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Updated September 2021
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Buying guide for best trail mix

Whether it’s a healthy midmorning snack at your work desk or needed calories to keep you going during a rigorous hike, trail mix (which, despite the name, is a tasty treat anywhere, not just in the wild) is a delicious, convenient, and nutritious way to keep your body fueled for whatever endeavors your day includes.

A bag of trail mix is easy to slip into your purse, backpack, or even pocket, with no fear of sticky or melted ingredients on your hands, no need for a napkin, and no wondering if the portion size is more or less than what you need. And while trail mix isn’t complicated — at its most basic, it’s nothing more than a mixture of nuts and dried fruit — there are an awful lot of combinations of those nuts and fruits available, along with other ingredients.

That’s why we at BestReviews decided to simplify the subject for you with this handy guide to choosing the trail mix that’s healthiest for your body while pleasing your taste buds. 

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While candy and fruit are nice additions to trail mix, the majority of the mixture should be nuts and seeds.

Key considerations


You’ll find folks who consider trail mix to be a very healthful and satisfying snack, while others claim that it’s too high in fat and calories. But the answer to the benefits of trail mix, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle. It’s what the trail mix includes that makes it a healthy or diet-buster snack. Take a combination of peanuts and raisins, which is the most basic trail mix recipe.

Peanuts: One cup of peanuts contains a whopping 854 calories, and 607 of those calories come from the peanuts’ 72.5 grams of fat.

  • Monounsaturated fat: While that sounds like a lot, around half of the fat content is monounsaturated fat, which is a “good” fat that helps support heart health, energy levels, and insulin sensitivity.
  • Polyunsaturated fat: The next biggest contributor to the peanut’s overall fat content is polyunsaturated fat, which includes heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids that also play an important part in hormone regulation and cell wall strength.
  • Saturated fat: There are only 10 grams of saturated fat in a cup of peanuts. While your body requires a small amount of saturated fat each day, too much leads to clogged arteries and a thickened waistline.

Additionally, peanuts are a great source of protein; in fact, there are 34.6 grams of protein in a cup of peanuts, along with significant amounts of several B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin E, iron, and manganese.

Raisins: The sweetness of raisins makes a nice contrast to the strong, nutty flavor of peanuts, but are raisins actually good for you? In moderation, yes, although they do contain a lot of natural sugar. One cup of raisins contains almost 500 calories and 131 grams of carbs, out of which 98 grams are sugar, 6 grams are fiber, and the remaining grams are starch. Raisins also have a moderate amount of several B vitamins and significant amounts of iron, magnesium, potassium, manganese, and copper.

Other ingredients: Of course, there are many other ingredients often added to trail mix, including a wide variety of nuts, seeds, dried fruit, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, and even yogurt chips and coatings. And while variety is a nice plus for your taste buds, too many sweet additions to the trail mix, especially sugared or yogurt-coated fruit and candy, can quickly turn your healthy snack into a calorie-laden and nutritionally hampered diet liability.

The healthiest trail mixes are mostly nuts and seeds, with no more than one-quarter to one-third of the mixture made up of dried fruits, and only a very small amount — or none at all — of sugar-coated fruits or candies.

Raw vs. roasted

If you’re a food purist or follow a paleo diet, you’ll undoubtedly choose a trail mix containing raw nuts and seeds. Some people, however, prefer roasted nuts for the crunch, heightened nutty flavor, and improved digestibility. If roasted nuts and seeds are your preference, look for a trail mix that’s been dry roasted and not roasted in oil, which increases the calorie count while doing nothing to improve the nutritional benefits.

Some nutrition experts advise against any type of roasted nuts and seeds because the roasting process (whether dry or with oil) can damage the healthy fats and reduce the vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants normally found in these foods. Still, the bottom line is that choosing roasted or raw is mostly a matter of preference, so go with whichever tastes best to you.

What about salt?

Unless you’re buying trail mix to provide energy during a very long and rigorous workout session, such as all-day, intense hiking, mountaineering, long-distance running, or team sports on a hot day, and you need some extra sodium to replace what you lose through sweat, it’s best to steer clear of heavily salted trail mixes and go with a mixture of unsalted or lightly salted nuts and seeds, along with dried fruits and whatever extras you enjoy. Otherwise, you’re consuming a hefty dose of sodium, sometimes a significant portion of the recommended intake for an entire day (which is the equivalent of about a teaspoon for an adult). That much salt is going to leave you thirsty and dehydrated, which is just the opposite of how you want to feel after enjoying a snack.

