Trail mixes seem like healthy options, but if you've ever bothered to read the nutrition label on a bag of the stuff, you know it's often full of sugar, fat and calories. Luckily, the wide availability of bulk snacking ingredients — from cashews to wasabi peas to dried mango — means that making your own mixes has never been easier.
Whether you want to measure out your own products in the bulk section of the grocery store or select from a variety of pre-bagged items, you can often get what you need without spending a fortune. Not to mention, you can customize your mix however you like and constantly experiment with new combinations of ingredients.
Here are some of our favorites:
These fiery little suckers are just plain addictive. Toss them in whenever you want to add a spicy kick to your trail mix — they pair well when balanced with both sweet and savory elements.
We didn’t know until recently how easy it is to make your own roasted nuts at home. So the next time you want to jazz up some peanuts or cashews, toss them with the sweet and savory elements of your choosing and roast them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes or so — we like this recipe from the Barefoot Contessa.
Yes, we realize this is a big category. Dates, figs and raisins are the ones you typically find in store-bought trail mixes, and we’re a little tired of them. Luckily, pretty much any fruit can be dried these days. We love incorporating tropical fruits like pineapple and mango, as well as cherries and blueberries. Don’t overload on dried fruit though — the drying process concentrates the fruits’ sugars, making them much more sugar-heavy than fresh or frozen fruits.
We first encountered freeze dried corn at our favorite spice store, Penzeys. A sample eaten at the checkout counter prompted us to buy a whole bag of the stuff, which is fabulous in both soups and salads. These slightly sweet, crunchy treats are also a welcome addition to trail mixes and pair well with wasabi peas and plain nuts.
No, we don’t mean Ruffles. We’re talking about the kind of chips you buy in the baking aisle — like chocolate chips, butterscotch chips and peanut butter chips. Everyone knows these are the best part of any good trail mix — just make sure you don't overdo it.
We love granola in pretty much everything, and trail mix is no exception. Getting plain granola allows you to mix in whatever you want to make it as sweet or savory as you like. Granola isn’t actually as healthy as most people think it is — although it offers some good nutrients like dietary fiber and protein, it also contains a fair amount of calories and fat. So make sure you check out the nutrition or make this walnut ginger granola recipe at home.