Is trail mix keto friendly? It can be, and this keto trail mix recipe proves it! Macadamias, pecans, cashews, coconut, and freeze dried berries are all delicious additions to this low carb trail mix with chocolate. Take this mix with you on hikes, road trips, when camping, or anytime you need an energy boost. You're also getting healthy fats, fiber, phytonutrients, and an array of essential vitamins and minerals in this nourishing snack.
After creating a Nut Free Trail Mix, I knew I wanted to make a keto diet trail mix recipe next. Our low carb friends should get some trail mix too, don't you think?
The issue with keto friendly trail mix recipes is that you need to use a sugar substitute if you want the mix to be sweet. I added dried fruits as a whole food option to dial up the sweetness in my nut-free trail mix. Unfortunately, dried fruit tends to be too high in carbohydrates to be keto diet compatible.
My solution to this was to use Lily's keto-friendly milk chocolate chips. These chips are sweetened with a combination of erythritol and stevia. They have only 2 grams of net carbs per one tablespoon serving.
I also noticed a lot of keto diet trail mix recipes are not very colorful. The nuts, seeds, coconut, etc. are all very white and beige.
I enjoy having my meals pop with (natural) color, so I added freeze-dried berries to this mix. Unlike dried fruits, freeze dried strawberries and freeze dried raspberries can fit more easily into very low carb diets. IMHO though, freeze-dried berries don't provide a lot of sweetness.
What are the benefits of making low carb trail mix?
- No cooking: All you have to do is stir for the simplest iteration of this low carb snack. That said, it's a nice touch to toast the pecans and coconut flakes in a dry skillet.
- Can easily be made gluten free and/or vegan: This low carb trail mix recipe is naturally gluten free. The low carb milk chocolate chips contain (wait for it) milk. You can make this trail mix dairy free by using Lily's dark chocolate chips instead.
- Portable snack: Prep this keto trail mix with coconut ahead of time and pack it in snack baggies. Now you have some grab-and-go snacks ready whenever you need them!
- Packed with whole plant foods and fiber: Hey, the keto diet does not have to mean all cheese and bacon! Show the world some of the health-promoting plant foods you can eat on a very low carb diet.
Keto Trail Mix Ingredients
Here's what you need to make this recipe for trail mix on keto:
- Macadamia nuts
- Raw pecans
- Large coconut flakes
- Freeze-dried strawberries or freeze-dried raspberries
- Lily's milk chocolate chips (or other keto-friendly chips)
I made two batches, one with the strawberries and one with the raspberries. We enjoyed them both, so I am offering both options! I feel like the strawberries had more aesthetic appeal, but they seemed to like to float to the top of the mix.
I'm seeing Lily's chocolate popping up more and more in mainstream grocery stores, and I am happy about it! They are a really good alternative to chocolate chips with refined sugar. The taste was extremely similar to regular sugary chocolate chips, IMO.
If you can't get keto chocolate chips locally, an alternative would be to turn this into a simple keto nut mix recipe. Just mix your favorite combination of nuts together.
Unlike trail mix, most don't expect mixed nuts to have a sweet element. Plain nuts are almost always low enough in net carbs to fit the keto diet.
For the coconut flakes, check the ingredients and make sure there is no added sugar to keep it keto. I used Bob's unsweetened coconut flakes because that is what my store had available. The pieces of coconut were on the small side. Unsweetened coconut chips may be a better option if you can get them.
In terms of equipment, I recommend having a skillet on hand to toast the pecans and the coconut. I also think it's helpful to have some portion control snack baggies to package the trail mix after you make it.
How to Make Keto Trail Mix
To begin, heat a dry cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Put the pecans in the heated skillet and toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch them closely so they don't burn!
Toasting will add more flavor to the pecans and is a really nice touch. Remove the pecans from the skillet and set aside. Next, put the unsweetened coconut flakes in the skillet and toast for about 5 minutes.
Again, you'll need to stir the coconut frequently so that it doesn't burn. It will turn a lovely golden brown in color when it has been properly toasted. Let both the pecans and the coconut flakes cool to room temperature.
Now you're going to want to get out a medium-sized bowl. Put the pecans, cashews, macadamias, coconut, freeze dried fruit, and keto chocolate chips in the bowl. Give it a good stir, so the ingredients are evenly distributed throughout the mix.
I highly recommend dividing your homemade keto trail mix between eight snack baggies. This will help you with portion control and makes your trail mix more portable.
Do you have a family member who tends to eat all the chocolate chips (or all the macadamias, or all the fruit) in your trail mixes? Dividing the mix into individual baggies will help to stop them! It takes more effort to pick all of the chocolate chips out of eight baggies than a large snack bowl.
And that's all it really takes to have trail mix on keto! Pretty darn easy, right?
