Looking for a snack that is simple and healthy? Trail Mix is a perfect snack to eat on the go or at home. It does not require refrigeration, so it can be tucked away in your office desk drawer or packed in a bag when you need a quick snack. Be careful though, some trail mix recipes may not be healthy. When making a homemade trail mix, you are in control of the ingredients. Follow these 5 strategies to make a healthier trail mix.
1. Choose Whole Grains
Whole grain cereals with low amounts of sugar or air-popped popcorn make a great addition to a healthy trail mix. Whole grains are healthier than refined grains since they are packed with the following nutrients: zinc, magnesium, B vitamins, and fiber. Look for products that include a whole grain stamp or whole-grain ingredients such as brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur, millet, oatmeal, popcorn, quinoa, rolled oats, whole-grain barley, whole-grain corn, sorghum, whole-grain triticale, whole oats, whole wheat, and wild rice.
2. Add Dried Fruit
Dried fruit can help you reach your daily recommendation of fruits. A ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered as 1 cup from the Fruit Group. Dried fruit are naturally sweet, so remember to avoid products that include added sugars such as sugar or corn syrup in the ingredient list to avoid extra calories.
3. Include Protein
Snacks high in protein may help provide satiety and appetite control. Include your favorite nuts and seeds to add protein to your mix. My favorites would include almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, or sunflower seeds. Buy them unsalted to help keep your sodium intake low!
4. Dash of Sweet
A lot of people like a sweet and salty trail mix. Including a dash of sweet can be part of a healthy snack, in moderation. My favorite sweet to add is dark chocolate because it has antioxidants that may help to lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol. Choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa in order to receive the most health benefits with not as much fat and sugar as other chocolates. Otherwise, you can include a dash of candy coated chocolates.
5. Remember Portion Control
Depending on your ingredients, calories can add up fast and the trail mix can turn into a high-calorie snack. Nuts & seeds have a lot of calories, but provide many nutrients and healthy fats. Candy has a lot of empty calories, which are calories from solid fats and/or added sugars that provide little or no nutrients. Choosing higher calorie ingredients means you have to pay attention to portion size. Snacks usually range from 100-200 calories. Don’t forget to eat the right portion size that fits your calorie needs in order to not gain weight. A 1/4 cup of trail mix will usually provide you with the right amount of calories and nutrients to make it a healthy snack.
Homemade Trail Mix Recipe
Below is a trail mix recipe that I like to use personally and share with my nutrition classes for all ages. You can even see a video after the recipe that I created to help promote trail mix as a quick and healthy on-the-go snack. Try the recipe for yourself, and let me know the results. If you have a favorite recipe to use, post that as well. I would love to have your feedback.
Trail Mix Recipe
Makes 32 Servings
- 4 Cups Whole Grain Cereal (I like to use Quaker Oatmeal Squares)*
- 1 Cup Dried Cranberries
- 1/2 Cup Raisins
- 1/2 Cup Banana Chips
- 1 Cup Almonds
- 1 Cup Dark Chocolate Chips
- Add all ingredients in a large bowl.
- Stir to mix.
- Pour 1/4 cup trail mix into a snack-size storage bag.
I used SuperTracker’s My Recipe to analyze this recipe for nutrient information and food groups.
Nutrition Information per Serving: 107 Calories, 5g Total Fat, 1g Saturated Fat, 0mg Cholesterol, 35mg Sodium, 17g Total Carbs, 9g Sugars, 2g Protein
Food Groups: Fruits 1/4 cup and Protein Foods 1/2 oz.
Trail Mix Video
Did You Know?
August 31st is National Trail Mix Day! Find more recipe ideas from Nebraska Extension’s Food Calendar.
*Reference to commercial products or trade names is made with the understanding that no discrimination is intended of those not mentioned and no endorsement by University of Nebraska–Lincoln Extension is implied for those mentioned.
- Choose MyPlate – http://www.choosemyplate.gov
- Clemson Cooperative Extension. When it Comes to Chocolate, Choose Dark. http://www.clemson.edu/extension/hgic/food/nutrition/nutrition/dietary_guide/hgic4090.html