Trail mix has a bit of a health halo around it meaning that people think it's better for you than it actually is—most of the time. Most pre-packaged trail mix is a combination of nuts, dried fruit, and chocolate which does have a lot of beneficial nutrients and fiber but can also be extremely calorie-dense.
Take Costco's trail mix, for example. "A single-serve, 2-ounce pack of Costco's Kirkland brand's trail mix packs 300 calories, which is on the high end for a snack when someone is trying to lose weight," says Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, dietitian, and author of The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook. So, check labels when using packaged trail mix as a base and aren't preparing trail mix completely from scratch at home.
"In general, keep the ingredients simple and use high fiber, less dense options to allow for a larger portion size and for fewer calories," says Harris-Pincus. Make your DIY trail mix at home in large quantities each time, for an easy meal-prep hack, and then store for later use.
Here are six trail mix combinations for weight loss, as recommended by dietitians, which taste great and help prevent blood sugar spikes, as well as keep calories and sodium levels in check, to better aid in your weight loss endeavors. Read on, and for more on how to eat healthy, don't miss Eating Habits to Lose Abdominal Fat As You Age, Say Dietitians.
Pistachios + Dried Cherries + Toasted Coconut Flakes
This is a satisfying, nutrient-rich combination that's crunchy and can be lightly salted for a sweet-and-salty blend. "Pistachios have fewer calories than most nuts with the largest portion size, as you get 30 pistachios for 100 calories," says Harris-Pincus.
"Unsweetened cherries have fiber and antioxidants, while unsweetened coconut flakes add additional texture and fat to keep you full longer," says registered dietitian nutritionist Ginger Hultin, MS, RDN, CSO, author of Anti-Inflammatory Diet Meal Prep and How to Eat to Beat Disease Cookbook.
Almonds + Dark Chocolate Chips + Cranberries
"Almonds provide crunch, protein, and heart-healthy fat, while cranberries offer a tart flavor and vitamin C," says Hultin. Just be sure to choose a variety that's sweetened with fruit juice rather than added sugar or syrup to better support weight loss. A small serving of dark chocolate chips gives you that sweet flavor you're looking for, but still keeps added sugar intake low, helping you lose weight faster than if you use milk chocolate with lots of added sugar.
Walnuts + Raisins
"Walnuts are an omega-3-rich nut that is considered heart-healthy and could even help calm inflammation in the body, and raisins are commonly unsweetened and easy to find in any store," says Hultin. They contain fiber, vitamins, and minerals and this two-ingredient combination is super easy and quick to make.
Sunflower Seeds + Pecans + Dried Mango
Combining nuts, seeds and fruit is the perfect trifecta for a balanced trail mix. Use shelled, lightly salted sunflower seeds and plain, unsalted pecans to avoid overdoing it on the sodium. "Find mango that's plain and not coated in sugar, and chop it so it blends into the mix easily," says Hultin.
"While dried fruit is nutritious, it's also calorie-dense, so avoid added sugars and use portion control," says Harris-Pincus. "You can also make it more savory with roasted soy nuts or chickpeas, as another crunchy source of protein and fiber," says Harris-Pincus.
Pumpkin Seeds + Dried Blueberries
This is an antioxidant-rich trail mix that's simple to make and well-balanced. "Pumpkin seeds are rich in minerals like zinc, while blueberries contain vitamins C and K, to improve immunity," says Hultin.
Pumpkin seeds have protein and healthy fat and blueberries have fiber-rich carbohydrates and antioxidants to fuel you and support your heart health. Blueberries are also lower in sugar than other fruits, so it's more diet-friendly.
Peanuts + Freeze-dried Strawberries
"Freeze-dried fruit is a fabulous add-in for trail mix because it has a fraction of the calories of dried fruit and provides crunch and volume," says Harris-Pincus. Combine peanuts and strawberries for flavor, antioxidants, fat, protein, and fiber.
Or halve the amount of freeze-dried strawberries and mix in unsweetened, dried banana chips. "You'll make a 'pb&j' trail mix by combining crunchy peanuts (lightly salted, so you really get that peanut butter flavor), with crunchy freeze-dried strawberries and banana chips," suggests Hultin.