried fruit along with other add-ins, it's a reliable source of fats and carbohydrates to stave off hunger between meals. In an interview with Forbes about visiting Venice, De Laurentiis shared that her favorite trail mix combo is made with Marcona almonds, walnuts, dried cranberries, and chocolate chips.

The difference between Marcona and California almonds

One special ingredient in Giada De Laurentiis' trail mix is Marcona almonds. While 80% of the world's almonds are grown in California, the Marcona almond is a gourmet variety grown only in Spain. Hailed as the "Queen of Almonds," Marconas differ from California almonds in a number of ways. The first difference is their appearance; whereas regular almonds have a tapered and oval shape, Marcona almonds are plump and round, resembling macadamia nuts. They are softer than California almonds and have a natural moisture that lends itself to baking. 

The creamy Marcona almond is sweeter in flavor, with a butteriness that comes from its high-fat content (a good source of vitamin E and cholesterol-balancing monounsaturated fats). All almonds share similar nutrition and have an impressive six grams of protein per ounce. Marconas are delicious to snack on raw and — in the Mediterranean region — are commonly prepared by blanching then roasting or pan frying in oil, served with a sprinkle of rosemary and salt.

The other nut featured in Giada De Laurentiis' snack mix is also a nutritional powerhouse. Walnuts are packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They are one of the best plant food sources (and the only tree nut source) for the omega-3 essential fatty acid, containing 2.5 grams in a one-ounce serving. The earthy, nutty flavor of walnuts with their slightly bitter note goes well with the sweet almonds and the even sweeter chocolate and cranberries in the mix.

Bon voyage and bon appétit

Dried fruit gives you an energy boost, and raisins are the traditional choice. In fact, before it was called trail mix, it used to be known as GORP, which legend has it is an acronym for "good ol' raisins and peanuts." Other options include dried apricots, papaya, pineapple, banana chips, and desiccated coconut. De Laurentiis uses dried cranberries in her travel trail mix, a power snack that helps get her through long flights. Tart and sweet, cranberries are the perfect chewy bridge between the crunchy nuts and smooth chocolate.

As for the chocolate chips she prefers in her trail mix, it's anyone's guess — though she does admit to having a soft spot for chocolate in any form. "I like anything with chocolate. Dark chocolate. Cheap chocolate, or expensive chocolate, I don't care. It's the thing that perks me up," she told Forbes. Different varieties of chocolate have various levels of sweetness, from bittersweet, to semisweet, to milk chocolate — the sweetest and most popular.

For another travel snack that pairs sweet with salty, De Laurentiis makes a trail mix using her own Simply7 by Giada olive oil popcorn, pistachios, dried cherries, and bittersweet chocolate chips. In her Gifts Galore episode of Food Network's "Giada at Home," she showed how simple it is to make a trail mix by simply combining almonds, goji berries, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, walnuts, and dried apricots ... no recipe required.