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Expert Tip
To avoid calorie overload, keep your servings of trail mix to 1/4 cup.


Popular trail mix ingredients

While peanuts and raisins are by far the most common ingredients you’ll encounter in the trail mix aisle of your local market, they are by no means the only choices. Here are some other healthy (and a few not so healthy but admittedly tasty) additions to look for.

Nuts: These are the backbone of a good trail mix recipe. Preferably, the nuts are unsalted, but if not, choose a mixture that has less than 10% of your daily sodium recommendation. Whether raw or roasted is up to you. Popular nuts for trail mix include the following:

  • Peanuts
  • Cashews
  • Almonds
  • Pecans
  • Macadamias
  • Hazelnuts
  • Brazil nuts

Seeds: Healthy seeds are another way to get a hefty dose of protein, good fats, and vitamins. You can substitute seeds for nuts, or combine the two, but because of the small size of most seeds, it’s best to stick with sunflower or pumpkin seeds, which are both large enough for easy snacking.

Fruit: Raisins are by far the most common fruit found in trail mix, but if they aren’t your thing, or you’d prefer to add even more fruity sweetness to your day, look for trail mix recipes with some of the following dried fruits:

  • Cranberries
  • Cherries
  • Apricot bits
  • Coconut flakes or shreds
  • Apple bits
  • Banana chips
  • Pineapple bits
  • Mango chunks

Pass up trail mix blends with sweetened fruit; the natural sugar is enough.

Extras: Let’s face it, sometimes you just want a little something not so healthy mixed into your otherwise healthy treat. Just be sure sweetened or overly salty add-ins make up only a small percentage of the trail mix ingredients.

  • M&Ms
  • Chocolate chips
  • Peanut butter chips
  • Pretzels
  • Chex or other cereal
  • Candied ginger
  • Savory spices (such as cheese powder, flavored salt, garlic, chili, or cayenne pepper)
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Expert Tip
Trail mix is a healthy way to keep your energy level up throughout the day.

Trail mix prices

Bulk: Trail mix isn’t terribly expensive. As a general rule, you’ll pay around $5 per pound of basic trail mix that’s mostly peanuts and raisins, and between $10 and $20 for a 2- to 3-pound canister of trail mix containing a wider variety of nuts, seeds, and sweets.

Portions: If you prefer trail mix packaged into individual portions to toss in your lunch bag, backpack, or desk drawer, you can expect to pay for the convenience. Typically, a box of 18 to 24 individual packages of trail mix sells for $15 to $25, with basic ingredients toward the bottom of that range and a more diverse selection of nuts, seeds, and fruits at the higher end.

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Expert Tip
Sprinkle trail mix over a salad to add protein, crunch, and savory taste to your greens.

Other products we considered

While all of the products in the matrix above are tasty and healthy, we understand that your preferences might be different. If you aren’t nuts about nuts but still want a trail mix to serve as a snack, you’ll like the blend of seeds, fruits, and sweets in the Enjoy Life Mountain Mambo Grab n' Go Seed & Fruit Mix. It includes roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins, dried apples and cranberries, and chocolate chips. Packaged in single-serving pouches, it’s the perfect addition to your child’s lunchbox.

If you like nuts but are bored with peanuts and looking for something a bit different, you’ll find pistachios, a somewhat unusual inclusion in trail mix, along with almonds and cashews in the lightly salted Planters Pistachio Lovers Mix.

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Individually bagged portions of trail mix are a great addition to your children’s lunch bags.


Q. What’s the best way to store trail mix?
Nuts can easily go stale or rancid, so to keep your trail mix tasting its best, store it in an airtight container in a spot that isn’t subject to high heat, moisture, or freezing temperatures. As a general rule, your trail mix should be consumed within six months of the purchase date.

Q. Can’t I just make my own trail mix?
Absolutely! But purchasing a premade mixture is very convenient. No need to worry about ratios of nuts to fruit, and the packaging, whether it’s individual servings or a large bag, is done for you. It can also be more cost effective to purchase a premade trail mix rather than buy the ingredients separately.

Q. Is trail mix a suitable replacement for a meal?
While it’s perfectly fine to occasionally nosh on trail mix instead of cooking dinner or buying lunch from the food truck outside your workplace, don’t make it a habit. While trail mix does provide a great deal of protein and some carbs from the fruit, it isn’t a meal replacement and won’t give you the balanced array of nutrients and fiber that a full meal that includes vegetables will provide.

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