Whether you are out hiking or sitting at a desk, when hunger strikes, there are few things more satisfying than the sweet and salty crunch of trail mix. While many store-bought versions are loaded with preservatives, unhealthy fats and high-fructose corn syrup, you can make this classic hunger-curbing snack at home and control the ingredients as you wish. Select your favorite ingredients and get to mixing up a batch of sweet and salty trail mix customized to your preferences.
Nuts are a cornerstone of a sweet and salty trail mix. Adding a modest amount of protein and healthy fat, nuts help to keep you full for longer. Choose unsalted, unroasted nuts with no additional oil or preservatives for trail mixes that will have another salty element in them. For a trail mix that will not have another salty item in it, select salted nuts. Some good nuts to use include almonds, cashews, walnuts and pistachios.
Use dried fruits to add sweetness to a trail mix. Look for varieties that contain minimal added sugars and preservatives. Mix things up and try different types of fruit; many blend well with other nuts, grains and sweets. Some solid choices for dried fruits include raisins, dates, blueberries, apples, bananas, strawberries, pineapple, apricots, mangos and cranberries.
Cereals help to add bulk to a trail mix, as well as provide a nice satisfying crunch. Whole grain cereals are a good option, as they provide a fiber kick to your trail mix. Choose from a variety of toasted oat or whole grain breakfast squares, or select a rice or corn breakfast square variety for a gluten-free option. If you are passing on chocolate or other candies in the mix, consider adding a flavored breakfast cereal such as cinnamon-flavored breakfast squares to add another layer of complexity to the mix. Other add-in options include pretzels, granola and corn chips.
To kick up the sweetness of the mix, add mini chocolate chips or candy-coated chocolates. Choose dark chocolate for a healthy dose of antioxidants, milk chocolate for a more mild-flavored option or even white chocolate for a creamy sweetness that pairs well with many other trail mix ingredients. Candy-coated chocolates are also a classic trail mix selection. With all of these, they will boost the calorie count of the mix, so do not add too much. Depending on how sweet you want the mix, you may also want to coat the trail mix with a butter and brown sugar or corn syrup mixture. To do this, heat a couple tablespoons of butter until melted and add up to 1/4 cup brown sugar or honey, or a couple tablespoons of corn syrup per 8 to 10 cups of trail mix, stirring until mixed. Coat the trail mix in this mixture and let it cool until slightly hardened and set.