Trail mix these days goes way beyond basic GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). From sweet to savory, there are thousands of combinations to appeal to any palate or snack craving. Combine any favorite (dry) ingredients and stash the mix in an airtight container in a cool, dry location to prevent spoilage, and you’re good to go.
Trail mix was invented (according to legend, in 1968 by Hadley Food Orchards) to be eaten while hiking or doing another strenuous activity. It’s lightweight, portable, and full of energy-dense ingredients like dried fruit, nuts, and chocolate — perfect for trailside noshing. For those same reasons, trail mix can pack a hefty caloric punch, especially when we mindlessly munch while sitting around at work or home. Keep serving size to a quarter-cup or less to keep this yummy snack from sneaking into “danger food” territory.
Mix ‘n’ Match — The Ingredients
These pint-sized nutritional dynamos are loaded with healthy unsaturated fats, protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamin E, and other essential vitamins and minerals. Whether they’re raw or roasted, go for unsalted, unsweetened nuts to keep sugar and sodium under control. Our healthy favorites: Almonds, pistachios, cashews, peanuts, and walnuts. Higher-calorie macadamia nuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, pecans, and pine nuts are also good options in moderation.
For those with nut allergies (or just looking to mix things up), seeds provide many of the same nutritional benefits as nuts. Hemp seeds, for example, are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, gamma linolenic acid, protein, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and calcium. Sprinkle a handful of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, flax, or hemp seeds in trail mix for an extra boost of nutrients.
This sugary treat can easily become a danger food, so pay attention to the ingredient list and serving sizes. In moderation, dried fruit can be a great source of fiber, antioxidants, calcium, and vitamins A, C, and K. Look for dried fruit options with as little added sugar and preservatives as possible (some varieties, like cranberries, are naturally quite tart and almost always sweetened with cane sugar or apple juice). It’s also pretty easy to make your own dried fruit at home in the oven. Our favorites: Dried apples, cherries, cranberries, goji berries, blueberries, strawberries, apricots, raisins, banana chips, figs, pineapple chunks, mango, and dates.
Add some complex carbohydrates to your custom blend for extra fiber, which boosts overall energy and helps to keep you full. Choose whole grains whenever possible and avoid highly processed cereals that add unnecessary sugar and sodium. Shredded wheat cereal, pretzels, whole-grain cereals like Cheerios or Chex, bran flakes, whole-wheat crackers, granola, toasted oats, puffed rice cereal, and air-popped popcorn can all add a little bit of crunch. Sweets
Sometimes we all need a little something sweet to round out the mix. Just remember to add treat-like options sparingly (unless you’re making dessert instead of a snack). Add a sprinkling of M&Ms, chips of various kinds (chocolate, peanut butter, carob, butterscotch), cacao nibs, yogurt-covered raisins, chocolate-covered coffee beans, mini marshmallows, or chocolate-covered nuts. When going the chocolate route, choose dark varieties for extra antioxidants.
Once the building blocks are all set, adding spices is a great way to change up the flavor a bit. Season the mix with sea salt, curry, ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, or cayenne pepper. Or create your own mix of spices. Keep tastebuds guessing with wasabi peas, coconut flakes, sesame sticks, dried ginger, and coffee beans.
Everyone has their own nutritional and taste-related needs, so we listed these mix ideas without set ratios or measurements. There are no rules for trail mix — combine whatever sounds good!
1. Simple and Sophisticated: Almonds, dried cherries, dark chocolate chips, sea salt, cinnamon.
2. Old-School GORP: Peanuts, raisins, M&Ms.
3. Savory Seeds: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper.
4. Tropical Mix: Cashews, Brazil nuts, dried mango, coconut flakes, banana chips.
5. Raw Energy: Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, dried apricots, dried cranberries.
6. Fall Flavors: Pecans, dried apples, maple granola, pumpkin seeds, nutmeg, cinnamon.
7. Power Mix: Goji berries, pistachios, dried blueberries, flax seeds, dark chocolate chips.
8. Rich and Creamy: Coconut flakes, white chocolate chips, hazelnuts, chocolate-covered coffee beans, cacao nibs.
9. Nuts for Nuts: Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, cashews, pecans, raisins.
10. Beachy: Macadamia nuts, white chocolate chips, dried pineapple, coconut flakes.
11. PB&J: Peanuts, dried strawberries, peanut butter chips, shredded wheat cereal.
12. Exotic: Peanuts, raisins, puffed rice, pretzels, curry powder, chili powder.
13. Chocolate Lover: Hazelnuts, dried cranberries, chocolate-covered almonds, M&Ms, cacao nibs.
14. Spicy and Savory: Almonds, wasabi peas, sesame seeds, dried ginger, Chex cereal.
15. Peanut Butter Fiend: Banana chips, peanut butter chips, peanuts, almonds, dark chocolate chips.
16. Movie Night: Popcorn, peanuts, M&Ms, dried cranberries. Pro tip: Use hot popcorn to melty the chocolate.
17. Coffee Shop: Hazelnuts, almonds, raisins, chocolate-covered coffee beans, white chocolate chips.
18. Monkey Munch: Banana chips, peanuts, sea salt, almonds, dark chocolate chips, raisins, coconut flakes.
19. Cereal Lover: Bran flakes, shredded wheat cereal, puffed rice, granola, cashews, dried cherries, dried cranberries, dried blueberries.
20. Cajun Blend: Almonds, pecans, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sea salt, garlic powder, chili powder, ground cumin, cayenne pepper.
21. Deconstructed Puppy Chow: Almonds, whole-grain Chex or wheat cereal, dark chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, cacao nibs, dried cranberries.