Saturday, January 5, 2013

Sugar-Free Candied Nuts (And Dodging Health Halos)

Over the holidays I wanted to make candied nuts.  I believe that some people think of candied nuts as healthy, because they are nuts.  I'm not saying you think that, but trust me, I've heard people tell me they eat candied nuts as their "healthy mid-afternoon snack".  Just so you know, most candied nuts aren't so healthy. I mean....they are candied!  And if you pick up a typical jar or package of most common candied nuts, you'll notice they aren't just slightly candied, they are very candied (ie: they contain way too much sugar to constitute a healthy snack).  This doesn't mean they are a "Bad food", it just means they are a food you should probably limit, unless you count them as a dessert everyday (or as part of your "Extra Calories", per the USDA guidelines).

This is what I like to call a "health halo" (and this is a common term, you've probably heard it before in magazines and on health shows on TV, I also use it a lot on this blog.....).  Candied nuts could be considered a "health halo" because they have an imaginary angelic halo on top of them simply because they are nuts.  This holiday season I set out to make some sugar-free candied nuts, and I was quite successful, I must say.

Sugar-Free Candied Nuts

2.5 cups mixed nuts (I used no-salt-added walnuts and almonds)
1 egg white, whipped
~1/4th cup of your favorite non-caloric sweetener (such as stevia)
3 tsp. Cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt

NOTE:  If you want to use regular sugar, that's fine, just use about 2 Tbsp, which would still be less than you would find in most store-bought candied nuts.

NOTE:  If you want these to be low FODMAPs, look for a non-caloric sweetener that doesn't contain sugar alcohols (you can look at the ingredient list for no ingredients that end in "ol", such as erythritol.  Plus, when you eat these you'll need to stick to a small (~1 ounce) serving in one sitting.

Add the whipped egg white to the nuts, and blend well.  Add the cinnamon, sweetener, and salt, and evenly distribute throughout the nuts.  Pour the nuts onto a baking sheet, spread out evenly, and bake for ~25 minutes at 300 degrees (stir the nuts about 3 times throughout the cooking process, as cinnamon burns easily).

Indeed these are typically a holiday treat, but I would argue that these could be enjoyed throughout the year, at any time.  They were a huge hit as a simple snack, added to yogurt, and even topped on a salad.


This weekend, and this year, watch out for other examples of "health halos"

  • Some breakfast restaurants....I won't name names....serve specialty pancakes with "healthy" toppings.  These pancakes meals could easily contain as much sugar as a cupcake or a donut (if not much more!). Don't be fooled (or, just eat the donut).
  • Smoothies can be as sugar-packed as ice cream sundaes.  Yes, they might contain more nutrients and fiber than ice cream sundaes, but just remind yourself more isn't always better.  A small smoothie should be sufficient;

  • "Fruit Flavored Dressings", such as raspberry and pomegranate aren't any better for you than dressings without fruit flavors.  Sure, they may contain a bit more vitamin C, but don't choose these dressings because you think they are healthier, they probably aren't.  If you like the flavor, that's another story.
  • One of my favorite RD bloggers, Erin of The Healthy Apron, wrote two great blog posts about some other popular "health halos" that you might find while out and about.  Read about those here and here.  Don't be fooled!

QUESTION:  What kinds of health halos do you see on a regular basis???  There are many!

Thanks for reading!

The Candid Rd
NOTE: I love comments!  But, be sure to come back to read any replies to questions or comments, as they do not go directly to your e-mail.


  1. Those candied nuts look great! I love the term health halo too and definitely use it. It is amazing what people will think just because something appears healthy on the outside or by the name (or marketing).

  2. The nuts sound great! While nuts are very healthy, I think many people forget that they have many calories and that you definitely should watch your portion size, even if they are not candied. Well, I know I have to watch my portion size or I easily eat too many. But I think I'll give these nuts a shot, but I will watch my portions... :).

    I think people also often automatically assume that salads are healthy without carefully looking at the ingredients.

  3. I make something really similar to these nuts! So so yummy... and I'm definitely conscious of the health halos. In fact, I think I spend most of my time dispelling the myths to clients and students while trying to make it all positive!
    Smoothies (like from mcdonalds!) are one of the ones that bug me the most!

  4. I am seeing a lot of traps with a certain point, with 3 fruits added, it's not such a "Green Juice". Love this recipe, which stevia are you using (saw you commented on the Fooducate post).

    1. I used Truvia in this recipe, but it would work with just about anything, I would think! That's just what I had at home. And yes, juicing is definitely another health halo. Not all juices are created equal!