How to Make Low-Carb Trail Mix

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

Trail mix

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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.Here’s how to make your own trail mix, create the mix of sweet and savory flavors you want, and keep the carbs down.

Nuts and Seeds 

nuts and seeds on a plate, including pumpkin seeds, almonds, and walnuts
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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, and they are among the lowest in carbs among the nuts and seeds; cashews and pistachios, for example, have slightly more carbohydrates per ounce. However, all nuts and seeds can be considered low-carb foods. 

You may also want to incorporate salted nuts rather than unsalted which will add more flavor and use these next tips to add a hint of sweetness to your mix. Salted nuts can also help to replace sodium lost through sweat if you are eating trail mix during or post exercise.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

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. Those 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 nut and seed 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 trail mix that contains fruit 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. Thus, 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 add 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 the Karen's Naturals company which freeze-dries vegetables and fruits with nothing added. Some healthy food stores carry their own products, such as Trader Joe's dried mango, strawberries, and pineapple. Note that just reading the nutrition facts on some freeze-dried products can be deceiving because the nutritional information is by weight and they are very light since all the water has been removed (unlike the more common dried fruits). For example, a 1.5 oz tub of freeze-dried cranberries is about 3 cups by volume.

Use smaller amounts. Raisins have 127 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 currants because they are smaller and thus they pack fewer carbs. 

Make your own. It is possible to make your own dried fruit plain or with added sugar substitute in a dehydrator or oven.

Do half-and-half. When grocery shopping or shopping online, 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.

An Easy Recipe for Low-Carb Trail Mix

This is just one possibility, of course.

  • 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, i.e. don’t cram in as many as possible)

Nutritional Information: This should make about 16 servings of ¼ cup each. Each serving will have 10 grams of carbohydrate and 3.5 grams of fiber. If you make the same mix without the raisins, assuming 14 servings, each will have 7 grams of carbohydrate and 3 grams of fiber.

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Article Sources
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