Go nuts at meals and snacks! For some people, eating tree nuts and peanuts may be a tasty way to increase intake of important nutrients and other health boosters like magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, healthy fats, carotenoids, and antioxidants. Nuts can also be an excellent source of protein. They’re nutrient-packed, but they’re also calorie-packed with 160 – 200 calories per ounce. I advise my clients to include them as part of their diabetes meal plan, but limit intake to about ¼ cup or one-ounce daily. Many people enjoy them straight from the dish, but nuts can also be ingenious cooking ingredients. View the slideshow here.
Here are five of my favorite creative ways to get nutty:
Top it. Toast it.
Most nuts add crunch, so instead of salty, fatty croutons, consider topping a green salad with pecan halves, sliced almonds, chopped walnuts, or pistachios. Add authenticity to Asian stir-fries with almonds, peanuts, and cashews. Add your favorite nut to yogurt or pureed soups such as butternut squash to add tasty texture. Nuts can make a nice addition to vegetable and grain dishes too. My favorites are toasted sliced almonds over green beans, and chopped pistachios or walnuts in quinoa.
Don’t forget this easy nut tip: toasting accentuates flavor. To toast nuts, arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake them at 350°F for five to fifteen minutes, watching closely. Stir them or shake the pan often to prevent burning. They’re done when they’ve turned golden.
Coat fish and chicken.
Forget about traditional breading with cornmeal or flour. Before cooking, coat chicken or fish in chopped nuts or nut meal mixed with some breadcrumbs. Nut meal, also called nut flour, is simply nuts that have been finely ground. You might find almond meal or another ground nut in the supermarket, but you can also make your own by placing nuts into a food processor and pulsing until finely ground. Don’t process too long, or you’ll end up with nut butter!
Here are some of my favorite meal combinations:
- Almond meal, breadcrumbs, and OLD BAY1 seasonings with tilapia or other mild white fish
- Chopped walnuts, breadcrumbs, dill, and lemon zest with salmon
- Pistachio meal, breadcrumbs, mustard, and dill with skinless, boneless chicken breasts
I also like to make my own nut butters. I start with either raw or toasted nuts and process until I have the consistency I like. You can add sweet spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cloves; even cayenne or chili pepper, if you like a bit of heat. I enjoy almond butter on thinly sliced tart apples, peanut butter on whole grain cinnamon raisin bread, and walnut butter stirred into oatmeal. Hazelnuts and cashews work this way, as well.
Thicken sauces and stews and replace other fats.
Consider replacing dairy fats in sauces and stews by flavoring and thickening them with nut butters or ground nuts. Learn more about fats here. A few to try:
- Mix peanut butter or ground peanuts into chicken stew, or ground hazelnuts into lamb stew.
- Blend ground walnuts or cashews into pumpkin soup.
- Combine ground walnuts with nonfat milk to thicken mushroom soup.
- Stir almond or peanut butter into Asian stir-fry sauces.
- Whisk one cup of water with ¼ cup cashew butter to substitute for heavy cream in pasta dishes.
- Replace some of the oil in salad dressing with ground walnuts or pistachios.
Many nuts are low in carbohydrate, and therefore may make a good snack on their own. If your snack has room for additional carbohydrate, you can mix nuts with other ingredients for a personalized trail mix. Depending on my mood, I toss them with dried fruit, mini chocolate chips, popcorn, dry cereal, wasabi peas, pretzel pieces, crystallized ginger, or any favorite ingredient in my cupboard. Try it yourself – you can have a unique trail mix everyday!
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE*, is the author of Diabetes Weight Loss Week by Week, contributing editor for Environmental Nutrition, and has written for many publications including EatingWell, Diabetic Living, Her Sports + Fitness, and LifeScript. Weisenberger is a paid contributor for The DX. All opinions contained in this article reflect those of the contributor, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies, or affiliates.
*“Certified Diabetes Educator” and “CDE” are certification marks owned and registered by the National Certification Board for Diabetes Educators (NCBDE). NCBDE is not affiliated in any way with Sanofi US. NCBDE does not sponsor or endorse any diabetes-related products or services.
1 OLD BAY is a registered trademark.
© 2013 The DX: The Diabetes Experience