If you’re looking for a nutritional powerhouse in a small package, a handful of nuts might be your best option for a healthy snack.
Overall, you’d be hard-pressed to find another food group with such a well-rounded and nutrient-packed profile. Walnuts, pecans, almonds, peanuts and cashews contain a wealth of energy source for their tiny size. The high calorie count found in all nuts is offset by the near universal array of nutrients contained in all varieties, such as mono-saturated fats, which help support healthy cholesterol levels, dietary fiber, and high amounts of both vitamin E and B-complex vitamins, along with a rich mineral content, plus being an excellent source of protein. Nuts are naturally gluten-free, and, ground into flour, can be used as an alternative to wheat flour for baking.
It’s not at all surprising that nuts have made their way from the snack aisle and bulk bins to the dishes found in your favorite restaurants. Here are samples of nuts found in our area (locations listed on page 47).
Pecans are rich in important B vitamins and minerals, as well as having a high level of antioxidants such as vitamin E, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin. Granite City Food & Brewery offers a candied pecan pork chop, finished with caramel sauce and served with broccoli ($22.95). The cranberry jumble cookie at Great Harvest Bread Company pairs dried cranberries with white chocolate and pecans in an irresistible treat ($1.50). Roasted Pear presents caramelized pecans on their citrus seared salmon salad—mixed greens with salmon, tomato, red onion, strawberries, mandarin oranges and feta cheese ($14.99, lunch; $16.99, dinner).
The spinach salad at Roasted Pear also comes topped with caramelized pecans, covering spinach with roasted pears, gorgonzola, and served with a balsamic vinaigrette ($10.99). Pecans also figure prominently in the desserts on their menu, including bread pudding, coated with a delectable pecan butter glaze ($4.50) and the chocolate truffle turtle cake, layered with pecans and rich caramel sauce ($6.50). You’ll find spinach salad at 3 Squares Restaurant as well, served with apple, cucumber, Parmesan and brie cheese, and topped with pecans and cider vinaigrette ($10.50). Finally, pecans are toasted at Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburger, and then sprinkled liberally on the turtle sundae with caramel and hot fudge.
(The citrus seared salmon salad at Roasted Pear features caramelized pecans.)
Peanuts are a rich source of resveratrol, an antioxidant that studies show might help reduce the risk of stroke, cancer, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease. A good source of protein, peanuts contain the B vitamins folate and niacin.
Thai food is well known for use of peanuts in its dishes. Sawatdee & Zushiya have multiple menu items that contain peanuts, such as rama Thai delight, pairing your choice of protein in a thick peanut curry sauce served on a base of spinach ($12.29-$15.59 based on protein choice). Peanuts top their papaya salad ($8.29) and the silver thread noodle salad ($8.99). Fiery massamun curry pairs protein with potatoes with a peanut topping ($12.29-$15.59) and peanuts dot the deliciously addictive dipping sauce for the fresh spring rolls ($6.99) and chicken satay ($7.99).
You’ll find peanuts as well at Cherry Berry Self-Serve Yogurt, readily available to pour over your choice of endless varieties of frozen yogurt ($.48/ounce).
With a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are an excellent addition to a healthy diet. Just 25 grams provides up to 90 percent of the recommended daily intake of Omega-3, and six to seven walnuts a day have enough antioxidant power to help scavenge free-radicals from the body. Their rich taste adds deep flavor when tossed on salads or used in baked goods. The Roasted Pear includes walnuts in its stuffed chicken breast—a tempura-coated breast with bacon, cranberries, sautéed spinach and mozzarella cheese ($18.99, dinner menu only). Walnuts are also included in the roasted beet salad, with tender spring greens with dried cranberries, gorgonzola cheese, fresh pear and avocado ($10.99, lunch only), as well as the Roasted Pear wrapper, stuffed with chicken salad, grapes, roasted red pepper, barbecue sauce, mayo and provolone ($11.99). And of course, their classic carrot cake also contains walnuts ($6.50).
You’ll find candied walnuts on multiple menu items at 3 Squares, such as their bison burger made with grass-fed meat and topped with dried cranberries, blue cheese, honey aioli and spring mix ($12.95). A delicious poached pear tops the pear salad, served with apple, spring mix, gorgonzola cheese and a cider vinaigrette ($11.95). For the heartier appetite, 3 Squares offers a penne gorgonzola pasta with chicken, garlic, spinach and cream ($12.95).
If you’re looking to bump up your sandwich profile with a nutty, delicious bread, look no further than Great Harvest Bread Company. They pair rich, meaty walnuts with cranberries in a popular cranberry walnut bread, available year-round on Wednesdays ($6.75).
Almonds are becoming a mainstream staple. They are found in all manner of food products and are increasingly popular as an alternative to both dairy milks and wheat-based products. High in protein, vitamin E, B complex vitamins and minerals, their mild taste and satisfying crunch make for a terrific snack.
Almond brittle tops the beet salad at 3 Squares Restaurant, giving a sweet taste to the earthy beets tossed with spring greens, spinach, arugula, oranges, and goat cheese, drizzled with an herb vinaigrette ($11.95, add $4 for protein). And Freddy’s Frozen Custard has almonds to add crunch to your creamy custard treats as well.
The buttery taste of cashews add great contrast to food. Cashews have a high calorie content, but are rich in soluble fiber and minerals, especially zea-xanthin, an antioxidant that supports eye health.
Sawatdee & Zushiya offers a cashew stir fry, thick with onion, mushroom and water chestnuts, with a protein of choice and topped with big pieces of cashew ($12.29-$17.99). Add cashews to your frozen yogurt at Freddy’s, and make the rich taste even richer.
- Sawatdee & Zushiya Restaurant // 7885 Main St.
- Cherry Berry Self-Serve Yogurt // 11630 Fountains Drive
- Great Harvest Bread Company // 13714 Grove Drive
- Roasted Pear // 9690 Colorado Lane, Brooklyn Park
- 3 Squares Restaurant // 12690 Arbor Lakes Pkwy.
- Granite City Food & Brewery // 11909 Main St.
- Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburger // 11600 Fountains Drive