On the Table

Healthy options for pecan time

September 25, 2012 


Roasted nuts, in this case spiced and salted pecans, make for a quick snack. Pecans can be used in a variety of recipes.


We’re entering pecan season in the pecan capital of the world – the South.

And just as I was preparing to write a column about my favorite nut, I noticed an uptick in pecan recipes appearing in newspapers and magazines. There’s even a new book out simply titled “Pecans” by my friend and colleague, Charlotte Observer food editor Kathleen Purvis.

We’re pecan-crazy around here, and that’s OK.

Pecans are good for you. They’re technically a fruit, but the nutty interior is rich-tasting and nutritious.

Pecans are a good source of protein, dietary fiber, thiamin and several minerals. They’re sodium-free, too, unless you buy the salted varieties.

All nuts are high in calories, so the best way to enjoy them is to add them to foods in small amounts for crunch and flavor. One-quarter cup of pecans contains about 200 calories.

You can use in a variety of ways. Here are some examples that are better for you than calorie-packed pecan pie and pralines:

• Add chopped pecans to hot or cold cereals. They go well in oatmeal, multigrain hot cereals and in granola and whole-grain flake cereals.

• Toss them into green salads. Chopped pecans also go well in cabbage or broccoli slaw and in Waldorf salad as a change of pace from walnuts.

• Cook chopped pecans into rice pilaf and other casseroles.

• Add them to breads, muffins, pancake and waffle batters.

• Sprinkle chopped pecans over rice pudding or mix them with oatmeal, flour, cinnamon and trans-fat free margarine to make a crumbly topping for apple, pear or peach crisp.

Keep shelled pecans cold to prevent them from oxidizing and going rancid. They should stay fresh for several months in the refrigerator or up to two years in the freezer.

Resist the temptation to buy large quantities at warehouse stores unless you use a lot of them or have enough space to store them in your freezer. I prefer to buy one-pound bags or smaller and replace them with fresh more often.

When it comes to this most Southern of nuts, you can indulge with confidence.

Suzanne Havala Hobbs is a registered dietitian and clinical associate professor in the departments of Health Policy and Management and Nutrition in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Send questions and comments to suzanne@onthetable.net.

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