Can You Eat Nuts When Cutting

Can You Eat Nuts When Cutting?

When cutting your food choices are limited, as you’re always looking to hit your calorie target in order to maintain a deficit. It can be frustrating that ‘healthy’ foods may no longer be a suitable option because they’re high in calories.

Nuts are an incredibly versatile food. They can be eaten on their own as a snack or included in other recipes. Given that nuts are considered a healthy food, we’re often asked about whether or not nuts can be eaten when cutting.

Unfortunately, nuts don’t make it easy to cut and lose weight…

As I’ll explain, nuts are often high in fat and calorie-dense. Eating them frequently or in large quantities can make cutting difficult. But does that mean you shouldn’t include them in your diet when cutting, or that you have to completely avoid them?

Can You Eat Nuts When Cutting?

You can eat nuts when cutting. However nuts are often high in fat and calorie-dense, meaning they pack a lot of calories per gram. This high-calorie content means that most people shouldn’t eat them when cutting because it makes it difficult to achieve your calorie target and maintain a deficit.

What are Nuts?

Surprisingly, nuts are actually a kind of fruit. They have a hard outer shell that protects a kernel inside and it’s this kernel that can usually be eaten.

There are a variety of nuts and these are widely sold in supermarkets. Some of the most popular nuts available are almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios.

Nuts are incredibly versatile – they can be eaten raw as a snack, used as an ingredient when cooking, or ground into nut butters like peanut and almond butter. Given their versatility, it’s unsurprising that nuts are so popular within people’s diets.

Related – Can you eat peanut butter when cutting

Nuts are characterized by a high oil content. They generally contain mostly unsaturated fats. 

These are often described as ‘good fats’ because they’re associated with protection against heart disease and other health problems.

As well as being high in unsaturated fats, nuts are a key source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as micronutrients. As a result, they have plenty of proven health benefits, including supporting hormone regulation and overall bodily function.

Therefore, just because you’re cutting, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fats within your diet, as they’re crucial for supporting overall health. 

It’s how you include these fats and at what percentage that people often struggle with. 

The calorie content of nuts is going to be the primary reason why. 

Nut Calories

Per 100g, the nutritional value for the most popular nuts are:

Calories (kcal)Fat (grams)Protein (grams)Carbohydrate (grams)
Macadamia71876914
Peanuts567492516
Pistachio560452028
Almond579502122
Cashew553441830

(Source 1, 2)

As I mentioned, nuts are calorie-dense foods. This means that per gram they contain a high amount of calories, as compared to other foods. Even just a handful of nuts packs a lot of calories, but wouldn’t necessarily be very filling.

This is often the issue with calorie-dense foods because the serving size will be smaller but they’ll be less satiating and filling so trying to fit them into a regular diet can be incredibly difficult – especially if your daily calorie intake is on the lower side (<1,500kcal).

How to Eat Nuts when Cutting

Just because they are high in calories, it doesn’t mean you should avoid nuts altogether when cutting.

Nuts contain ‘good’ fats as well as plenty of other essential nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids.  Therefore, they are a good food to include within your diet. Just because you’re cutting doesn’t mean you should eliminate nuts totally, as they do have health benefits.

In the table above, I’ve shown how many calories are within 100g of some of the most popular nuts. Although they’re all calorie-dense, the amount of calories they contain does vary depending on which variety you’re eating.

When cutting, it’s important to consider every calorie that you’re consuming and reduce this so that you reach your calorie target each day and maintain an overall deficit.

So if you want to eat nuts when cutting you should eat the ones that contain the lowest amount of calories. I’d recommend pistachios because these are the lowest in calories but other low-calorie options include almonds and cashews.

Higher calorie nuts to potentially avoid are macadamia nuts and pecans. 

Surprisingly, peanuts appear to have the most balanced macro profile in that they are lower in calories and fat whilst also having a higher protein intake. This is likely one of the main reasons why peanut butter is such a good food choice when bulking

You should also look at your serving size. One serving of nuts is about ¼ of a cup – it should fit into the palm of your hand. If you’re eating handfuls of nuts then you’re consuming more than needed.

So when cutting, being aware of serving sizes is important. If you do want to eat nuts when cutting, then make sure you’re sticking to one serving.

Another thing to watch for is if nuts are flavored or natural. 

Packets of nuts often come with added salt, or other high-calorie toppings like chocolate or honey. These added toppings are going to increase the calorie content of these already high-calorie foods.

This is similarly the case with nuts that are roasted or packaged in oil, because this oil is going to add to the calorie count. It’s also worth noting that the oils they are cooked in are not the good type of oil either but cheaper, “unhealthy” oils.

So, it’s best to go for raw versions or nuts that are dry roasted (roasted without oil). Sticking to those without anything extra added (such as salt, oil, or chocolate) will help to reduce the number of calories you’ll be consuming.

There is also another way of satisfying your craving for nuts without the same calories by picking alternatives, which I’ve explained in the next section.

Nut Alternatives When Cutting

There isn’t a direct nut replacement that will be low in calories and well suited for cutting. When thinking about alternatives to nuts, it really depends on how you’re eating them as this will determine what a suitable alternative is.

If you’re consuming nuts as a snack, for example, then a lower calorie option would be a rice cake as these are low in calories but still help you to feel full for longer. They also have a similar texture to many nuts, giving that crunch you’d expect to have.

Unfortunately, rice cakes don’t have the same nutritional profile as nuts, so incorporating healthy fats into your diet will have to be done another way.

Rice cakes are widely available in supermarkets and can come in a variety of flavors to help with satiety and cravings

You could also consider seeds or seed mixes which again have a similar texture to nuts with much fewer calories per serving. 

Another option is popcorn. Like rice cakes, popcorn provides that crunchy texture that is similar to nuts. However, popcorn is much lower in calories compared to nuts which makes it a more suitable option when cutting. 

Low-calorie popcorn options are available in most major supermarkets.

A final alternative is edamame beans. These are low in calories at 122 per 100g. These also come with a lot of health benefits, and they’re versatile – they can be eaten on their own or incorporated into snack bars.

The brand MyProtein uses these alongside a small number of nuts in their protein bar, which comes in at 99 calories

Final Thoughts

Nuts are a great food – they’re a good source of healthy fats and they’re incredibly versatile. The only downside is their high-calorie content. So, can you eat nuts when cutting?

Whilst it’s important to incorporate healthy fats into your diet when cutting, regularly eating a lot of nuts can easily push you over your daily calorie intake and make cutting much harder. That’s why you should limit portion sizes to around 30g per serving. 

Also, go for low-calorie nuts, and stick to raw unflavoured options if you want to eat nuts when cutting as these are much easier to facilitate into your diet. 

You can also check out nut alternatives as a dieting option. 

Although they don’t have the same nutritional profile, foods such as rice cakes, popcorn, and protein bars come in with much lower calories which makes them far more suitable when cutting – just keep in mind that they won’t have the same nutritional benefit. 

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