Tackle Game-Time Hunger With Heart-Healthy Snacks

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While defensive linemen and offensive tackles typically find themselves on opposite sides of the football, former NFL players and current analysts Mike Golic and Matt Light agree that smart snacking is essential to their game-time gatherings.

Although they've retired their jerseys, they're teaming up with California Almonds to encourage fans to retire poor snacking habits. A handful of almonds provides plenty of crunch and punch to stay satisfied and energized.

Despite his tough demeanor on the field, Golic, co-host of ESPN Radio's "Mike and Mike in the Morning," and former NFL defensive lineman, prefers his almonds sweet, with a cinnamon glaze.

"My day starts early and ends late, and snacking on almonds helps keep me going," says Golic. "The best part is, they're not only crunchy and satisfying, but I know they're a better choice for my heart  than the snacks I used to eat."

According to the US Food and Drug Administration, "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." What's more, California Almonds are always cholesterol-free and contain only one gram of saturated fat and 13 grams of unsaturated fat per ounce.

On the flip side, Light, an NFL analyst and former New England Patriots offensive tackle, enjoys his almonds spicy, with jalapeno seasoning.

"I don't want to miss a moment while watching a big game, so I keep a couple handfuls of almonds by the TV to eat as a snack," says Light. "Almonds help keep me satisfied, which means I can focus on the game and not my empty stomach."  

Football fans aren't the only ones snacking these days. According to Food Technology magazine, Americans are snacking more than ever, and in a big way: Nearly half (48 percent) snack at least two times a day, nearly double the 25 percent who snacked in 2010. What's more, US retail sales of packaged snacks increased to nearly $64 billion in 2010, and predictions show snack sales will approach $77 billion by 2015.

"It's important to note that not all snacks are created equal, and not all of them are the best choices for a healthy lifestyle," says Jenny Heap, RD , with the Almond Board of California. "But if it's approached in a smart way, snacking can be good for you. It's important to choose snacks that are both tasty and nutritious. Snacks with protein and fiber that are low in sugar will keep you energized and curb your hunger so you won't find yourself making poor choices later in the day."

While the Nutrition Facts Panel states almonds have 160 calories per ounce, the results of a recent study using a new method to calculate calories shows that whole almonds may have 129 calories per ounce. The study, which takes into account the digestibility of whole almonds, was conducted by scientists from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and released in the August 2012 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN). Further research is needed to better understand the results of the study and how this technique for calculating calories could potentially affect the calorie count of other foods.

To learn how to make Mike and Matt's favorite flavored almonds, and for a variety of other quick and easy ways to flavor this heart-smart snack, visit almondboard.com/Consumer/Pages/Football.aspx.