Food Preparation

How to Enjoy Trail Mix on a Calorie-Restricted Diet

March 6, 2018   /
Sarah Harris, MS, RDN

Trail mix can be a great on-the-go snack, even when you are not on the trail. It can, however, pack more of a calorie punch than you may want if you are having a sedentary day and enjoying a snack at your desk. To ensure that your trail mix is not providing more calories than you want or need for a snack, check out these helpful tips to help make the most healthful, low-calorie selection. Bonus points if you make your own at home (a cost saver, too!).

Serving size
The best way to measure a serving on-the-go is to measure out a portion into the palm of your hand. The most ideal portion of trail mix is approximately the size of a golf ball, or ¼ cup. One way to make this easy is to measure out ¼ cup portions into separate bags or containers as soon as you bring your mix home to keep from eating beyond your calorie guidelines. This portion will provide approximately 100-200 calories, which is ideal for a quick snack. In addition, ¼ cup will contain around 5-10 grams (g) of healthy unsaturated fats, 15-30 g of carbohydrates, and 5-10 g protein. Use these amounts as a guide when purchasing store-bought varieties as well.

Chocolates and sweets
The chocolate bits and sweet treats within a trail mix are, and should remain, a small portion of the mix. If you enjoy picking out just those bits, you might as well just buy a bag of candy! Give the nuts and fruits the love they deserve.
Just the right amounts
Remember the ratio 2:2:1:1/3 when making homemade trail mix using this simple guideline:

  • 2 cups nuts and seeds
  • 2 cups unsweetened dried fruit
  • 1 cup carbohydrate source (see below)
  • 1/3 cup sugary surprise (see below)

Great ingredients for homemade trail mix
Try adding some of these wonderful ingredients in your trail mix:

  • Nuts
    • Almonds
    • Cashews
    • Hazelnuts
    • Macadamia nuts
    • Peanuts
    • Pecans
    • Pine nuts
    • Pistachios
    • Soy nuts
    • Walnuts
  • Seeds
    • Chia
    • Hemp
    • Pumpkin
    • Sesame
    • Sunflower
  • Unsweetened dried fruit
    • Apples
    • Apricots
    • Banana chips
    • Blueberries
    • Cherries
    • Cranberries
    • Dates
    • Figs
    • Goji berries
    • Mango
    • Peaches
    • Pineapple chunks
    • Raisins
    • Strawberries
  • Carbohydrate source (unsweetened)
    • Air-popped popcorn
    • Oat cereal
    • Pretzels
    • Rice cereal
    • Toasted oats
  • Sweet treats
    • Chocolate-covered coffee beans
    • Chocolate-covered nuts
    • Dark chocolate morsels
    • M&Ms
    • Mini marshmallows
    • Peanut butter chips
    • White chocolate morsels
    • Yogurt-covered raisins