Go Plain Nuts!
From the desk of Laura Foresta, RD, LDN... Nuts are nutritious foods full of heart-healthy mono-and polyunsaturated fat, fiber, protein, calcium, iron, vitamins A and E, phosphorus, potassium, iron, calcium and zinc, depending on the variety. Nuts can help manage blood pressure, blood sugar and can help keep our hearts healthy. The protein, fat, and fiber in nuts can help curb our appetite. Creators of the DASH diet recommend eating 1 oz of nuts or seeds 3-6 times per week (http://dashdiet.org/). A little goes a long way, as a closed handful of nuts can provide around 200 calories. Most of us have to walk about 2 miles to burn that off! Such innocent looking things in the palm of your hand, but if you eat multiple handfuls, strap on the walking shoes!
Which brings me to a recent experience with peanuts I’d like to share. I generally purchase plain organic raw or roasted nuts, with the following ingredient lists:
Organic California Almonds Ingredients: organic raw almonds
Organic Walnuts Light Halves and Pieces Ingredients: organic walnuts
Organic Junior Mammoth Pecans Halves Ingredients: organic pecans
One handful of these nuts with a piece of fruit or some raw vegetables is a satisfying and delicious snack.
One fateful day I ate what I have now named “heroin peanuts.” I was preparing some holiday treats that required peanuts. In the holiday craze I ran to the store and bought some name brand peanuts without checking out the label. This is unusual, as I generally stop to read the labels of every item that goes in my cart (and lots of items that get vetoed after I read the label!). I made the treats and grabbed a handful of these peanuts for a snack. They were delicious and left a wonderful flavor in my mouth which left me wanting more…and more…and more…
Before I knew it I had grabbed 4 or 5 handfuls of these addictive peanuts. When I realized what was happening, I just HAD to know what the heck was in these nuts that made me want to eat the whole jar?
Here is the ingredient list: Dry Roasted Peanuts with Pure Sea Salt (editorial – the sea salt is surely the only pure thing in the jar!) Ingredients: peanuts, contains 2% or less of: sea salt, sugar, cornstarch, monosodium glutamate (flavor enhancer), gelatin, torula yeast, corn syrup solids, paprika, onion and garlic powders, spices, natural flavor.
These are not nuts. These are snacks camouflaged as nuts drenched in sweeteners and flavor enhancers that drive us unconsciously to eat more. To boot, these snack nuts had 190 mg of sodium, where the raw natural nuts had 0-5 mg of sodium. With all that sodium, we might be tempted to down some soda or other high-calorie drink to satisfy our thirst. We can add another 2.5 miles of walking for every 20-oz bottle of soda or fruit juice we drink.
So what’s a poor nut-lover to do? Here are some tips to help you enjoy your nuts:
1. Read labels – choose nuts with ingredients lists that say: “cashews” or “walnuts” or “pecans” and nothing else
2. Measure portions in advance to limit overeating these tasty little treats – a portion is generally 1 oz (if you have a food scale) or ¼ cup
3. Eat your 1 oz of nuts with fruit or vegetables – the fiber and water from the fruit and vegetables will help you feel satisfied. Plus, you’ll get some powerful nutrients to boost your immune system and keep your heart healthy.
4. Try seasoning nuts at home – there are lots of great recipes to add flavor without adding too many extra calories. Try these recipes for ideas. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ellie-krieger/spiced-nuts-recipe/index.html, http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/eating-well/spiced-almonds-recipe/index.html
Biography Laura Foresta is a registered, licensed dietitian and nutrition coach with more than 10 years of experience in the field of nutrition. Laura provides individual and group nutritional counseling, community nutrition workshops, and corporate lunch-and-learns and wellness programming.
Many of Laura’s clients come to her after having ridden the weight loss roller coaster for years, only to come off the ride at a heavier weight and more confused than ever about what to eat. Balancing nutrition, exercise, work, and family is challenging in our fast-paced, stress-filled world. Imagine how different your life would be if you made peace with your food and your body.
It is possible to achieve your natural, healthy weight and improve your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, all while enjoying the foods you love. Laura is passionate about helping you feel more confident about your food choices and trust your ability to eat healthfully.