FOOD & COOKING

Homemade Trail Mix: A Healthy, Tasty Treat!

picture of nuts trail mix

Homemade trail mix is a delicious treat that not only tastes great but can be healthy as well! We all love trail mix, but making it yourself ensures you can make it healthier and add the things you like to eat. Whether you are home, or at the gym, or out on the hiking trail, having some trail mix that you made by your side will boost your energy and give you some necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs!

Some people tend to stay away from trail mix because it contains many sugars and fats, but if they are healthy sugars and fats, then it is okay in moderation. If you purchase trail mix at the store, you are going to get higher sugar and fat contents that if you would have made it yourself, where you can ensure the ingredients you are getting are raw, without sugar, and not coated with anything that makes it unhealthier.

The modern day trail mix we all know came about in 1968, in California, by two people who loved to surf. They took peanuts and raisins and mixed them together to get a boost of energy. From there, the idea took off and now we have more items in trail mix to enjoy! The first origins of trail mix were noted in the 17th century, in Europe. Fun fact: National Trail Mix Day is August 31st!

Brown Peanuts on Silver Steel Tray

Now, let us dive right into the world of homemade trail mix, as we show you features of the food, how to make your own, and give you some opinions about it! Then, you can make your own version of this delicious creation!

Things to Consider Before Making the Mix

When it comes to making your own trail mix, there are a few things to consider before you mix together just any of the necessary foods.

Choices

You have the choice on what you want to put in your trail mix. You can choose your favorite nuts to include such as almonds, pecans, and cashews, for example. What are your favorite fruits? Find the dried version such as bananas and apricot to add to the mix. You can add any type of seeds like pumpkin or sunflower. When it comes to the sweet treats, you can add in the popular chocolate, or even pretzels and popcorn. It’s your world!

photo of fruits and nuts trail-mix

Health Factor

Believe it or not, the foods that make up trail mix, especially if they are raw, can promote a healthy body in various ways. You are getting dozens of vitamins, minerals and good things your body needs. Sure, you get fats and sugars, but when making your own trail mix, you can make it less fatty and sugary. This tasty snack also lowers your cholesterol and is heart healthy! Plus, it makes for a great energy boost when out on the hiking trail!

Healthy trail-mix of fruits and peanuts

Store Bought

If you are buying trail mix right from the store, chances are good that you are getting a more fatty and sugary version of the snack, than you would if you made your own. The store bought version is often not made with raw nuts and seeds, either. Making your own allows you to buy the healthiest versions of such things.

Ultimate Trail Mix Packaged

Perfect Snack

Trail mix is quite possibly a perfect snack, as it includes everything you would want; something sweet, salty, fruity and nutty. Eating trail mix gives you an energy boost, so it’s great for campers, hikers, and at the gym! It can be taken anywhere and stored in any container easily for your enjoyment later. Plus, it is packed with vitamins and minerals that your body needs! You cannot go wrong!

Trail Mix in Jar on the side

How to Make a Trail Mix

When making your own trail mix, there are 4 categories of things you need. These are the key ingredients in making trail mix. You can choose your own variety from these categories to make the ideal trail mix.

IngredientsWhat They Do For Your Body
 

Nuts

 

(Examples: Macadamia, Pecan, Almond, Peanut, Cashew)

Using raw nuts is the best way to go, which means they are free of salt, oils, and coatings. Nuts give the body a ton of vitamins and minerals, and some even help lower your cholesterol. They have healthy fats and are good for your arteries.
 

Seeds

 

(Examples: Pumpkin, Sunflower, Sesame, Chia)

A variety of seeds can be used here and they are great for your health as they contain protein, magnesium and iron. Using raw seeds, like nuts, is the healthiest way to go. Seeds also are packed with minerals and vitamins that your body needs to keep going!
 

Dried Fruit

 

(Examples: Bananas, Raisins, Apricots)

Dried fruit is perfect for raising low blood sugar after exercising. You will want to look for sun dried fruit that is not sugar coated or contains sulfur. Various fruits are good for your body to give you vitamins, minerals, and healthy brain function, among other health benefits.
 

Sweets & Treats

 

(Examples: Popcorn, Dark Chocolate, Pretzels, M&Ms)

While many sweets and treats are not good for you, it is important to have some sugar or something tasty as part of the trail mix. Some treats have a little nutritional value, like dark chocolate. Occasional sweets are fine as long as you do not indulge all of the time.

