Today we celebrate chia seeds for the nutritional value they offer. But what about the little people in your life? Are chia seeds good for kids?
It was the ceramic chia pets of the eighties that first brought attention to these tiny black and white seeds. Remember the catchy jingle, “Ch-ch-ch-chia” — simply water your pet and watch the seeds sprout into “hair.”
In this article, we will look at what chia seeds are, the nutritional benefits for kids, what you can do with them, and kid-friendly recipes for incorporating chia into your family’s meals and snacks.
What are chia seeds?
Chia seeds come from the flowering Salvia hispanica plant. The first record of their use was by the ancient Aztecs as a main staple in their diet. The seeds were used medicinally, pressed for oil, ground into flour, and added to drinks.
Ancient civilizations believed chia seeds had supernatural powers and were responsible for the strength and stamina of their warriors. Chia seeds are still touted today for their energy boosting properties.
Nutritional benefits of chia seeds
Chia seeds may be tiny, but they pack a powerful punch of nutrition into a small space.
High in protein
Chia seeds contain up to nineteen percent protein, and a two-tablespoon serving will provide four grams. Meals and snacks that include protein, like recipes for protein balls for kids, help stabilize blood sugar and control hunger, both aiding in even energy and weight management.
While chia seeds are one of the few technically “complete” plant proteins (they contain all nine essential amino acids that we must acquire from food), they are low in lysine. If they are part of a plant-based meal for children, they should be served with lysine rich foods such as lentils or tofu to support growing bodies.
Source of heart-healthy omega 3’s
Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory polyunsaturated fats that have been associated with health benefits for the heart, and healthy brain development.
Chia seeds are the best known plant source of omega-3’s. Along with a real food diet, they may help promote a lower omega-6 to omega-3 ratio, which has been shown to decrease the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, inflammatory conditions, and cardiovascular disease.
While chia seeds are high in omega-3’s, it is important to consider that such plant forms are less bioavailable to the body in comparison to fish, or fish oil. A combination of plant and marine sources is ideal for your child’s development.
Most of us, and our kids, are lacking dietary fiber these days. Two tablespoons of chia provide us with eleven grams of fiber, which is about thirty to forty percent of our recommended daily intake.
Fiber can help slow digestion of foods to decrease the rise in blood sugar after a meal, promote good bacteria for a healthy gut, and aid in digestive regularity. Chia seeds are an especially great source of insoluble fiber.
Minerals and antioxidants
We should celebrate mineral-rich foods, such as chia, because they keep our bodies functioning properly. Chia seeds provide minerals such as manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium, and zinc — which are critical for bone and tooth health, tissue maintenance, muscle and nerve function, and proper metabolism.
In addition, antioxidants from chia seeds help support immune health — fighting against daily toxins and free-radical damage.
What can I do with chia seeds?
Chia seeds have a very mild taste (if any), which makes them incredibly versatile and great for kids with sensitive taste buds. You can enjoy them raw, soaked, or ground — perfect for a real food lifestyle.
Let’s take a look at best practices so that you and your family can get the most out of these powerful superseeds.
Can babies eat chia seeds?
Chia seeds are generally safe for babies eight months and older (of course, you should always check with your pediatrician first). However, your baby’s digestion may not be mature enough to break them down and effectively reap the benefits right away.
Chia seeds for toddlers and beyond should be introduced in small quantities. A good place to start is one teaspoon of seeds properly prepared a day. This quantity can be slowly increased to about two tablespoons per day.
Preparing chia seeds for different textures
There are several options when it comes to the best way to eat chia seeds. You may eat them whole, soaked, ground, raw, and cooked. Experiment with these different methods alongside your kids — exploring different textures from the same seed.
Unlike flaxseeds, chia seeds don’t need to be ground for some nutrients to be absorbed — they can be eaten raw.
Just make sure to also consume plenty of water because the seeds will absorb liquid from your body during digestion.
Sprinkling the seeds on or in cooked foods adds a pop of texture.
Soaking chia seeds
Soaking chia seeds in liquid before eating may make them easier to digest and the nutrients more available.
Add about one and a half tablespoons of seeds to one cup of liquid (water, juice, or milk). After stirring well, allow the mixture to sit for at least thirty minutes, or overnight in the fridge.
This soaking process will leave you with a gel to drink straight up, add to smoothies, or enjoy as a pudding.
Ground chia seeds
You can grind chia seeds in a blender, or coffee grinder, to breakdown the outer layers before eating — much like you would with flaxseeds. The flour can be used to make gluten-free muffins and pancakes.
10 ideas for enjoying chia seeds with your kids
- Smoothies: Add whole or soaked chia seeds to your favorite smoothie and blend away!
- Yogurt: Sprinkle on top of yogurt, or soak overnight in the yogurt for a textured parfait.
- Oatmeal: Top your bowl of oats with a spoonful of seeds, or cook the seeds along with the oats.
- Granola: Homemade granola is a tasty treat, and even yummier with chia mixed in.
- Baked goods: Mix in chia seeds to any version of muffin, bread, pancake, or waffle batter before cooking.
- Salad: Sprinkle raw seeds over the top of your favorite green salad for a slightly nutty crunch.
- Meatloaf: Chia seeds can be added to meatloaf or meatballs as a thickener in place of flour.
- Dressing: Make your own salad dressing and add chia seeds with any herbs and spices.
- Egg substitute: Mixing chia seeds with water can be used as an egg substitute for baking.
- Lemonade: Chia seeds add a beautiful look, texture, and a dose of nutrition to homemade lemonade.
Chia seed recipes
Here are some of our family’s favorite chia seed recipes.
Kiwi Acai Chia Smoothie
This fresh kiwi acai smoothie uses soaked chia seeds, which are further ground in the blending process for maximal nutrient availability. With beautiful colors and tastes, your kids will be reaching for more.
Raspberry Almond Chia Pudding
Overnight Raspberry Almond Chia Pudding is so easy and makes for a quick breakfast option!
Soaking the seeds in coconut milk with a touch of honey or pure maple syrup is all it takes. I love the tapioca-like texture and the combo of raspberries and almonds for flavor.
Lemon Blueberry Chia Muffins
The chia seeds in these tasty gluten-free lemon blueberry muffins provide a poppyseed-like texture, but with extra nutrition. The real lemon zest and juice is delicious with fresh berries.
Strawberry Banana Cocoa Chia Parfait
For this fruity yogurt parfait, the seeds soak in the yogurt to form a softer feel. You can make this as you would overnight oats and have it ready to go for the next day.
Chia Oat Hot cereal
My boys enjoy oatmeal every now and then, and I’m always looking for ways to boost the nutrition content. This chia oatmeal recipe is filling, delicious, and full of nutrients to power an active day. I love cooking chia seeds right in the pot with the oats and almond milk for a rich and creamy result.
Now you are armed and ready to bring chia seeds into your family’s life!
In this article we looked at what chia seeds are, the health benefits they offer you and your kids, and ways to add them to your favorite drinks and dishes.
Take a few minutes to pick a recipe or two to try this week. Plan out the ingredients you need, and bring your kids along for the ride.