Nuts to You ... And All Your Friends

By Nancy Berkoff

Have had questions from readers about including nuts on the menu, in terms of fat.

Nuts add fiber, provide protein, and, depending on the nut, add different vitamins and minerals. Nuts are concentrated sources of fat and calories.  Nuts contain very small amounts of saturated fats, less than full-fat dairy and some meat products.  The fat in nuts is the “good” kind, the mono- and polyunsaturated type. Since there needs to be some fat in most diets, ranging from 15-30 percent of total daily calories, healthy menu planning can include various forms of nuts every day… but we should keep it to a handful or so. In other words, nuts contain healthy fat.. but it is still fat, with lots of calories, so a balance is important.

 Before we launch into our nut ideas, we do need to say a word about nut allergies. Some people are VERY allergic to nuts and need to take this into consideration, being very attentive label readers.

We’ve also had questions as to whether soy “nuts” are truly nuts. Soy nuts are simply roasted soybeans. They do have a nutty flavor and can be used where true nuts, such as pistachios or walnuts, are usually used. We will cautiously say that if someone does not have a soy allergy, they should be okay with soy nuts. Of course, you’d have to check what type of oil was used to roast the soy. If it was peanut oil, someone with nut allergies could be in trouble!

Here are some ideas for adding a reasonable amount of nuts to the menu:

 Add to salad dressings, such as basil walnut vinaigrette, creamy (for extra nutrients, consider pureed soft tofu) salad dressings with almonds, mustard and dill with chopped pine nuts

Add to sandwiches: Chopped walnuts, almonds, peanuts and pecans add a toasty flavor and extra texture to grilled vegetable sandwiches, falafel and hummus. Or add chopped nuts to smooth peanut, almond or soy butter to make a crunchy sandwich.

Use as garnish to increase protein, flavor and texture: Add to bean and rice casseroles, baked potato bars, hot and cold cereal, baking batters, puddings or sorbet sundaes

Add to pasta: Top tomato-sauced pasta with chopped almonds or pine nuts, creamy-sauced pastas with walnuts or pecans or toss pasta with olive oil, sautéed garlic and chopped almonds.

Add to sauces: Stir peanut butter or soy butter into mushroom sauces for a Thai effect, add ground almonds or pine nuts to creamy sauces and pecans or pistachios to fruit sauces.

Add to breakfast: Baked apples, oatmeal, hot cereals, cold cereals and muffins can all benefit from a variety of chopped nuts

 Nutrition Note: About 1 ½ ounces of most nuts or 2 tablespoons of nut butter has about 4 grams of protein or about 8 % of the Daily Reference Value for protein.


With numerous years in health care and education, Nancy Berkoff, RD, CCE, would love for readers to ask food and nutrition-related questions:


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