Learn how to make healthy trail mix with this foolproof method + 3 easy recipes. Trail mix is such an easy and delicious snack to make at home with just a few key ingredients.
I’ve always been a fan of trail mix. It’s surprisingly filling and satisfying, especially when there are salty and sweet components. You can certainly purchase trail mix from the grocery store (see some of the faves below), but most of the time I prefer to make my own trail mix at home. Honestly, it’s super easy to make and it’s fun to come up with different flavor combinations.
Homemade trail mix is usually healthier than the store-bought varieties too… of course it does depend on what you put in your mix. You can make it super healthy or extra decadent.
In case you need convincing on why you don’t need to buy trail mix anymore, here are a few reasons to try your hand at homemade trail mix:
It’s always fun to learn the backstory of certain foods and trail mix has an interesting one because it dates back to the 1910s when an outdoorsman, Hoarace Kephart, recommended it in a camping guide. (source) Also called, GORP (good ol’ raisins and peanuts), trail mix is considered the perfect snack to take on a hike because it’s relatively lightweight and easy to store, as well as, a good source of calories, carbs and healthy fats for sustained energy while hiking.
But just because it’s called trail mix doesn’t mean you have to be hiking to enjoy this tasty little snack mix. Apparently in many European countries trail mix is called “student fodder” or student mix. This names resonates with me because I ate a ton of trail mix in college, so much that one of my roommates commented that I was always “eating bird food” which inspired the name of my site!
I personally think that trail mix is a healthy snack option, but it’s important to remember that it’s a calorie-dense food so a small amount packs a good amount of nutrients. One serving of trail mix is usually only 1/4 cup. If you’re mindlessly snacking it’s very easy to quickly overdo it on trail mix… been there done that!
You can make trail mix less caloric by adding some lower-calorie, volume foods like popcorn, whole grain cereal, fresh fruit (like blueberries) to your mix.
Dried fruit tends to get a bad rap in the health world because it has a concentrated amount of sugar and occasionally some dried fruits contain added oil and sugar. This is something to watch out for when buying dried fruit. Read your labels and try to find brands that don’t add oil or sugar!
Another thing to keep in mind is the salt and sugar content of your trail mix. If you’re using roasted and salted nuts, the mixture can pack a hefty dose of sodium.
There are so many nut options on the market! Let’s break down the different kinds:
Although it can be helpful to watch how much oil and salt is added to the nuts you’re using, it can be nice use a mix of raw and/or sprouted nuts with salted nuts for extra flavor.
When I make trail mix at home I usually do have it so that nuts and dried fruit make up the majority of the mix, but a bit heavier on the nuts. Here’s my basic formula = 1 cup of nuts, 2/3 cup of dried fruit, 1/4 cup seeds and 1/4 cup additional mix-ins, either sweet or savory.
I know it can be overwhelming to come up with your own combinations so I thought it would be fun to share three simple trail mix recipes! I shared the full recipes below but wanted to give a little bit more background on the recipes.
Monster Mix – I used Virginia peanuts (the BEST!), raisins, Little Secret peanut butter pieces and Lily’s white chocolate chips for the additional mix-ins. I love using Little Secret’s candies because they’re like M&Ms but made with better ingredients and Lily’s chocolate chips are low-sugar and gluten-free. Lily’s also have dairy-free options like these dark chocolate baking chips. If you love traditional trail mix, try this upgraded version with healthier ingredients!
Omega Mix – This mix is filled with lots of different nuts and omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. This reminds me of store-bought mixes (like this one) that are packed with healthy fats and antioxidants… I feel healthier and smarter just eating it! Ha!
Popcorn – I love this mix because it has popped popcorn in it! I am a volume eater so sometimes a small handful of trail mix doesn’t satisfy me. Adding popcorn adds more volume without the calories.
I recommend storing trail mix in glass jars with a lid (mason jars work great) or reusable storage bags like Stasher bags. Most mixes will last a few weeks, but some trail mix ingredients don’t hold up well. For instance, popcorn won’t stay crisp more than a couple days.
I get that sometimes you don’t have time to make your own trail mix and you just want to grab a bag at the store. Here are some of my favorite store-bought options:
If you make any of these healthy trail mix recipes be sure to leave a comment and star rating below letting us know how they turned out. Your feedback is so helpful for the EBF team and our readers!