How to Make Low-Carb Trail Mix

The Perfect On-the-Go or Post-Workout Snack

Trail mix

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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Trail mix is a non-perishable, convenient snack that is energy-dense—meaning a lot of calories are packed into a small amount of food. It's meant to provide nourishment during strenuous activity, such as hiking (hence the name).

Some pre-packaged trail mixes contain high carbohydrate ingredients, such as chocolate and dried fruits, so it's important to look at labels if you are trying to stick to a low-carbohydrate eating plan. You may prefer to make your own trail mix so you can create the mix of sweet and savory flavors you want and keep the carb count down.

Trail Mix Ingredients to Include

When creating your own trail mix, it's important to choose healthy but tasty ingredients. These offer nutritional benefits to fuel your workout (or just get you through a busy afternoon).

Nuts and Seeds 

Trail mixes tend to have a lot of nuts and seeds, which are excellent foods on a low-carb diet. They are high in heart-healthy fats, low in carbs, and many are high in protein.

Walnuts, Brazil nuts, almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are great additions to your trail mix. They are among the lowest in carbs among the nuts and seeds. Cashews and pistachios have slightly more carbohydrates per ounce. However, all nuts and seeds can be considered low-carb foods. 

You may want to incorporate salted nuts rather than unsalted which will add more flavor. Salted nuts can also help to replace sodium lost through sweat if you are eating trail mix during or after exercise.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is rich in carbohydrates and can often be a good pre- or post-workout snack because it provides energy and carbohydrates to replace glycogen. People who engage in heavy physical activity will need more carbohydrates than others.

Another reason for the sweet stuff is flavor, of course. Trail mix wouldn’t really be trail mix without a bit of sweetness in there; it would just be a savory nut and seed mix.

Create a Low-Carb Trail Mix

Although dried fruit is rich in carbohydrates and sugar, you can incorporate it into a low-carb trail mix by following a few simple tips.

Watch for Added Sugars

Aim to avoid dried fruits such as raisins, Craisins, and blueberries that are sweetened with sugar. When making your own trail mix, use a small amount of unsweetened dried fruit to add flavor, fiber, texture, and color.

Berries such as blueberries and cranberries, which are usually great fruit choices when eating low-carb, almost always have a lot of sugar added when dried and sold commercially. Read ingredient labels before you buy and skip any brands that contain added sugar.

Look for Unsweetened Varieties

Eden Organics makes affordable dried blueberries and cranberries sweetened with apple juice. Unsweetened coconut flakes make a tasty, crunchy addition to trail mix and they are very low-carb.

Other unsweetened dried fruit is possible to find at special health food markets but can be more expensive. One source is Karen's Naturals, which makes freeze-dries vegetables and fruits with nothing added. Some stores carry their own products, such as Trader Joe's dried mango, strawberries, and pineapple.

Reading the nutrition facts on some freeze-dried products can be deceiving. The nutritional information is by weight and the products are very light since all the water has been removed (unlike in conventionally dried fruits). For example, a 1.5 oz tub of freeze-dried cranberries is about 3 cups by volume.

Use Smaller Amounts

Depending on the brand you buy, raisins can have up to 176 grams of carbohydrate per cup. However, because they are intense in sweetness and flavor, all you need is a couple of raisins per handful of nuts and seeds for a sweet contrast. Even better than raisins are dried currants, because they are smaller and thus they pack fewer carbs.

Make Your Own

To save money and control the sugar content, you can make your own dried fruit using a food dehydrator or in the oven on very low heat. You can dry fruit plain or with added sugar substitute.

Do Half-and-Half

Look for pre-packaged trail mix and choose the one with the least carbs and the lowest amount of sugar. Then, “dilute” it by mixing a cup of that mix with several cups of your own nuts, seeds, and unsweetened coconut. (Skip the fruit if you use this method.)

Easy Low-Carb Trail Mix Recipe

This is just one possibility, of course. Modify to suit your own tastes and preferences.

  • 1 cup roasted peanuts
  • 1 cup raw or roasted almonds
  • 1 cup pumpkin or squash seeds (you can toast your own)
  • 2 oz unsweetened coconut
  • 1/2 cup raisins or currants (loosely packed)

Nutritional Information

This makes about 16 servings of ¼ cup each. Each serving will have about 13 grams of carbohydrate and about 4.5 grams of fiber. If you make the same mix without the raisins, assuming 14 servings, each will have about 10 grams of carbohydrate and about 4 grams of fiber.

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9 Sources
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