When it come to snacking, I’m the queen of all things crunchy and delicious, but always with a healthy twist. Chips? Not for me, but give me a bag of homemade trail mix and I’m a happy girl.
Recently, I have been absolutely nuts about nuts. What’s not to love? Crunchy and delicious on their own, or they can be jazzed up with something salty, something sweet, roasted to bring out a smokey flavor, or coated in seasonings, a little dark chocolate, or something that makes you reach for just 1 more. Not only are these little guys delicious, they are packed with heart-healthy nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, unsaturated fats, fiber, and Vitamin E.
Why reach for a handful of nuts instead of a handful of chips, chocolates, or candies? Nuts can be a blank slate for flavor, have cholesterol-lowering and heart healthy qualities, and can be a vegetarian source of protein for those of you trying to be a green, veggie machine! Just make sure you keep the portion sizes with in reason (about 1/4 cup serving)!
Today I’m going to share with you some of my favorite nutty snacks as well as ways to incorporate nuts into other quick meals and even a dessert or two! I’ll be focusing on my favorite nut, almonds, as this is the one that I incorporate most into my diet!
One of my favorite snacks is home-made trail mix. Why? First off, it is extremely versatile and can be a great way to get a salty or a sweet fix. My basic trail mix base: 1/4 cup raw almonds, 1/2 cup high-fiber cereal OR low-fat pretzels, 1-2 Tbsp raisins or dried cranberries, 1-2 Tbsp sunflower seeds. To this base, I like to switch up what I add based off of my mood or what I am craving that day. If I need something a little extra sweet, a few dark chocolate chips, banana chips, or other dried fruit may be what I add. Sometimes I throw in another nut, such as pistachios, walnuts, or pecans. If I visit a bulk foods store or one of my favorite farmers markets, I will pick up something special such as yogurt or chocolate-covered almonds to use. Other additions to consider for an added sweet or salty flavor: jordan almonds, coconut flakes, salted peanuts, or sesame sticks. No matter what you choose to add, you will know 2 things. 1. You chose the basic ingredients of your trail mix, which are a little healthier than something pre-made or mixed. 2. You are getting a dose or heart-healthy fats and fiber that are much better for you than other packaged or processed snack choices.
When I was vegetarian, I was always looking for ways to get in a little extra protein. For dairy, I have always been an almond milk fan, but this isn’t the only way that I would add almonds to my meals. Almonds, whether sliced, slivered, chopped, or whole are great salad toppers for a little added crunch to your veggies. One of my favorite summertime salads: bed of baby spinach, sliced strawberries, sliced almonds, a little goat cheese, and a basic low-fat balsamic dressing. Simple, flavorful, and tummy friendly; you are getting 4 food groups in 1 basic dish! Not vegetarian? Add a little grilled chicken or fish to this salad to add a little more heartiness and added protein.
Really, if dessert could be a basic meal along side breakfast, lunch, or dinner, I would find a way to make that happen! To indulge without added bulge, almonds typically find their way in to even my most basic desserts. For example, Blend 1-2 frozen bananas with a little unsweetened almond milk, 1 Tbsp peanut butter, and a little cinnamon for an alternative “ice cream”. Top with a 7-10 raw almonds, chopped almonds, or a flavored almond of your choice. Blend the bananas with another frozen fruit or berry instead of the peanut butter for a more fruity ice cream!
Check out a few posts from my archives for additional dessert-type/baked good recipes that incorporate almonds!
Peanut Butter Cranberry Banana Breakfast Muffins: https://nibbleonnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/easy-peanut-butter-cranberry-banana-breakast-muffins/
Berry Almond Oatmeal Bake: https://nibbleonnutrition.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/sunday-brunch-berry-almond-oatmeal-bake/
Raw Choco-Nutter Coconut Bites: https://nibbleonnutrition.wordpress.com/2014/10/05/raw-choco-nutter-coconut-bites/