As we continue to get used to the back-to-school routine, here’s a lesson about healthy snacks: We want them.
A new study shows that 94 percent of Americans snack daily. We want to snack mindfully and want the same for our kids. But few children (and adults) are craving carrot sticks.
Healthy goes new-school by way of an ancient food — chia.
Chia seeds, tiny black or speckled beauties, provide mammoth energy. They’re rich in omega-3s, fiber and protein, a winning combination that helps stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol.
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The Aztecs adored chia back in 3500 BC, but silly us, we’ve been wasting it on chia pets. You cannot eat a chia pet.
You can eat organic Qi’a superfood snackbars from Nature’s Path (38 grams, $1.79). Available in five flavors, from fairly virtuous nuts, seeds and sea salt to downright decadent dark chocolate cranberry almond, all crunchy, chewy bars contain chia, hemp seeds and coconut for healthy fats and brown rice and tapioca syrup for sweetness. One nuts, seeds and sea salt bar contains 180 calories, 8 grams of fat, 110 milligrams of sodium, 5 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein.
You can also drink chia by way of smoothies from Naked Juice (15.2 ounces, $2.99). Available in chia cherry lime and chia sweet peach, they’re fruity, filling and potassium-packed with no added sugar. One bottle contains 270 calories, 2 grams of fat, no sodium, 6 grams of fiber and 2 grams of protein, but — yowza — 53 grams of sugar from concentrated fruit juice. There’s a better way to chia.
Between snackbars and smoothies lies chia’s sweet spot. Chia seeds contains a natural gelling agent. Stirred into dairy or plant-based milk, they soften, swell and voila — almost-instant chia pudding.
Natural, nourishing and additive-free, it’s less gloopy than tapioca but far from flan, not pretty and oddly textured. Yet after one spoonful, you’re hooked. Top with fruit, nuts or granola for an awesomely energizing after-school snack.
If Tarahumara Indians can run a hundred miles on chia drinks, chia pudding will certainly fuel your kid through homework or boost you past the afternoon blahs. Pick up Bob’s Red Mill chia seeds (16 ounces, $11.99) at Whole Foods and other natural food stores.
Chia pudding makes a healthy (and fun) after-school snack and can double as breakfast for extra credit — good to know during September, Better Breakfast Month.
Ellen Kanner is the author of “Feeding the Hungry Ghost: Life, Faith and What to Eat for Dinner.” On Twitter: @edgyveggie1.
If you have a high-speed blender like VitaMix, the dates give this an incredible caramelly taste, and the blender makes a smooth and creamy pudding. If you’re mixing by hand, maple syrup provides ample sweetness, and you get to enjoy chia pudding in all its seedy glory. Either way, three ingredients, two minutes (plus chill time) and wham, you’ve got a healthy after-school or anytime snack. Makes 4 servings, doubles easily.
1 1/2 cups milk or unsweetened plant-based milk
1/3 cup chia seeds
4 Medjool dates, pitted, or 3 tablespoons maple syrup
Pour milk into a mixing bowl or blender. Add chia seeds and dates or maple syrup. Blend together briskly for a minute to avoid chia clumps. Pour into a bowl, cover and refrigerate for eight hours or overnight., during which time the chia seeds will expand and magically create a thick pudding. Give another stir before serving. Keeps (covered and refrigerated) for 3 days.
Note: Top with an energizing array of good-for-you goodies like chopped fruit (fresh or dried), nuts, sunflower, hemp or pumpkin seeds, coconut and granola. Try this basic recipe, then go to the head of the class by adding 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa for — yes — chocolate chia pudding.
Source: Ellen Kanner.