Trail mixes are a go-to snack for many. Whether you need a snack during an active day of hiking, want to enjoy an all-in-one snack on the go, or are simply craving the salty and sweet mix of a traditional trail mix, this snacking staple can be a convenient way to boost certain nutrients in your diet. Even though it's usually a healthy snack, some trail mixes are healthier than others.
While there is no formal definition for what constitutes a trail mix, you can count on it being some combination of nuts and seeds, dried fruit, and often a sweet treat, like candy or chocolate chunks. This combination of foods allows trail mix to be a source of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Although the exact type of ingredients and portions used can dial these nutrient numbers up and down, trail mix will provide some amount of each of the nutrients. A convenient food that provides filling fiber and protein, along with heart-healthy fats can make for a healthy snack that requires zero prep and travels easily. However, not all mixes are created equally. Read on to learn how to choose the best trail mixes.
How we chose the healthiest trail mixes
With countless mixes available on grocery store shelves, it can be tricky to figure out which is best for your health goals. To help make your task a little easier, here are three tips to help you identify the most nutritionally beneficial options while shopping.
- Watch the sugar content. Dried fruit contains natural sugar, but you'll want to choose mixes that have minimal added sugar. This refined, processed sugar can inhibit your health and wellness goals and add empty calories to your snack. Choose trail mixes with fewer than 5 grams of added sugar per serving. Those with 0 grams would be the best choice.
- Look for variety. When you think of a traditional trail mix, a combination of peanuts, raisins, and candy pieces likely comes to mind. While this mix does provide important nutrients, it is lacking in variety. A healthier mix contains several different types of seeds and nuts. Enjoying a mix with more than just one nut allows you to get a variety of nutrients and heart-healthy fats, not to mention texture and flavor.
- Go unsalted. Some mixes are made with salted nuts. While this can add flavor to your snack, it can also provide unnecessary sodium that can detract from your health goals. Varieties with 0 milligrams of sodium are ideal, although this will limit your options. Look for mixes with fewer than 90 milligrams of sodium per serving to keep salt at bay.
Read on to see the 5 healthiest trail mixes, and 5 to avoid. Then, for more healthy grocery shopping tips, check out 10 Best & Worst Bagged Popcorns, According to Dietitians.
The 5 Healthiest Trail Mixes
Planters NUT-rition Snack Nut and Dried Fruit Mix Omega-3
Cashews and walnuts make up the base of this mix, creating a product with essential omega-3 fats. This type of fat is beneficial for your cardiovascular system and may be able to lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol values. With only 2 grams of added sugar, this mix provides healthy fats and filling protein with minimal empty calories.
Nature's Garden Heart Healthy Trail Mix
When looking at our list, you'll notice trail mix is a concentrated source of fat. This is because of the nuts and seeds present. Don't let this number trick you into thinking trail mix is an unhealthy snack.
This option by Nature's Garden, for example, provides 9 grams of fat per serving, but a very small portion of that comes from saturated fat. This means the majority of the fat in this mix is from healthy sources, making it a great way to incorporate fat into your diet.
That's It Sweet Cinnamon Apple + Pumpkin Seed Crunchables
At 190 calories per serving, this option provides more energy than others on our "best" list. However, these calories come along with 6 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber. This makes for a filling snack that also packs healthy fats with 0 grams of added sugar. A mix of pumpkin seeds, apples, and cinnamon makes this a simple mix that still packs plenty of nutrients and flavor.
Orchard Valley Harvest Go-Go Keto Mix
The highest calorie option on our "best" list, this variety also offers the highest protein content. Almonds, pepitas, peanuts, walnuts, and pecans make up the base of this mix, which also includes a little sweetness from almonds coated with dark chocolate almond butter. You won't find any dried fruit in this variety, which allows it to be a lower-carb option.
Gourmet Nut Power Up Premium Trail Mix Protein Packed
Another option with 7 grams of protein per serving, the Power Up Protein Packed mix also contains zero grams of added sugar. Natural sweetness comes from the raisins, but you won't find any candy pieces in this mix. You'll still get the enjoyable salty-sweet flavor combination, and if you want to amp up the sweetness, try adding some dark chocolate chips made without added sugar.
The 5 Unhealthiest Trail Mixes to Avoid
Kar's PB 'N Dark Chocolate
You may be surprised to see that the lowest calorie mix on our list made the "worst" category. While fewer calories per serving gives this trail mix an edge, it also contains 9 grams of added sugar and 4 grams of protein. This combination of nutrients makes it a less ideal mix, not to mention butter toffee peanuts, sugar, and butter are the first three ingredients listed.
Planters Sweet & Salty Trail Mix
Another option with only 4 grams of protein, this mix also packs some added sugar. Candy pieces, yogurt-covered raisins, and a couple of forms of sugar provide the empty sugar calories in this product. You'll also find food dyes and colorings in this mix, making it a less desirable option.
Favorite Day Mint Chocolate Trail Mix
A brand you'll find only at your local Target store, Favorite Day makes several sugar-loaded trail mixes. This option contains 12 grams of added sugar, the second-highest amount on our list, and only 3 grams of protein. You'll still get a couple of grams of fiber, but the ingredients used lead this product to a higher saturated fat content than most others on our list.
Favorite Day S'mores Trail Mix
Coming in at 14 grams of added sugar per serving, this S'mores trail mix is the highest on our list. You'll find various forms of sugar, as well as many sugar-containing ingredients in this product. Its low fiber and protein counts make it even less desirable, along with more than half of its fat grams coming from saturated sources.
Second Nature Wholesome Medley
Although this trail mix contains peanuts, almonds, and cashews, it also contains dried fruit made with sugar, as well as chocolate chunks pieces. Made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, the marketing may make this product appealing. However, there are better trail mixes available with more protein and less added sugar.