When it comes to nuts, eating them raw, instead of roasted is the healthier option because it is the most natural way. If your nuts are roasted, they contain less of a healthy punch to your snack. Eating them raw gives you all the nutrients from them. For example, when adding nuts to your mix, by not roasting them, you are getting all of the fiber, iron, calcium, vitamin E, protein and more from them. If your nuts are made with salt, starch, sugar or any preservatives, they are then made less healthy.

That is how you get all of the added sugar and bad things. The preservatives are made to keep the food ready to eat, but by using it, they are using most unhealthy means. This is the same for seeds, as well. You can make your own dried fruit, which would be the healthier option. This way, it is also not coated in sugar and preservatives that make your snack less healthy. By drying fruit all natural, your snack will be that much healthier with less fat, sugar and more of the vitamins and minerals you need.

Cheerios Trail Mix Printer Friendly Recipe

When it comes to adding your sweets and treats to the trail mix, consider the healthier options. Dark chocolate is good for the heart and body versus regular chocolate, so that can be added in. There is healthy popcorn on the market, you can pop and mix in, too. If you want to use pretzels, you can find unsalted ones to mix in. Consider your options and how healthy you want your mix to be when it comes to adding foods from this category.

Making Dried Fruit

If you want to make your own dried fruit, your snack will definitely be healthier! Here is what you do.

  • Choose your fruits. You can choose 2 or 3 fruits to add to your trail mix.
  • Wash your fruit and remove any blemishes on it.
  • Remove any stones, stems, or pits from your fruits.
  • Cut your fruits in an even manner so they can all evenly dry. You can choose to remove the skins here if you wish.
  • Soak your fruits in lemon juice and water for 10 minutes and drain.
  • Preheat your oven to about 150 degrees F and arrange your fruit on a sheet pan so that they do not touch.
  • Place the pan in the oven and rotate it every 2 hours until done. (See chart below)
  • Cure the fruits by putting them in a container that is open for about 5 days so it can dry up. Seal the container after 5 days and store them for up to 10 months.

You can opt to dehydrate your fruit, so check out our piece on how to safely dehydrate food for camping.

Some fruits need to cook longer than others. See the chart below to give you a general idea of cook times for some popular fruits.

FruitsCook Times at 150 Degrees Fahrenheit
Pears6 hours
Peaches6 hours
Bananas6 hours
Apples6 hours
Cherries12 hours
Strawberries12 hours
Apricots12 hour

Best Recipes for Trail Mix

Recipe for Healthy Raw Trail Mix

Below is a general recipe for making your own trail mix with raw nuts and seeds, as well as unsweetened and non sulfur dried fruits. You can change your own nuts, seeds, and fruits as you see fit. You can sweeten it with a couple of tablespoons of syrup if you need more sweetness. Or if you do not, you can leave that out as well as cinnamon if you like.

  • (2 or 3) 3/4 cups of raw nuts of your choosing (cashews, pecans)
  • (2) 1/2 cups of raw seeds of your choosing (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • (2 or 3) 1/2 cup of unsweetened dried fruits (raisins, bananas, apples)
  • 1/2 cup of dark chocolate (and you can mix in pretzels or popcorn as well)
  • 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon (if you desire)
  • Small pinch of nutmeg or cayenne pepper for spice

Take the ingredients and mix them all in a large bowl, very well. Use storage bags or plastic ware to store all of your trail mix. It should stay good enough to eat for about a month!

Recipe for Healthy Raw Trail Mix

Recipe for Sweet and Salty Trail Mix

  • 1 Cup of Raw Almonds
  • 1 Cup of Cashews, Unsalted
  • 1 Cup of Dried Fruit
  • 1 Cup of Oyster Crackers
  • 3/4 Cup of Dried Raisins or Cranberries
  • 1/3 Cup of Dark Chocolate bits or chips

Mix everything together in a bowl and store in a container. This mix stays good for about 3 to 4 weeks.

Recipe for Sweet and Salty Trail Mix

Recipe for Mountain Trail Mix

This is the classic recipe that most of us know and love. However, if you are gong for the healthiest option, this one is not it.

  • 1/2 Cup of Cashews
  • 1/4 Cup of Peanuts
  • Optional: 1/4 Cup of Almonds
  • 1/2 Cup of Raisins
  • 1 Full Package of M&Ms or chocolate bits

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and stir. Store in a container. This mix is good for about a month.

Superfood Packed Trail Mix.

Recipe for Crunchy Trail Mix (Chocolate Free)

  • 1/2 Cup of Raisins or Cherries
  • 2 Cups of Rice Chex
  • 1/2 Cup of Pistachios
  • 3 Cups of Crunchy Cereal (Kashi, Corn Flakes)

Mix the foods together in a large bowl and stir. You can store these in plastic containers or jars for upwards of a month.