How to make low carb trail mix
If your diet is moderately low carb (i.e., not keto), you'll have a little more flexibility with this recipe. For example, my nut free trail mix has a carb count of 21.7 grams of net carbs, even though it has some dried fruit. The ingredients that fit will ultimately depend on how low in carbs your particular low carb diet is.
In terms of general health, I'd consider dried fruit to be a better option than chocolate chips. (This holds true whether the chips are keto-friendly or not.)
Typically, it's a good idea to choose whole foods rather than ultra-processed foods. Foods eaten with their natural food matrix intact tend to behave differently in the body than ultra-processed foods.
But what if a low carb or keto diet is helping you to maintain a healthy weight? Or what if it's helping you manage your blood sugars better if you have diabetes? In that case, refraining from high carbohydrate dried fruits may be what is healthiest for you.
It's important to remember that the general nutrition information you read online may not be what's best for you. For nutrition advice that is tailored to your specific needs, don't be afraid to make an appointment with your friendly neighborhood dietitian!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Trail mix, by nature, is an energy-dense food. Think about it. The purpose of trail mix is to pack a lot of energy (i.e., calories) into a small volume that is easy to pack on hikes and camping trips. This means that trail mix, even this keto trail mix recipe, may not be the best option for weight loss.
A small serving of this trail mix provides over 300 calories. That is similar to what you would get in a small meal. You can easily consume hundreds of extra calories per day with a few handfuls of trail mix.
That said, I think this recipe is great for those with higher energy needs. It's rich in healthy fats, certain essential vitamins and minerals, and contains (mostly) whole foods. If you're trying to gain weight or having trouble maintaining, this recipe may be a good choice.
Why is trail mix so high in calories?
Trail mix is so high in calories because it almost always contains ingredients that are concentrated sources of calories. For example, nuts and seeds typically provide 150-200 calories per ¼-cup. Coconut is similarly high in calories.
Typically, chocolate chips are around 80 calories per tablespoon! The keto friendly chocolate chips in this recipe are less at around 55 calories per tablespoon. However, it still adds up fast.
In trail mix recipes that are not keto, dried fruits are often used. Fresh fruit is typically a low calorie food, but you remove the volume when you dry fruit by removing the water. Dried fruits are concentrated versions of their former selves, with more calories packed into a smaller volume.
Does trail mix make you fat? Is trail mix good to eat on a diet?
No specific food "makes you fat," but some nutrient-rich foods will help to keep you full better than others. Foods that are high in protein, fiber, and water (relative to their calories) tend to do the best job keeping us full.
Though trail mix often provides a lot of fiber, it is typically lacking in fluid volume and protein (relative to its calories). Lacking these factors that support satiety means that trail mix is not (generally) the best choice if your goal is weight loss.
One more thing! I don't really love the concept of being "on a diet" for weight loss. Instead of thinking of jumping on and off a "weight loss diet," it might be better to focus on healthy dietary and lifestyle changes that you can stick with long-term. If you cannot sustain the dietary changes you are making, you aren't forming the habits needed to keep the weight off.
What are some recipes for healthy low carb meals?
Trail mix is tasty, but it's generally a good idea to get most of your calories from meals. Here are a few healthy low carb recipes that my family enjoys:
- Chimichurri Sauce over Steak
- Lasagne con Zucchine (Lasagna with Zucchini)
- Air Fryer Cornish Hens Recipe
- Smoked Burgers | Stovetop Smoker Recipe
- Turkey Leftover Meals: Greek Salad Meal Prep
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is trail mix healthy?
Typically, trail mix contains a variety of nuts and seeds. These high-energy foods are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fatty acids, including the omega-3 fatty acid ALA. (Tip: Among the nuts, walnuts are an especially good source of ALA.)
In addition, nuts and seeds provide vitamin E, fiber, and some plant-based protein. I consider nuts and seeds to be more of a fat than a protein. However, they do still contribute to overall protein intake.
The other healthful ingredient that trail mix typically has is fruit. Though dried fruit often has a lower vitamin C content than fresh fruit, the fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals are retained.
The downside of certain trail mixes is that they can be packed with added sugars from chocolate or other sweets. Also, trail mix tends not to be the best snack for those with a weight loss goal. It packs a lot of calories into a very small volume.
How long can a person subsist on water and trail mix?
If a person has an endless supply of water and trail mix (and only those two things), several factors determine how long they might be able to live that way. Though you could (in theory) meet your daily calorie needs with trail mix alone, certain essential nutrients are likely to fall short. For example, most trail mixes do not provide any vitamin B12 since that vitamin is not naturally present in plant foods.
Assuming that the person is staying hydrated and consuming adequate calories, they could survive until a severe nutrient deficiency strikes. Signs of scurvy can appear in as little as a month. If the trail mix lacks vitamin C, scurvy would be one of the earlier things to worry about.
