Nuts are the ultimate snack food: They pack loads of nutrients and so much satisfaction into "every handful. But they're more than a midday munch-hence, these delicious recipes.

Some people are too shell-shocked by the high calorie count of nuts to appreciate their many redeeming qualities. But these tiny powerhouses are jam-packed with just about everything an active woman needs: belly-filling fiber and protein, a host of vitamins and antioxidants, and heart-healthy fats. A little goes a long way - that’s why these four recipes use measured amounts to make every nutty bite count.

Dark Chocolate and Pistachio Bark

This salty-sweet combo gives you a double shot of antioxidants, and research has found that pistachios may help lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.

Dark Chocolate and Pistachio Bark

·         1 ½ cups semisweet chocolate chips

·         ½ cup shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

·         Pinch of salt

Melt chocolate in a double boiler or microwave. Stir in pistachios and salt. Pour onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and spread to 6-inch thickness. Refrigerate for 20 minutes or until completely firm. Peel the parchment off the hardened mixture and break into pieces.

Makes 10 Servings, per serving: 160 cal, 10g fat (5 g sat), 18g carb, 30 mg sodium. 2 g protein, 2g fiber

Herbed Hazelnuts

Tossing together this savory concoction could be a smart move. Hazelnuts are one of the top sources of vitamin E, an antioxidant that may help thwart brain drain as you age.

Herbed Hazelnuts

·         1 Tbsp chopped

·         fresh rosemary

·         1 Tbsp chopped

·         fresh thyme

·         ¼ tsp smoked paprika

·         ¼ tsp sea salt

·         1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil

·         1¼ cups shelled, Unsalted hazelnuts

·         1 tsp light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350° F. In a bowl, combine herbs, paprika, salt, and oil. Add hazelnuts and toss to coat. Spread nuts on a baking tray in a single layer and roast for 10 to 12 minutes, until browned. Remove nuts from the oven, toss with brown sugar, and serve.

Makes 5 Servings, per serving: 280 cal, 27 g fat (2 g sat), 8 g carbs, 80 mg sodium, 6g protein, 4 g fiber

Spicy Tom Yum Peanuts

A handful of this snack mix has all the flavors of a belly-warming Thai soup plus a dose of niacin, a form of vitamin B3 that may help lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

Spicy Tom Yum Peanuts

·         ¼ cups shelled, unsalted peanuts

·         1 tsp ground ginger

·         ¾ tsp garlic powder

·         ½ tsp onion powder

·         1/­­8 tsp cayenne pepper

·         1 tsp fish sauce

·         ¼ tsp sea salt

·         1 ½ Tbsp finely

·         chopped cilantro

Preheat oven to 350°F. Toss peanuts with all other ingredients except cilantro. Spread nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes, until browned. Toss with cilantro and serve.

Makes 5 Servings, per serving; 220 cal, 18 g fat (2.5 g sat), 9 g carbs, 170 mg sodium, 9g protein, 3 g fiber

Almond Horchata

It’s about time this popular Spanish power drink caught on here: Full of muscle-building protein, it’s a great vegan source of calcium.

Almond Horchata

·         ¼ cup blanched whole almonds

·         ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk

·         1 tsp fresh lime juice

·         1/­­8 tsp ground nutmeg

·         1/­­8 tsp ground cinnamon

Cinnamon stick (optional) Place first five ingredients in a blender and blend until creamy. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth and serve over ice. Garnish with cinnamon stick or ground spices.

Makes 1 Serving, per serving: 240 cal, 20 g fat (1.5 g sat), 9g carbs, 140 mg sodium, 8 g protein, 4 g fiber.

Spread ‘em!

Making your own nut butter is easier than you may think and the result won’t be loaded down with a lot of oil or artificial ingredients. Try this recipe with your favorite nut or experiment with the pairings below. Place 1/4 cups shelled, unsalted, roasted nuts in a food processor or blender with ‘/ teaspoon salt and pulse until finely ground. Then, with the processor running, slowly add 2 tablespoons vegetable, canola, or peanut oil in a steady stream until the desired consistency is reached. If you like chunks, add ½cup chopped nuts to the finished butter.

Cashew butter

Cashew butter

Spread on toast and top with sliced bananas.

Hazelnut Butter

Stir in ¼ cup melted chocolate for a delicious fruit dip.

Walnut butter

Spread onto crackers with a dollop of pesto and sliced mozzarella cheese.

Almond butter

Try it on crostini topped with prosciutto or ham.

Pine nut butter

Spread on crusty toasted bread topped with ricotta cheese and pomegranate seeds.

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