Go nuts eating (and gifting) this holiday, spiced nut mix

It’s the holiday season, and the shelves of food stores everywhere advertise seasonal versions of nut mixes, chocolates, candy bark, etc. Seeing how the original, pre-packaged snack mixes are loaded with sodium and sugar, you can imagine that the holiday mixes only serve to kick those up a few notches.

I’m not going to lie to you. I go crazy for a popcorn tin, consoling myself with the knowledge that I am never gifted more than one a year. I do, however, draw the [waist] line at the pre-packaged nut mixes. Even most trail mixes (toted as being healthy) are similar to a bag of peanut M&M’s. I can’t imagine the trail you’d need to hike to blast that many calories.

Nuts are packed with great stuff your body needs, such as omega-3 fatty acids, protein, vitamin E, B and folate; unfortunately, roasting them in oil and sugar turns them into something closer to candy than a smart, nutritional snack.

When it comes to nut mixes, it’s best to make your own.

Your mix doesn’t have to last through transportation and time on a shelf in a store, so you can enjoy the same flavor without all the preservatives your body doesn’t need.

Pick up a variety of raw nuts (unsalted), dried fruit, semi-sweet morsels and cheerios, and mix up a batch of trail mix that doesn’t have a full coating of oil, sugar and salt.

To enjoy a holiday nut mix that is also great as a gift, use the recipe below.My sister shared it with me, and it is delicious. It does end up ‘roasted and coated,’ which I poopooed earlier, so I recommend that you enjoy it in moderation, but as long as you keep/share it as a seasonal treat, you can enjoy it just as I will my popcorn tin. In fact, I think you’ll win the nutritional prize over me. There is no telling what they put in that popcorn!

Holiday Nut Mix

  • 2 cups unsalted, raw nuts and seeds (walnuts, pecans, almonds, cashews, peanuts, pumpkin seeds)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1.5 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt, cayenne and cinnamon

Pre-heat oven to 300F. Mix honey, sugar, butter and seasonings. Add nuts and mix well o coat. Scrape onto a 9×13, buttered pan so they are evenly spread. Bake for 2-=25 minutes, shaking pan often. Nuts are done when their skins are golden brown. Scrape nuts onto buttered foil or wax paper and let cool for 15 mins. Break apart, serve, or separate into tins/boxes to gift.

What can I eat? Snack on this

When you initially make the decision to eat healthier, it’s easy to feel limited. You look over the list of “can’t eats” and wonder, what can I eat?

The hardest thing to manage is snacking, so I have compiled a list of snacks you CAN eat without sabotaging your mission.

First, when you start to feel hungry, go drink a glass of water or skim milk. Make yourself wait another two minutes, then decide if you’re still hungry. Often times we mistake thirst for hunger.

A couple of things to keep in mind when choosing snacks are food label awareness and moderation.

It’s great to have the 100 calorie pack options, but you should still look and see where those 100 calories are coming from. If you’re getting a ton of sugar, salt, hydrogenated oils, etc., you’re better off getting 200 calories from something that is good for you. Empty, highly processed calories won’t hold you as long, and you’ll end up needing more food sooner.

Be careful when buying trail mix, too. If the nuts have been roasted in oil and salt, the fruit has been dried and rolled in sugar, and they’ve added chocolate, you may as well just eat a candy bar. I make my own mix at home with dark chocolate chips, raw nuts, a small amount of dried fruit and low-fat granola or Cheerios; then I separate it into snack size Ziploc bags so I have manageable portions on hand.

We are all guilty of messing up a good thing when it comes to snacking. We add mayonnaise to tuna, caramel to apples, salt and butter to popcorn, creamy dressing to freshly cut vegetables, etc. If you must have these things, bring/add them in serving-size portions. Free pouring/dipping can get you in a world of trouble. My mom used to say, “A second on the lips; forever on the hips.”

It should go without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. Pay attention to what you are putting in your mouth. We put so much energy and thought into what we wear on the outside, yet we mindlessly shovel food into our bodies.

Without further ado, here are some snacking options you can feel good about.

Good snack choices

  • Almonds (about 20, raw)
  • Olives (5 – too many and you get too much sodium)
  • Lean cold cuts wrapped around low-fat string cheese
  • Vegetables dipped in hummus (2-4 Tbsps to keep fat down)
  • Low-fat cottage cheese
  • Low-fat yogurt with 1/4 cup low-fat muesli or granola and berries
  • Apple or banana with 1-2 Tbsps peanut butter
  • Celery with 1-2 Tbsps peanut butter
  • Berries and light cool whip
  • Frozen grapes
  • Apple sauce
  • Hard boiled eggs