In theory (please do not try this at home!), you could survive on water and trail mix until you perish from other causes if the trail mix could provide complete nutrition for the number of calories you need in a day. It would likely have to be fortified with nutrients typically lacking in trail mix (e.g., vitamin B12).
How many carbs will kick you out of ketosis?
The answer to this question will vary by individual. One important thing to note is that you don't have to be in ketosis to lose weight. This is true even if you're following a low carb diet!
As an interesting aside, I've noticed that my morning lab work (after fasting overnight) occasionally indicates that I am in a light ketosis. Though I don't monitor macronutrient intake, I've learned from MyFitnessPal that I tend to average between 150-200 grams of net carbs per day. This is far beyond the net carb limit of 20-25 grams per day on ketogenic diets.
The specific number of carbs that will break ketosis for you may be far higher than the amount you are allotted on a very low carb diet. Some of us slip into and out of ketosis easier than others.
Should one include fiber carbs in a low carb diet or subtract them and use net carbs?
In general, if you are counting carbs on a low carb diet, I would count net carbohydrates, not total carbohydrates. This will help you achieve a more varied diet with more vegetable, fruit, and dairy options.
Of course, if the ketogenic or low-carb diet is part of your medical nutrition therapy, please follow the advice of your physician or dietitian. Your medical provider is familiar with your medical history and is in the best position to give recommendations specifically tailored to you and your situation.
If you aren't seeing the results you want counting net carbs, I have a tip that I picked up from a colleague. Continue counting net carbs for whole food items but use total carbs for ultra-processed foods. That should help you fill your diet with more nutrient-dense and satiating foods while cutting back on less healthy foods.
What are some good combinations for keto DIY trail mix?
There are so many delicious flavor combinations that you can use when you do a low carb trail mix DIY! Here are some whole food ideas to get the creative gears turning:
- Macadamia nuts
- Pili nuts (these are SO DARN DELICIOUS)
- Pine nuts
- Mixed nuts
- Dry roasted edamame
- Sesame seeds
- Chia seeds
- Hemp hearts
- Cacao nibs
- Freeze-dried strawberries
- Unsweetened coconut flakes or coconut chips
- Freeze-dried blueberries
- Freeze-dried raspberries
- No sugar keto beef jerky (just cut it into small pieces – yummy!)
- Sugar free turkey jerky
I'd also use something in your trail mix for a touch of sweetness. It could be low-carb chocolate chips, like I used in this low carb trail mix recipe. Alternatively, you could try coating some of the nuts and seeds in your mix with a sugar substitute and baking them. Use these low-carb candied nuts in your trail mix recipe!
Which nut is lowest in carbs?
Per Cronometer, both Brazil nuts and pecans provide only 1.2 grams of net carbs per ounce. Macadamia nuts are also very low in carbs, providing 1.5 grams of net carbohydrates per ounce. There may be additional edible nut options that are less common in the United States that are even lower.
How much protein in trail mix?
The answer to this question will vary based on the specific ingredients in your trail mix and the amount that you eat. Please check out the nutrition information in the recipe card to see how much protein is in this keto trail mix recipe.
Other Keto Snack Ideas
If you're following a very low carb diet, you have many options for keto snacks that are not nuts and seeds! Here are some other keto diet snack ideas for you:
- Garlic Kale Chips
- Keto Berry Smoothie Recipe (Vegan, No Added Sugar!)
- Cloud Bread with Greek Yogurt
- Keto Lemonade
- Keto Parmesan Crisps
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
"Keto" recipes on the web may not be appropriate for those using ketogenic diets as part of their medical nutrition therapy. That includes this recipe.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Keto Trail Mix Recipe | Low Carb Trail Mix
- Put a cast-iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the pecans to the heated skillet and toast for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently. Watch them closely to avoid burning!
- Set the pecans aside to cool and add the coconut to the skillet. Toast the coconut for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. It will turn golden brown when it is toasted properly. Let the coconut cool completely.
- Put the pecans, coconut, macadamias, cashews, freeze-dried fruit, and keto chocolate chips in a medium-sized bowl. Stir it until the ingredients are all evenly distributed throughout the mix.
- Divide your low carb trail mix between 8 snack size baggies. Now you have a snack that is ready to go when you are!
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). Trail mix, by nature, is an energy-dense food. Think about it. The purpose of trail mix is to pack a lot of energy (i.e., calories) into a small volume that is easy to pack on hikes and camping trips. This means that trail mix, even this keto trail mix, may not be the best option for weight loss. A small serving of this trail mix provides over 300 calories. That is similar to what you would get in a small meal. You can easily consume hundreds of extra calories per day with a few handfuls of trail mix. That said, I think this recipe is great for those with higher energy needs. It's rich in healthy fats, certain essential vitamins and minerals, and contains (mostly) whole foods. If you're trying to gain weight or having trouble maintaining, this recipe may be a good choice.