Build a better trail mix



Trail mix isn’t just for outdoor adventures. It’s a great snack anyone can keep on hand that doesn’t require refrigeration and can go with you anywhere. Plus, it provides loads of long-lasting energy and is fully customizable to your wants and needs.

Trail mix isn't just for outdoor adventures! Learn how to build your BETTER trail mix with this simple formula #saslife Click To Tweet

Quality Matters!

Most store-bought trail mixes are loaded with sugar, hydrogenated oils and, yes, candy…not to mention a lofty price tag, especially if you purchase the super handy single-serving packets.

The issue with trail mix isn’t so much how much fat and sugar it contains, but more so the type of fat and sugar it contains. Our bodies need fat and sugar to function, but they respond very differently to highly processed fat and sugar (i.e. hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup) versus minimally processed, nutrient-dense fat and sugar (i.e. raw nuts and seeds, whole fruit).

The quality of ingredients in the trail mix makes the difference between enjoying a glorified candy bar and a nutritious snack that will keep you going for hours.

Build YOUR Better Trail Mix

The beauty of homemade trail mix is you really can’t mess it up! Kids and adults of any age can have fun concocting all sorts of tasty creations using what’s on hand in the pantry. Make a batch and store them in single-serving containers so you can easily grab one when you need a quick snack.

Be cautious to not mindlessly eat out of the large batch as you may end up eating more than you need. In general, a serving of trail mix is about ¼ cup, but it will vary depending on the ingredients you use and your unique nutrient needs. For example, if you include popcorn in your trail mix, the serving size would be more like ½-1 cup since popcorn takes up more space.

Follow this basic formula for building a better trail mix:

1. Nuts and Seeds

A great source of healthy fats, any type of nut and seed will work. When possible, purchase raw nuts and seeds that haven’t been coated in hydrogenated or soybean oils. You can dry roast them yourself if you like for added flavor and texture (or if you’re a purist, eat them as is without roasting).

2. Protein

Shelf-stable options like clean, unsweetened jerky or freeze-dried cheese are great ways to pump up the protein content.

3. Dried Fruit

Opt for dried fruit without added sugar. This can sometimes be hard to find but look closely at the ingredients list and purchase ones that only contain fruit.

4. Add-Ins

Now for the fun stuff! Add your own flare with popcorn, dark chocolate, coconut, spices, etc. Let your imagination run wild!

If you’re a recipe kind of person, follow this more detailed formula (provided in parts versus actual measurements so you can determine how big the batch is):

  • 2 parts nuts/seeds
  • 1 part protein
  • 1 part dried fruit
  • 1 part add-ins

Everything is optional and can be mixed and matched. For example, if you don’t have any dried fruit on hand, omit that portion. Don’t get too hung up on the ratios and checking every box. Just be sure to include at least 1-2 sources of nuts, seeds or protein. This will provide you with long-lasting, sustainable energy and a proper balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat. It’s all about balance!

Here are a few of my favorite combinations:

  • Almonds, pumpkin seeds and air-popped popcorn
  • Pumpkin seeds, dried apricots and shredded coconut
  • Cashews, freeze-dried strawberries and dark chocolate chips
  • Almonds, freeze-dried cheese and dried apple rings
  • Walnuts, freeze-dried strawberries and air-popped popcorn
  • Pumpkin seeds, strips of jerky and dried apple rings

What’s your favorite trail mix combination?




About Author

Ashley Bailey, MS, RDN, LDN, IFNCP


Ashley is a Nutritionist at SAS Institute in Cary, NC. She is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Integrative and Functional Nutrition Certified Practitioner, Certified Biofeedback Instructor and also has a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management. Outside of work, Ashley enjoys crafting, cooking, walking and spending as much time as possible at the beach. Follow @abaileyRD on Twitter.

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