Calories: The downside of nuts (and seeds) is that, ounce for ounce, they’re more caloric than meat, chicken or fish. An ounce of walnuts (that’s 14 halves) has 190 calories; an ounce of roasted chicken breast has 46 calories. So even that ounce-equivalent ½-ounce of walnuts has 95 calories, twice as many as the chicken. To fit nuts in your diet, you need to exercise portion control, keep track of calories and use them as a replacement for other protein sources, not an addition. Looking for the biggest protein punch for your calories? Try pistachios: At 160 calories per ounce (about 49 kernels), they deliver six grams of protein, according to the International Tree Nut Council. An ounce of almonds has the same calorie and protein count, but you get to eat only 23 whole nuts.
Sodium: By “nuts and seeds,” the guidelines do not mean those salty treats you snack on at bars. Stick to unsalted nuts or, for an occasional treat, those labeled “lightly salted.”
Allergies: According to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, about 1.2 percent of the U.S. population has a tree nut allergy, and about the same percentage of U.S. children has peanut allergies. Many people with peanut allergies are also allergic to one or more kind of tree nut. But many people outgrow these early in life, often by age 6, according to that organization. Because nut allergies can be life-threatening, people who have them should steer far clear of nuts and find alternate protein sources. Those who don’t eat animal-based foods might be able to rely on soy products and beans, though many people are allergic to those, too.
— One tablespoon of peanut butter counts as an ounce equivalent of protein and has about 95 calories. Be sure to measure; it’s easy to go overboard on p.b.! For a change of pace, try almond butter.
— Look in the grocery store for prepackaged 100-calorie packs of almonds. One package is just over half (.63) an ounce. Or buy nuts in bulk and count out your portion into a snack-size plastic bag.
— Ternus suggests you store nuts in a “cool, dry place. I keep all mine in the freezer,” she says, where they will keep for up to a year. If you store them in the pantry, they may go rancid because of their fat content, she says. “They’ll stay fresh for up to a year in your freezer,” Ternus notes. Exception: shell-on pistachios. If you keep them in the freezer, the moisture trapped by the shells will cause them to go bad.
— Toast them. “Toasting brings out more flavor,” without damaging the nutrients, Ternus says.
— Rihane suggests adding nuts to oatmeal, yogurt and dishes made with brown rice or quinoa. “Add them to salad to make it a meal,” she suggests. Or “mix some unsalted nuts or seeds with dried fruit in a baggie to take on a trip” for a snack. However you use them, though, be sure to account for their calories in your daily total, she says.
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