Intuitive Cooking: Unmasking the Chia Seed
Since becoming a certified nutrition consultant, I get a lot of questions from my co-workers about diets. Many of them are on one diet or another and I usually politely tell them that it’s not something I’d recommend, but that if they are looking for healthier alternatives to some of their favorite foods, I’d be happy to help.
One of the things I recommend quite often is replacing your morning bowl of oatmeal or cereal with a bowl of chia pudding. There are many reasons for doing so:
- helps you cut back on the amount of processed foods you are eating
- they are very filling so you stay satiated longer
- the gelling action helps to slow down your body’s conversion of starches into sugars so you stay energized longer
- gives you essential Omega-3’s
- they have tons of antioxidants
And this is only a few of the benefits.
However, when I recommend adding chia seeds to their diet, I’m usually met with a blank stare and then some sort of reference to Chia Pets. Yes, chia seeds are the same thing used to make the highly popular Chia Pets of the 80’s and 90’s, but yes, the are quite edible and quite tasty (in my humble opinion). What I’ve found is that basically anyone outside of the vegan community has little or no knowledge of what chia is or how it can benefit their health.
Chia seeds have a glorious characteristic of becoming gelatinous when then mix with a liquid and they take on the flavor of whatever they are mixed with. Thus giving you tons of health benefits in any flavor or vehicle imaginable. The seeds absorb the liquid and plump up giving a nice creamy texture to the mixture. I usually recommend overnight oats with chia to chia newbies because it mixes something that people know with something new. Once they know what to expect when they bite into a bowl of chia seeds, I usually move them onto a basic chia pudding – thus upping the raw content of their diet without the additional carbs from the oats.
Chia pudding is an amazing dish because you can change up the flavors at will to match your every food craving. Whether it’s chocolate, berries, or something more savory, chia pudding can be reinvented for every breakfast of the week. Once people really come to love the texture of chia, I turn them to more exotic preparations such as drinks and in baking (replaces flax seed/egg replacer/eggs).
One concern many of my clients have is the cost of chia seeds. I’ll admit that the price looks steep when you are perusing the health food section of your grocery store. But you have to remember that while a 1lbs bag may cost $7-$10, you are only using about 2 tbsp for each dish, so it will last quite a long time. I get my Chia Seeds (Alive and Aware brand) on Amazon for around $9/lbs, but if you subscribe to have them delivered every few months you can save even more.
Here are several chia resources if you are interested in learning more:
Here are a couple of my basic chia recipes that I use as the base for many of my chia concoctions. Each of these recipes has anywhere 220 calories (basic chia pudding) to 320 calories (basic overnight oats) – which is a good amount for breakfast (chia seeds have about 60-70 calories per tbsp).
As with any Intuitive Cooking post, please feel free to try out new ingredients and methods that fit your taste and needs. I hope that this has taken some of the mystery out of chia seeds and that you will all give them a try.
What is your favorite way to prepare chia seeds?