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Healthy Eats and Repeat

Highlighting Food, Recipes, and Ideas for a Healthy Lifestyle
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Nuts: Nutritious and Delicious

Posted by Caitlin Mellendorf - nuts

Are you nuts for nuts? If so, you probably have some favorites. Maybe pecans or walnuts? Peanuts or almonds? Fortunately, no matter your favorite, nuts are a great food choice!


Nuts pack a lot of nutrients into their little selves. A quarter cup is about a serving size for most nuts and contains around 200 calories, 14-18g fat, 5-7g protein, and 2-4g fiber. While high in fat, nuts contain mostly heart-healthy unsaturated fat, so you can feel good about those you pop in your mouth. Just keep the portion size small to limit calories.

Nuts are also a source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin E, some B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, potassium, and iron. Unless nuts are salted or flavored, they are not a significant source of sodium and naturally contain few carbohydrates.

Dry, unsalted nuts are your best bet for maximizing nutrition of nuts. Processed nuts – salted, roasted, flavored, or nut butters – tend to have extra ingredients that change their nutritional profile. Make sure to read labels.

  • Buy: Most nuts you can buy are sold in bags or sealed containers, so it is difficult to use your usual senses to decide if you got a good nut. Check for an expiration date on the package and use within that time. If buying processed nuts, look for those with little added salt or sugar and no partially hydrogenated oils (a.k.a. trans fats).
  • Price: In general, nuts are expensive. Buying larger packages can cut down on the unit price (such as cents per ounce or pound), but make sure you plan to use the nuts in a timely manner before they start to go rancid.

Fall is a great time of year to find good deals on tree nuts as they begin to be harvested. Summer is when you will find lower prices on peanuts, a ground nut (technically legume).

  • Store: Most nuts can be stored at room temperature for several weeks and months. Nuts can also be refrigerated or frozen for more long-term storage. Follow any storage recommendations on the package. For example, many "natural" peanut butters recommend refrigeration for general storage.
  • Prepare: Unless the nuts are in the shell, simply open the package and eat. To cut nuts into smaller pieces, add nuts to a food processor or clean coffee grinder and pulse until you reach the desired size pieces. Or place in a sealed bag and lightly pound with the side of a meat mallet. If the nuts are in the shell, use a nutcracker carefully to remove the nut inside.
  • Eat: With so many varieties, use nuts in all sorts of ways. Eat as a snack, top on a salad, mix into baked goods, spread nut butters on toast or slices of fruit, and in other sweet and savory dishes. Remember, nuts rack up the calories quickly, so be mindful of your portion size!

Reference: US Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service, National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference

Looking for a holiday appetizer to serve? Or a gift that is safe and easy to ship? Try the spice nut recipe below!

Spiced Nuts (serves 12)

A simple snack of nuts can really hit the spot. This spiced nut recipe and its photos are courtesy of fellow Extension Educator, Elizabeth Verzo, serving Cook County.

3 cups assorted nuts, unsalted and unroasted
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp each curry powder, ground ginger, ground allspice, ground cinnamon, dried thyme
1/8 tsp cayenne (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp salt
Cooking spray
1. Preheat oven to 200°F.
2. Place nuts in a medium-sized bowl. Add the maple syrup and spices and salt and toss to combine.
3. Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray. Then transfer coated nuts to baking sheet and spread evenly in 1 layer.
4. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, stirring once, until nuts are fragrant and lightly toasted.

Nutritional analysis per serving: 200 calories, 19g fat, 50mg sodium, 5g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 4g protein

WEB HIGHLIGHT 1: From the "Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious" blog, learn to make your own nut butter from fellow Educator, Jenna Smith.

WEB HIGHLIGHT 2: Learn how to toast nuts from this kitchen clip from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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