The criteria for being considered a “gluten-free staple” for GIG’s series on this topic are convenience, versatility, and nutrition. In addition, of course, to working well in a gluten-free diet. All these are characteristics of a food that make it well worth keeping on hand and enjoying on a regular basis when you’re living gluten-free. There’s no doubt that almonds fit the bill on all counts, so read on to find out just why almonds deserve a regular spot in your pantry.
Almonds are tough to beat on the convenience factor. No cooking or prep work required before consumption, after all. In addition, whole shelled almonds will keep stored in a cool location for up to a year or more, and can be frozen for even longer. So right off the bat, grocery shopping and stocking your pantry are simplified: get the amount that seems right for you, and you’re set for a good long time. Having a pantry (and/or freezer) stocked with versatile and nutritious foods like almonds can do a lot towards streamlining your shopping and food prep routines. Store almonds whole in airtight containers, and away from direct sunlight. If chopped almonds are desired for a specific dish or recipe, cut only the amount to be used when you need them, since they keep better whole. Almonds’ shelf-life can work in your favor beyond the pantry too. Keep some in a snack stash at work, in a briefcase, or in the car. Whole almonds are sturdier than some other nuts, so will hold up well, even if jostled around in the bottom of a bag or glove compartment. Keeping a small stash on hand means you’ve always got a satiating snack available when hunger strikes, or if unforeseen circumstances arise and you’re in need of something gluten-free.
Almonds can swing either sweet or savory, and can be simply and deliciously incorporated into any eating occasion, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner; dessert, snack or appetizer. By simply varying the form (whole, sliced, slivered, or chopped), get appealing textural variety and make the nut more suited to different dishes and uses.
Breakfast. Add a small handful of chopped or slivered almonds to yogurt, cereal, or a yogurt-fruit parfait. Great way to add flavor, satisfying crunch and extra protein. No time to sit down? Mix up a bag of slivered or whole almonds, dried fruit, and your favorite dry cereal and you’ve got a tasty, satisfying breakfast to have on the go.
Lunch & Dinner. Use almonds as a tasty add-in for vegetable or rice side dishes and salads. Chopped toasted almonds add appealing texture and flavor. Slivered almonds are excellent on broccoli or green beans with a touch of lemon juice and butter. Having stir fry? Toss in a handful of almonds for extra crunch and flavor. These are just a few ideas; get creative and think about how almonds can add zest and variety to some of your own standby recipes.
Snacks, Appetizers, Desserts. Including almonds in between-meal snacks not only adds texture and flavor, but is also a wise move from a nutritional point of view. If you’re inclined to have a piece of fresh fruit for a snack, that’s great, but adding some almonds in as well will make for a more satiating snack that’s likely to keep you more satisfied. Almonds provide both protein and fat (see “Nutrition” section below), nutrients which tend to have more longer-term satiating power than carbohydrates alone.
Friends stop by unannounced, or having last minute dinner guests? Pull out a dish of roasted (or spiced) almonds for a simple no-prep appetizer. When it comes to desserts, don’t overlook baked goods and recipes which rely on almond flour to provide flavor, moisture and structure to a variety of gluten-free baked goods. (Note: almond flour is in essence finely ground almonds, and can be either purchased or made at home). And speaking of ground up almonds, grind a little longer to result in your own fresh homemade almond butter, for use in sandwiches, smoothies, or spread on raw veggies or fruit.
An ounce of almonds provides 6 grams of protein, 4 grams of fiber, along with heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fats, and numerous essential vitamins and minerals. In short, almonds are a nutrient-dense food. What’s more, according to the FDA, scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts (such as almonds) as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease. Do keep in mind that almonds are relatively high in calories – at 165 calories per ounce – so keep serving size moderate. A standard serving is one ounce, which is equivalent to 23 whole almonds, or 1/4 cup. And remember to avoid buying almonds from bulk bins due to risk of cross-contamination, and confirm gluten-free status of flavored/seasoned almonds.
- Almond Board of California, www.almonds.com. Accessed January 27, 2016.
- United States Department of Agriculture
- Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 28 http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/. Accessed January2 7, 2016.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Qualified Health Claims. http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm073992.htm#cardio. Accessed January 27, 2016.
Curried Chicken Salad
Martha McGoldrick, Sacramento, CA
¼ c. sliced almonds, toasted
½ c. plain yogurt (dairy or non-dairy)
2 T. soy-free Veganaise
¼ c. chopped cilantro
1 tsp. curry powder
2 ½ c. (1 ¼ lbs.) diced chicken breasts, cooked OR use tofu, tempeh, or fish
1 c. halved red grapes
Sea salt & pepper
Mix everything together, except the chicken & grapes. Fold these into the mixture after everything else is thoroughly combined.
If you’re going to use in a wrap, use a brown rice wrap or corn tortilla & include lots of fresh veggies or just collars of romaine lettuce.