Pre-packaged trail mix can be loaded with unwanted sugars and oils, but when made yourself it can be a high protein, good-for-you snack.

By Samantha Lande
March 10, 2021
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Trail mix is a delicious snack and one that is often loaded with wholesome ingredients, but some extra additives may sneak in to make it a not-so-healthy treat. Added oils and salt to nuts create a fatty and sodium-laden snack, while additional sweeteners in dried fruits or pieces of chocolate can make you end up having a sugar crash. Avoid these pitfalls by making your own trail mix at home. Not only can it be a whole lot healthier, and it can also be less expensive. Bags of trail mix, especially the small individual bags, can add up in price quick.

The good news? It's super simple to make your own. Here are some tips to make a healthy, flavorful, and less expensive trail mix:

Read the Labels

When you are venturing out to buy nuts and dried fruit (and other mix-ins) for your trail mix, play close attention to the labels and ingredients. You'll want to look for nuts that are either raw or dry roasted. Nuts that are roasted and not "dry" often have unwanted oils that are added to the mix. Unsalted is the best choice, you can always add salt or other spices later.

You also want to look for dried fruit in its purest form. Peek at the labels — many dried fruits contain extra additives (like sugar!) and sometimes even oils. Many also use preservatives like sulfur dioxide.

Buy in Bulk

Buying nuts and dried fruit, especially of the healthful varieties listed above, can be very expensive, but there are still deals to be had. Although selections rotate in and out, both Costco and Sam's Club often has a few good picks. Costco carries the dried fruit brand Made In Nature, which is free of additives but can retail in grocery stores around $2 an ounce compared to 30 cents at Costco. Sam's Club has a lot of great deals on nuts too, like three pounds of almonds for a mere $9.98.

Antioxidant Trail Mix in a bag
Credit: Buckwheat Queen

Check Out the Bulk Bins

When making trail mix you'll want to have a variety of items included so buying every ingredient in massive quantities makes little sense. Although nuts and dried fruit have a relatively long shelf life, big bags also take up space. When you decide on a trail mix you want to make, it makes sense to visit the bulk bins to add a little variety. This Terrific Trail Mix gives a lot of leeway in the fruits and nuts you pick, so experiment away. A little goes a long way in trail mix, so you often don't need more than half or one cup of mix-in ingredients.

Use What You Have

Part of the beauty of trail mix is that there's no set rule. Though it's nice to have a balance of textures with crunch from nuts or seeds and a different mouth feel from dried fruit or even chocolate. With just a few parameters, it's easy to experiment with what you have. Add in a package of sunflower seeds or a few spoonfuls of cacao nibs. Maybe try a sprinkling of dried cherries to create tartness, a handful of leftover granola, or even a few yogurt-covered pretzels chopped up. Don't limit your trail mix and you'll soon have a fun, ever-evolving snack.

Store Properly

You can make a big batch of trail mix at one time, but don't be compelled to eat it all in one sitting. If you store trail mix in an airtight container, it should last a month or more depending on what types of nuts or dried fruit it contains.

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