By Lauren Pincus, RDN
After indulging in food and drink over the December holidays, the New Year is an opportunity to hit the reset button and start with a fresh focus on your health. But which diet works best, and how do you keep from falling off the resolution wagon?
Instead of looking to begin a crash or fad diet, the better play is to create some sustainable behavior changes that will last long term. Also, instead of dwelling on what to cut or EXCLUDE from your diet, I recommend finding ways to INCLUDE more foods packed with vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, good fats and phytonutrients. By adding fruits, veggies, nuts, including peanuts, seeds, low and nonfat dairy products and lean proteins, you will tend to crowd out the less nutritious options. I find that because peanuts are high in calories, some people mistakenly think that they should not be included in a weight loss plan. That’s simply untrue. Peanuts can play a role in helping you achieve your weight and fitness goals as part of a well-balanced, calorie-controlled eating plan.
As a dietitian specializing in weight management and diabetes/prediabetes, peanuts are one of my favorite tricks of the trade because of their versatility, flavor and excellent nutrition profile. I enjoy peanuts regularly in the form of peanut butter, powdered peanut butter, shelled and unshelled peanuts and inside baked goods and desserts. One of my favorite ways to benefit from peanuts is at breakfast! As we age we lose muscle mass, and according to researchers, distributing protein evenly throughout the day can help older adults maintain more of that precious muscle.(1) This makes consuming protein at breakfast important. One of my favorite breakfast recipes featuring powdered peanut butter is a PB and J Oatmeal Breakfast Pie. Enjoy a slice with a cup of skim or 1% milk, and you will benefit from over 20 grams of protein for around 300 calories! It’s also a great post workout refuel.
People are snacking more than ever, yet many are consuming sugar laden, refined and highly processed foods that don’t provide the best nutrition. Peanuts are an excellent snack choice for those with diabetes, and according to the American Diabetes Association, “an ounce of nuts can go a long way in providing key [good] fats along with hunger management”. When working with my clients, I teach them that my idea of a perfectly designed snack includes a source of protein, good carbs, fiber and good fats. Researchers propose that this helps to curb hunger because the combination of these nutrients delays digestion.(2,3) An easy example is an apple with a spoonful of peanut butter, celery with peanut butter and dried cranberries, or a piece of whole grain toast with peanut butter and banana slices. A popular tasty and satisfying snack in my house is these Peanut Butter Raspberry Snack Squares. They are made with whole grains, no added sugar and contain only 90 calories each.
As you begin the year with a fresh start, remember that changing food and fitness habits does not happen overnight. Try taking a new small step each day towards your healthier lifestyle. Remember that peanuts can be a tasty asset in your good-for-you foods toolbox. Here are several suggestions to enjoy them as part of your balanced, nutritious diet:
Breakfast—enjoy peanut butter (or powdered peanut butter) on a whole grain waffle, in oatmeal, on a banana rolled in a whole grain wrap, added to a smoothie or stirred into Greek yogurt.
Lunch—a PB and J sandwich on whole grain bread, peanuts added to salads, or as a yogurt topping
Snacks—how about good old ants on a log, a sliced apple with peanut butter or prepared powdered peanut butter for dipping. How about my Deconstructed Chocolate Dipped Apple?
Dinner—top your salad with a peanut based salad dressing, use crushed peanuts as a coating for chicken or fish, create an Asian noodle salad with peanut sauce or add some peanuts to your stir fry.
Happy New Year and best wishes on your journey to better health and fitness. Share with us your favorite ways to enjoy peanuts!
(1) Dietary protein recommendations and the prevention of sarcopenia
Protein, amino acid metabolism and therapy
Douglas Paddon-Jones and Blake B. Rasmussen, Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2009 Jan; 12(1): 86–90. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0b013e32831cef8b
(2)Protein, weight management, and satiety
Douglas Paddon-Jones, Eric Westman, Richard D Mattes, Robert R Wolfe, Arne Astrup, and Margriet Westerterp-Plantenga, Am J Clin Nutr May 2008 vol. 87 no. 5 1558S-1561S
(3) Changes in Diet and Lifestyle and Long-Term Weight Gain in Women and Men
Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., Tao Hao, M.P.H., Eric B. Rimm, Sc.D., Walter C. Willett, M.D., Dr.P.H., and Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2011; 364:2392-2404June 23, 2011DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa1014296