Eating a healthy breakfast provides energy to start the day and is important for weight control. In children, a healthy breakfast is essential for proper growth and development and is linked to improved attention and learning in school. Breakfast is often thought of as the most important meal of the day, for good reason. Unfortunately, many common breakfast foods are more similar to candy and soda than a healthy meal to start the day.
I call this idea that unhealthy food makes its way onto our breakfast table Candy & Soda for Breakfast. And it’s not just breakfast, either. Lunch, dinner, and snacks frequently include foods that look like a healthy choice but really are candy and soda in disguise. One example is nuts, which can be a healthy snack… or candy in disguise.
Eating nuts can be a tasty way to make your diet more healthy. Nuts are beneficial because they are rich in healthy unsaturated fats, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Nuts also contain omega-3 fats and natural plant sterols which, together, may help lower your blood cholesterol and reduce your risk of heaving a heart attack.
Although the specific nutrients vary among different nuts, all nuts are thought to be healthy. This includes tree nuts such as almonds, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and pecans, which have the most research to support their health benefits. But it also includes peanuts, which are actually legumes (like beans), not true nuts.
Keep in mind that you should focus on eating plain nuts to get the biggest benefits. Many nuts have added flavors in the form of coatings, glazes, and seasonings, which may be high in sugar and salt. Honey roasted peanuts and chocolate covered almonds are good examples of nuts that are essentially candy. These types of nuts should be eaten sparingly and for dessert, not as a snack. Check it out:
Plain almonds contain 160 calories with 14 g fat, 1 g sugar, 3 g fiber, and 6 g protein per 28 g (1 ounce) serving [source: Emerald Nuts Natural Almonds]. The fats are almost all healthy unsaturated fats with no trans fats. No question, plain almonds are a healthy snack or addition to any meal.
Many people consume almonds that are flavored or have sweet coatings. While these contain the beneficial nutrients of plain almonds, they also contain added salt and sugar. For example, honey glazed almonds have 140 calories with 10 g fat, 8 g sugar, 2 g fiber, and 4 g protein per 28 g (1 ounce) serving [source: Emerald Nuts Honey Glazed Almonds]. That’s a lot of added sugar, which makes sense considering that sugar appears in four forms in the list of ingredients: sugar, tapioca syrup, sugar cane syrup, and dehydrated honey. The glaze is almost pure sugar and almost none of it is actually honey!
If you are curious why the honey glazed almonds have less fat, fiber, and protein compared to the plain almonds, this is why: The glaze makes the almonds heavier so there are fewer almonds per 28 g serving. Since the fat, fiber, and protein are in the almond itself, not the glaze, fewer almonds means less of these nutrients.
The honey glazed almonds are essentially candy-coated nuts. But since they would be right next to plain almonds on the shelf, it is reasonable that someone might think of them as a healthy option to the plain version. They aren’t. But at least they aren’t as bad as candy that contains almonds…or are they?
Chocolate covered almonds are delicious! But they also contain 158 calories with 15 g fat, 12 g sugar, 1 g fiber, and 3 g protein per 28 g (1 ounce) serving [source: Dove Milk Chocolate Almonds]. If you look at the ingredients you will see lots of added sugar, which is no surprise considering they are covered in candy!
What may be surprising is that the honey glazed almonds similar to the chocolate coated almonds in terms of added sugar. Another important point is the serving sizes. A 28 g serving of plain almonds contains about 28 nuts, about 1/4 cup or a small handful. There are fewer honey glazed almonds in the same serving size and there are only 9–10 of the chocolate covered almonds in one serving! How many people would stop after 10 almonds?
Based on this, plain almonds are an excellent snack. Even though chocolate covered and honey glazed almonds are essentially candy, they do have almonds inside, which makes them a better choice than many other candies or snacks. But don’t fool yourself, neither are the same as eating plain almonds!