Nuts are Not a Healthy Snack Option for Everyone
Nuts seem to be the perfect healthy snack food. I remember the days when I tossed a dozen whole natural almonds in a snack-size zipper bag, tucked it away in my bulging purse and took off for the day. It was my hunger insurance policy. I had a healthy snack, no matter what, with no added sugars or gunk found in most protein bars.
Then, about 2 months after going gluten-free back in 2007, my nut allergy struck. I swear, I nearly shut down the Fresh Market when I sampled a new almond product at a demo table. It flung me right into a severe reaction.
The mystery of why, and when, food allergies and intolerance develop and manifest is anyone’s guess, but I suspect over-consumption played a role in my case. After I learned I could eat gluten no more, I turned to making my own almond, pecan and macadamia flours for baking. I’ll leave you to connect the dots about my over-consumption theory. ;)
Check out my article Food Allergy Testing and Diagnosis Basics for more on the path to diagnosis and the different types of allergies.
So, that was the end of tree nuts for me. Peanut and soy reactions followed within a month. Since that time, I have happily lived in a gluten, dairy, soy, peanut and tree nut free world. No complaints here. I’m always eager to hear what my body has to say about how I’m treating her. Besides, there’s far more food that I can eat than the few foods I can’t.
However, there are times when it would be oh, so nice to toss a dozen almonds in a zipper bag and cram it down into the abyss that is my purse and dash out the door, worry-free. You understand.
Multiple Food Allergies can Limit Snack Choices & Variety
That’s why you’re not making suggestions like pumpkin and sunflower kernels or homemade granola bars, etc. I love pepitas and sun seeds and I can make a mean granola bar, but I tire of seeds only, and I really don’t eat a lot of added sugar, even when it’s honey or another so-called “healthy” sugar (don’t get me started, please).
If You’re Looking for a Candy Bar, Look Elsewhere
These are good for you and make a convenient snack if you’re avoiding sugar and need something to keep your blood sugar balanced between meals. If you are accustomed to eating sugary foods and candies, these will not taste sweet to you. If you do not eat sugar, or you only consume it occasionally in small amounts, you will taste the natural nutty sweetness in these cups.
A Little Sweet Talk
I understand the cacao (or cocoa powder) may be too bitter for some. If you would like, feel free to add a sweetener of your choice. Have fun experimenting with your favorite sweetener and an appropriate amount of it. I’m not making suggestions on sweeteners, as I haven’t experimented. If you do, please leave a comment and share your results so others can benefit.
When adding sweetener to this recipe, keep in mind, sugar is sugar, regardless of form, and alternative sweeteners like stevia, as well as artificial sweeteners (which I hope you’re not using at all), “trick” the brain into expecting sugar to enter the body. If you’re breaking sugar addiction, or you need to regulate insulin release (we all really need to do this for optimal health), avoid those products, too.
I like Dr. Mark Hyman’s article, Confession of a Food Addict, and what he says about sugar being an addictive drug.
Either way – with or without added sweetness – I hope you’ll give these a try and add them to your healthy protein snack rotation!
For those on a paleo diet:
You may enjoy this as a nut-free, paleo friendly “sweet” treat or protein boost!
Nutritious Nut-Free Paleo Chocolate Protein Cups
- ½ cup organic virgin coconut butter (This is NOT the same product as coconut oil; coconut butter is made from the meat of the coconut.)
- ½ cup unsalted tahini (this is sesame seed butter)
- ¼ cup organic raw unsalted sunflower seeds
- ¼ cup organic unsweetened dried coconut, finely grated
- 1 Tablespoon organic raw cacao powder (you may sub unsweetened cocoa powder if you prefer)
- Pinch of Maldon or other coarse sea salt
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract(Use grain-free vanilla; or sub your normal gluten-free vanilla extract used in baking.)
- 1 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon organic ground ginger
- Additional unsweetened organic coconut for sprinkling on top, optional
- Additional Maldon or other coarse sea salt for sprinkling on top, optional (When I do this, I omit added salt in the candies or I find them too salty for my taste.)
- Combine all ingredients - EXCEPT additional coconut and additional salt - in your food processor.
- Process until mixture is very smooth (this takes a few minutes and a few time scraping down the sides of the processor).
- Once smooth, spoon the mixture into 18 mini paper muffin liners, diving evenly. (To make this easier, first place the mixture in a large pastry piping bag with a large open tip; alternatively, you can use a large zip-top bag in the same way by snipping off one bottom corner.)
- Top with additional coconut sprinkles or sea salt, as you desire.
- Chill about 30 minutes to firm up; store extras in the refrigerator, covered, up to 2 weeks.
- I am not offering substitutions for ingredients here (i.e., coconut products) because the recipe was developed with a particular nutrient profile in mind. Thanks for understanding and feel free to have some fun making this recipe your own.