Crunchy Trail Mix Bars

Facts About Trail Mix

Below are some facts about trail mix that can be informative, and good to keep in mind. Some of these are just fun facts.

  • Many people wonder if they can eat trail mix while they are dieting. The truth is that trail mix contains a lot of calories that you do not want when you are on a diet. Trail mix can be a healthy snack, but not for someone who needs to watch their caloric intake.
  • Trail mix was eaten by Native Americans, who originally added buffalo meat to the mix. They could have made cured buffalo meat to make the mix tastier.
  • Did you know trail mix has a nickname? In short, it is called GORP, which stands for Good Old Raisins and Peanuts. It is also called Granola, Oats, Raisins and Peanuts.
  • In New Zealand, trail mix is called Scroggin.
  • Trail mix was created by nomadic people who would have to dry fruit and meat because they never stayed in one place. They would have to take it with them as they were traveling, so that is the first basic trail mix that we know of. Today, trail mix does not contain meat, unless someone wants to add some to it as they make their own.
  • Trail mix is known to be made of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and some kind of treat. However, many people add cereal to the mix, popcorn, and any other non traditional item that they can think of. Many times, people use M&Ms, but others like to be a little more creative.

What Do Others Think of Trail Mix?

Many people think that trail mix is bad for you because it is high in fat and sugar. However, your body needs fats and sugars in order to work properly. The quality of the fat and sugar that is going into our body is important. But some people tend to shy away. And sure, some trail mix is more unhealthy than others. But you can make your own healthier version of the treat you love, without the guilt! For the best homemade delicious snacks for backpacking, see our previous article on this topic.

Mixed nuts and raisins in glass on wood

The majority of us love trail mix, not only for the healthy parts, but because its a fun way to snack and it is easy to take on the go, especially when backpacking or hiking! It contains many things you look for in a snack, something sweet, something salty, and something nutty. You really can not go wrong!

Pros and Cons

As with many foods and snacks, there are good things, and there are the not so good things. Below, we will give you the good and the bad on trail mix.

Pros:

  • Making your own trail mix allows you to make it with foods you love.
  • You can make your own dried fruit and add raw nuts and seeds to make it healthier.
  • It is a perfect snack to take on the go, and when you are camping, hiking, or exercising.
  • It offers a great energy boost.
  • It is easy to store in your backpack, as you can take along as much as you like.
  • It offers many flavors that will satisfy your palette.

Cons:

  • Store bought versions are higher in fats, sugars, coatings and preservatives.
  • Used foods made with preservatives make the snack unhealthy.
  • Making your own dried fruit can take a while.
  • Buying healthier fruits, nuts, and seeds is more expensive.
  • Can get messy if you are not careful eating it.

Concluding Thoughts

Making your own trail mix ensures you not only make it how you like it, but is healthy for you! Many hikers, backpackers, campers, and active people love trail mix to boost their energy and satisfy their sweet tooth. To find out more useful backpacking tips and tricks, see our article on this topic.

If prepared right, you can make your own healthy version of trail mix that does not have as much sugar and contains fruits, nuts and seeds that you enjoy. The best thing about trail mix is that it can be eaten anywhere. Now that you know how to make your own trail mix, in a healthy way, you can take it along on your next hiking adventure!

No time to make your own trail mix? Then, check out our piece on the top healthy trail mix to power you up on your next outdoor adventure.

small bags of homemade trail mix

Do you love trail mix? What recipe do you use? What are your thoughts on the trail mix overall? We want to hear from you! Leave us your thoughts in the comments and let us hear your voice!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rebecca J. Crawford
Rebecca J. Crawford

Rebecca lives in USA, but loves hiking all over the world. Her favourite is Everest Base Camp Trek in Nepal. It usually takes 16 days, but she likes to slow down, enjoy mountains, company of other adventurers and take more pictures, so it took her 28 days last time. Another passion of Rebecca is ocean, so all short and long hikes along the ocean shore bring a lot of joy.

  • Steve Dangle

    This seems like a really delicious and nutrious recipe for trail mix, but I’m allergic to nuts. What should I substitute for nuts?

  • Rebecca J. Crawford

    You can add more dried fruits and seeds, as well as marshmallows if you have a sweet tooth! The options are endless!

  • Dimithri Lenov

    I just went through the whole article and found it really helpful. But don’t you think these kind of a mix cost you so much? Have you tried all these?

  • Rebecca J. Crawford

    These are tasty! While some can be costly, you can find alternatives.

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