Trail mix is a popular snack among hikers and campers. It’s small, portable, and can be incredibly nutrient and calorie dense, making it a great way to keep your energy up as you hike over that mountain! But because trail mix is supposed to be a supplemental snack for someone that is working hard, it’s not actually the best snack for someone trying to watch what they eat. Sure, it might offer much more nutritional value overall than a bag of potato chips, but most trail mixes are not as diet-friendly as you think! The problem is that most prepackaged trail mixes are loaded with extra salty nuts, dried fruits (super sugary!), and chocolate. A small package of pre-packaged trail mix could easily be several hundred calories, so the best way to know you are getting a healthy trail mix is to make it at home!
Here is what you need to make your own trail mix:
An ounce of most nuts contains between 160 and 200 calories, but they are also jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamin E, protein and fiber, that make them a critical component of any trail-mix. In order to have a healthy trail mix, avoid processed nuts (like honey roasted) because those are bound to be full of extra salt and sugars. Instead, opt for raw almonds, walnuts, and peanuts in their low or no-salt versions.
Have you ever looked at the nutritional value on a bag of dried apricots or banana chips? They are overflowing with sugars! That’s because the natural sugars in the fruits will be concentrated when the fruit is dried and plenty of food manufacturers add even more sugar on top of that. Raisins are a prime example. A cup full of raisins contains much more sugar than a cup full of grapes, simply because you can fit so many more raisins into a cup. Dried fruits are a great source of nutrition on the trail, and certainly better for you in the long run over a candy bar, but make sure you choose naturally dried fruits with no added sugar and be aware of how much you are mixing into your trail mix.
Butter free popcorn (the kind you pop on the stove, not in the microwave!) is a great way to add some starch to your healthy trail-mix. Popcorn is a pretty healthy-snack to begin with, so adding it to your trail mix mixture is a no-brainer.
If you simply can’t have a trail mix without chocolate (which is going to make it a little less healthy) opt for all-natural dark chocolate chips as opposed to the kind you normally bake into your cookies. These will have a lot less sugar in them and you only need a piece or two per handful to satisfy that chocolate craving.