- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 23, 2011

Protein-rich and portable, nuts always have been the utility players of the snack world - good for that midafternoon energy dip, but generally not the kind of thing to make the crowd go wild.

But with manufacturers introducing spiced-up versions of old favorites - yes, we are talking jalapeno-flavored pistachios here - nuts are breaking out of their shell.

“People are going after something new and exciting that helps to wake up your senses,” says Kay Logsdon, editor-in-chief of the Food Channel, which put nuts at No. 4 on its 2010 Top 10 snack-trends list.

What’s new in nuts?

In addition to spicier versions, such as zesty chili peanuts, you’ll find nuts appearing with new partners, such as caramelized black walnuts with dark chocolate.

Nuts also have benefited from the quest for healthier foods.

“People are looking for that whole ‘health halo,’ ” Miss Logsdon said.

Nuts are relatively high in fat, so you need to keep an eye on portion size to stay in the healthy zone. But the majority of the fats are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated, so-called “good” fats. Meanwhile, nuts can be a source of vitamins, protein and fiber, more than you can say for many snacks.

At Planters, officials are tapping into the nutritional value of their product.

“When it comes to healthy snacks, dads in a way have been left out of the equation,” points out Jason Levine, senior director of marketing for Planters.

From yogurt to 100-calorie packs, there are a number of healthier snacks marketed to women, “but there’s not a lot out there that’s targeted and developed and meant to appeal to men,” he says.

These recipes from Alison Ladman use a variety of nuts and spices for some zesty snacking.

CITRUS-HERB PISTACHIOS

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon sugar

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