Full of protein and heart-healthy fats, nuts are perfect for snacking on the go – but you can use them to add nutrition to a variety of dishes, too. Try these ideas
1. Nutty cereal
Add a handful of unsalted nuts to homemade muesli, porridge or a simple bowl of bran flakes for a hit of natural heart-healthy fats (try our quick porridge recipe). Try hazelnuts, flaked almonds or chopped Brazils and pecans.
2. Crunchy greens
Liven up steamed green beans by tossing them with 1tsp olive oil, a little orange zest, 30g toasted flaked almonds and some ground black pepper.
3. Super spread
Some shop-bought peanut butters contain a lot of sugar and additives, but it’s easy to make a healthy version: blend raw or unsalted roasted nuts, such as almonds or cashews, in a food processor until a paste forms, adding a little water if needed.
4. Milk alternative
Almond milk has a sweet, nutty flavour and low sugar content and makes a great dairy-free accompaniment to cereal. To make your own, soak 125g almonds in water overnight, then drain. Blend with 500ml fresh water, then strain through muslin. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and use within five days.
5. Breakfast bars
Making your own gives you control over the amount of fat, sugar and salt breakfast bars contain. To make 16 (143kcal, 7.1g fat, 1.2g saturates, 11.5g sugar and 0.1g salt each), heat the oven to 180°C/fan 160°C/gas 4. In a mixing bowl, combine 125g rolled oats, 50g sunflower seeds, 100g chopped nuts, 150g chopped dried fruit and 1tsp ground cinnamon. Melt 100g honey with 60g low-fat spread in a small pan, then mix into the dry ingredients. Add a beaten egg and stir to combine. Spoon the mixture into a 20x20cm tin lined with baking paper, then bake for 20–25 min until golden and firm. Cool, then cut into bars.
6. Almond pesto
In a food processor, blend ½ garlic clove with 3 handfuls of fresh basil. Add 50g lightly toasted almonds, 50g grated parmesan and 150ml olive oil and whiz again to combine. Season with black pepper, then stir into cooked wholewheat pasta or use to top white fish or chicken before grilling.
7. Cashew stir-fry
Lightly toast a handful of cashew nuts, then roughly chop and scatter over meat or vegetable stir-fries to add extra texture and protein.
8. Fish topping
For a healthy alternative to battered fish, cook fish fillets in a nut crust. In a food processor, whiz together 4tbsp hazelnuts, 2 shallots, 1 garlic clove, 2tbsp chopped fresh parsley, the juice of 1 lime and 1tsp mustard. Spread the mixture over 4 firm white fish fillets, then bake in a medium oven for 15–20 min until the crust is golden and the fish cooked through.
9. Spicy snack
In a bowl, mix together 100g each unsalted almonds, macadamias, cashews and peanuts. Add 1tsp ground five-spice, ¼tsp chilli powder, 3tbsp reduced-salt soy sauce and 1tsp sesame oil. Spread over a baking tray and bake in a medium oven for 15 min, then remove and allow to cool. Store in an airtight container, but pop 30g (around 2tbsp) into a sealable bag and keep it in your desk drawer for a healthy snack.
10. Salad of substance
Scatter chopped unsalted nuts over salads for crunch. Because they contain a mixture of fibre and protein, they help turn a simple salad into a more substantial meal, helping you feel fuller for longer.
What’s great about nuts?
Nuts are a nutrient-rich way of snacking. ‘Brazil nuts are one of the richest food sources of selenium, cashews are rich in iron, hazelnuts are a super-source of vitamin E, and walnuts are good providers of omega-3 fats,’ says nutrition editor Amanda Ursell. ‘But it’s almonds that hold one of the most intriguing benefits. Studies show the combination of fibre in the skin and protein in the nut has a strong satiating effect. Nuts are high in fat and therefore calories, so stick to a portion of one 30g handful (2tbsp),’ says Amanda. ‘Most of the fat they contain is the heart-healthy polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, however. Plus, a study has shown up to 20% of the fat and 37 of the 184kcal in a 30g handful aren’t absorbed by the body, due to the make-up of the nut’s cells.’