Tuesday, 9 May 2017

What are chia seeds? And why I keep making chia pudding...

I wasn't introduced to chia seeds from Instagram, but the plethora of pictures of pretty puddings and overnight oats did spur me into buying a package when I saw them on sale.

When I first was introduced to chia seeds in school, I was fascinated with the way they gel up without any heat and can create puddings, jams... in hardly any time. So when I finally got my hands on some I was pumped to try it.

Quick interjection here to explain what are chia seeds and why anyone would want to eat them:

Though they don’t have much flavour, chia has a lot of nutritional benefit. It is a source of plant protein, and is gluten free and low FODMAP at 2 tablespoons. It contains iron, calcium, magnesium and zinc, along with essential omega 3 fats, and soluble fibre, assisting with lowering cholesterol and blood sugar. And unlike with other seeds, such as flax, you don’t need to grind chia to get the benefits; you can simply add it to your food and enjoy the nutritional boost (check out this great seeds comparison)! And like I've found, a package can last really long because you only use a few tablespoons at a time.

Now back to my experimentation.
First I tried adding chia seeds with some coconut milk, coconut flakes and dates, and it really got a pudding consistency (aka, it "pudded") and looked really pretty. But it still gives me bad feelings when I remember how it tasted. I'm not sure though if that was the coconut milk or the chia texture... My mom was a big fan though!

Next I tried a cranberry "jam", and that was a big hit, and so delicious! The chia seeds worked really well in that, and the jam texture was spot on.

Here's the recipe. Really simple to make, and so good on meat & chicken, and especially on a PB&J.

Cranberry Chia Jam


  • 2 cups whole cranberries
  • 2 Tbsp. water
  • 4 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2-3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. cinnamon
Place cranberries and water in a covered saucepan over medium heat. 
Cook until cranberries begin to bubble and pop, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and mash cranberries with a fork
Stir in remaining ingredients.
Transfer to glass container with airtight lid, and allow to cool before refrigerating.
Makes about 1 cup and lasts in fridge up to one week.

Most recently I tried a pudding again (Instagram pics got me!). This time I combined pureed strawberries and almond milk + vanilla sugar. Though significantly tastier than my first try, I still wasn't a fan (neither was Mom this time; she doesn't like almond milk). So I combined it with oats to make overnight oats, and that was terrific (Mom was also a big fan).

For now, I'm adding chia seeds to my overnight oats and I'll definitely make more fruit jams with it because it's super cool that you can get a jam texture without adding pectin or sugar. As for making a pudding? I'll probably be convinced to try it again. Maybe a chocolate chia pudding would be good...

Have you tried chia seeds? What's your go-to way to enjoy them?

Monday, 1 May 2017

Food Servings for Children

Have you ever had the experience of making a meal you know your toddler loves, or is always willing to try, and then after plating it for him, he only takes a few bites and is done? I’ve experienced this with my nephews and it’s so frustrating. It’s time to eat, it’s their favorite meal, and yet they’ll only eat a few nibbles. What’s going on???

I think something we forget when feeding little kids, is they have little tummies! And they’re just little people! When we feed them an adult sized plate, they don’t really need all that food, and they CAN’T eat all that food. So if they’re only eating a few bites off a large plate, often that’s enough for them to meet their needs. Think about it: a 3 year old needs 1 serving of meat & alternatives. Mom and Dad need 2-3 servings (not a whole lot much more, even though you’re so much bigger). While you can easily eat a large steak or a couple of eggs in one sitting (2 eggs = 1 serving) plus more food, your little tot most likely cannot.

In their book, Fearless Feeding, How to Raise Healthy Eaters from High Chair to High School, Jill Castle & Maryann Jacobsen give a handy tip of offering at each meal 1 tablespoon of food serving for each year of age (so 4 Tbsp. of veg and fruit, meat, milk and grains for your four year old). If you use a measuring spoon, you’ll realize that’s really not a lot.  

By dividing those servings throughout the day, your toddler can meet his needs even though each serving looks tiny compared to what you’re eating. So for example, to meet his meat & alternatives servings, you can give him ½ an egg at breakfast, ½ a tablespoon peanut butter at lunch, ¼ cup chickpeas at snack and ½ ounce of chicken at supper and you have successfully provided 1 serving of meat & alternatives over the course of one day in manageable bites. Combined at each meal with a choice of half a slice of bread, some pasta or whole grains; some veggies or fruit; and milk, cheese or yogurt, your little guy will be getting his nutrients and filling up!

I remember working as a day camp counsellor and a 2 year old camper brought a full bagel for her lunch. The next day she brought ½ of that same bagel. And on the third day she brought ¼ of the same original sandwich. Moral of that story: Kids don’t eat as much as adults and they don’t need to!

Though the Canada Food Guide’s serving sizes for kids is the same size as adults, (see here for Servings for 1-4 year olds and Servings for 5-11 year olds), in Fearless Feeding, Jill  & Maryann use the great phrase of “starter portion sizes for the very reason that kids get overwhelmed when they see too much food. Starting off with smaller portions provides your child with the minimum amount of needed nutrients in a very non-threatening and approachable serving. It also allows your child to recognize her own hunger and fullness cues, so she can ask for more if she is still hungry, or provide an easy out if she’s satisfied with what you’ve served (this can vary daily depending on activity and how much she’s eaten at previous meals and snacks).

It can be tough eyeballing appropriate kid-sized servings on adult dishes (larger plate sizes are often why we overeat too), so using smaller dishes is definitely helpful. Even better is to trust your child to eat enough over the course of the day, and not force her to clear her plate.