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Taking A Closer Look Inside The Shell. Pistachios - A Delicious and Nutritious Snack For The Kids

Posted Feb 04 2009 11:02am
I must say that the one good thing that has come out of this peanut products recall is it has forced me to look at other options for sandwich and snack ideas for my kids, which has positively broadened their food choices as well as has exposed them to a wider variety of beneficial nutrients.

Having temporarily removed many of our peanut product staples from lunch and after-school snacks (e.g. peanut butter filled pretzels, peanut butter granola bars and peanut butter snack crackers – oh, I can go on.), I started thinking a little bit more outside the box and turned by attention inside – that is, inside the pistachio shell.

One of the biggest reasons I’ve allowed peanut butter to be the focus of my kid’s snacking is for its high level of protein and nutrient-richness. I recently discovered that pistachios deliver on these very same benefits, plus some. Here’s what I’ve learned:

Nutrient-Dense Star
The USDA recommends that our diets are primarily comprised of nutrient-dense foods, which by definition are foods that provide substantial amounts of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients as well as are relatively low calorie. Let’s just say that pistachios are one of the shining stars among nutrient-dense foods. Not only is it one of the lowest calorie nuts (160 calories per one ounce serving compared to the 180-200 calories per serving of other types of nuts, including walnuts) but pistachios are also an excellent source of Vitamin B6, copper, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium. A single serving of pistachios offer more than 30 different vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients.

High In Vegetable Protein
Along with almonds, pistachios have more protein per one ounce serving than most other nuts. Pistachios are a great way to increase the protein in our children’s diet without the over-dependence of foods high in unhealthy saturated fats, such as beef.

Heart-Healthy Fats
Almost 90% of the fat found in pistachios is unsaturated, which means it is primarily made up of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – both of which are considered the heart-healthy kind. It is believed that mono and polyunsaturated fats help to reduce blood cholesterol levels and lower the risk of heart disease, especially when they replace saturated fats in the diet. In fact, the FDA went so far to publically state:

“Scientific evidence suggests, but does not prove, that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, such as pistachios, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Did you know that pistachios are one of the highest fiber nuts? With 3 grams of dietary fiber per one ounce serving, pistachios have as much fiber as almonds, pecans and hazelnuts and more fiber than cashews and walnuts. Fiber has been proven to help manage cholesterol, control blood sugar as well as helps to keep the digestive system running smoothly. Fiber is also believed to be an important part of healthy weight management because foods rich in fiber keep you feeling satisfied and full longer – hopefully, helping you to keep the kids away from additional snacks before dinnertime.

One of the Highest Ranking Antioxidants
A study revealed that pistachios were in the highest ranking group of antioxidant capacity. Antioxidants help to protect the body from certain cancers and heart disease.

Fun to Eat
Come on, when all is said and done while all this other stuff is meaningful to you and me, kids just want to have fun! Pistachios come in its own natural wrapper, making it a fun and interactive food for kids to enjoy. Not only does the shell provide some tactile amusement for kids it is believed that it may also aid in weight management given that you must shell the nut before eating, slowing down the consumption time.

Here are a couple of examples on how to incorporate pistachios into your kids’ diet now:

  • Fill a small bowl with a single serving of unsalted shelled pistachios and watch them dig in. Learn from me – have an empty shell bowl on hand or you’ll spend the rest of the afternoon sweeping the floor.
  • Mix-up some heart-healthy granola. I like to add pistachios with dried cranberries, their flavors blend so nicely.
  • Substitute pistachios for another type of nut in your favorite muffin or quick bread recipes.
  • Sprinkle pistachios into oatmeal or yogurt.
  • For more information on the benefits of pistachios and to find recipe ideas visit

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