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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Reach for trail mix next time you’re snacking

Scoop of trail mix on a table

It’s not always easy to snack on healthy foods, especially during big games like the Super Bowl where the fruit and veggie trays get passed over for the wings and dips. However, healthy snacks don’t always have to be in the form of fresh produce. A homemade trail mix can provide a nutritious mix of whole grains, healthy fats, antioxidants, and protein.

Trail mix may otherwise be known as “gorp.” Many acronyms exist, but most go with either “good old’ raisins and peanuts” or “granola, oats, raisins, and peanuts.” It’s considered an ideal snack for hikers because it is lightweight and easy to store and pack. But you don’t have to go on a hiking trip to enjoy a bag of trail mix. A handful of gorp can be the perfect mid-morning or afternoon snack to hold you over before the next meal. Nuts are high in polyunsaturated fats, which have heart healthy benefits. However, because nuts, dried fruit, and granola are all concentrated in calories, it’s important to practice portion control.

Trail mix is easy to customize to your liking and the flavor combinations are endless. Use whole grains, such as popcorn or whole grain cereal (bran flakes, toasted oats, shredded wheat) as a base. Add nuts, like almonds, pecans, walnuts, or cashews. Seeds, like pumpkin (pepita) seeds may add an additional crunch and healthy fat, but smaller sunflower seeds have the tendency to sink to the bottom for an uneven distribution. Dried fruit, such as raisins, apricots or cranberries are a classic ingredient, but freeze-dried fruits are making their way into the mix. Freeze dried fruits and vegetables lack water but still maintain most of their nutrients. However, this lack of water causes a higher concentration of calories and sugars in both dried and freeze-dried fruits. Simply use less in proportion to grains and nuts. Do the same when adding in the fun treats, like chocolate or marshmallows. Make up a batch of trail mix for your next go-to snack!

About the Author


Jenna Smith is a Nutrition and Wellness Educator with University of Illinois Extension, serving Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties. Smith uses her experience as a registered dietitian nutritionist to deliver impactful information and cutting-edge programs to Livingston, McLean, and Woodford Counties and beyond.