10 Ways to Power Up with Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a super food: They're packed with fiber, plant-based proteins and omega-3 fatty acids. Discover the benefits and how to give your recipes a quick nutritional boost with these super seeds.

Blackberries; raspberries; blueberries on a bowl.Photo: Shutterstock / Adrian_am13

Do you remember those hilarious commercials for chia pets? It’s a shame we didn’t realize then just how beneficial the little seeds were beyond the adorable grassy pets. When compared to fellow super-seed, flaxseeds, chia seeds come out the winner. They are higher in fiber and protein than flaxseeds and easier to store. Unlike flaxseeds that must be ground in order to gain the nutrition benefits, chia seeds can be eaten whole and our bodies will break them down. These little seeds are stout with nutritional benefits, like helping to control high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and more. It’s time to add these super seeds to your pantry staples list and use them daily. Here are some creative suggestions to get you started.

1. Creamy Puddings

When mixed with a liquid, chia seeds have thickening power, which is perfect for puddings. The texture comes out like a tapioca pudding but one that is loaded with heart-healthy fats and fiber. If you’re looking for healthy afternoon snack or a chocolaty lunchbox treat, try this Mom- and dietitian-approved simple chocolate chia pudding recipe:

1 cup milk (cow’s milk or any milk alternative works)
2 Tablespoons whole chia seeds
1 Tablespoon cocoa powder
2 teaspoons sugar

Place all ingredients into a mason jar, cover with lid and shake vigorously for 30-seconds. Store in the refrigerator for 4 hours or overnight. Serve this pudding with chopped nuts, fresh berries or chocolate shavings. You can make any variety of chia pudding by substituting out the cocoa powder for another flavor-enhancer, like peanut butter or fruit-flavored jam.

2. Boosting Baked Goods

Chia seeds are easy to add into baked goods. In a recent study, researchers showed that chia-enhanced bread was just as tasty as plain bread, but had more protein, fiber and healthy fat. Stir 1/4 cup chia seeds into any one of these muffins worth waking up for or easy quick bread recipes for an easy nutritional boost.

3. Omega-Powered Salad Dressings

Store-bought salad dressings often use a chemical emulsifier as a thickener. If you whip up your own batch of homemade salad dressing, shake or blend in one tablespoon of chia seeds per cup of dressing to help coat your greens.

4. Satiating Yogurt

Add a punch of color and crunch to yogurt with chia seeds. Interestingly, one study found that chia-powered yogurt helped increase satiety and reduced overall food intake making these recipes for Lemon Chia Seed Parfaits or Chia Orange Yogurt a smart breakfast treat or afternoon delight.

5. Over-the-Top Overnight Oats

Overnight oats make for a nutritionally-dense solution for busy mornings (learn how to make them, it’s easy). Stir a teaspoon of chia seeds into your favorite overnight oat recipe or give this Overnight Cherry-Almond Oatmeal recipe a whirl, and don’t forget to add in the chia seeds!

6. Jam Out 

Freezer jam recipes are popular because they take away the need to process jarred jam. Get ready, because there is something even easier: chia jam! Making chia jam also allows you to make jam when you don’t have pectin on hand. In addition, you can drastically cut back on sugar to keep your jam a fruit-filled treat, not a sugary one. Here’s the scoop on chia jams: Process 2 cups of any peak-season fruit just like you normally would when making jam, then add 2 tablespoons of chia seeds, sweeten the jam to your preference, then chill in the refrigerator for 10 minutes and it’s ready to serve. It won’t turn out quite as thick as pectin-based jams, but it’s a great alternative.

7. Smoothie Power

Smoothies are great for on-the-go breakfasts or a quick afternoon snack to fight off a sweet tooth. Blend in a teaspoon or tablespoon of chia seeds to elevate your favorite smoothie recipe, like this creamy Mango Smoothie or Strawberry-Carrot Smoothie.

8. Chia Gummies

Yes indeed, the cherished gummy candy can get an overhaul with chia seeds. Consider this dietitian-approved Tart Cherry Chia Gummy recipe for your kids next time they beg for fruit snacks. If you don’t have candy molds try a mini-muffin pan instead.

9. Crafty Cocktails

Looking for a way to sip smarter? Athletes have been charging up with chia seeds to aid in hydration and increase their omega-3 consumption. Try adding a teaspoon of chia seeds to a glass of your favorite thirst-quenching drink for quick nutritional upgrade. Kids can sip the benefits, too, by mixing a teaspoon or two into their juice or mix up a batch of this Bottoms-Up Cherry Limeade recipe with 1/4 cup chia seeds stirred in.

10. Enriched Breading

A fellow registered dietitian, Robin Plotkin weighed in about how she uses chia seeds, “Powered chia seeds are a kitchen staple at our home. I add them to anything that requires bread crumbs or a dredge, from meatballs to fish or chicken.” Yet another creative way to embrace chia seeds.

Chia seeds have come a long way from the days of Chia Pets. It’s time to give these seeds their due as a nutritional powerhouse. Add them to your pantry start using them every day in new and creative ways to boost your nutrition.

Try adding chia seeds to homemade bread!
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Wendy Jo Peterson, MS, RDN
As a registered dietitian Wendy Jo touches on the science and facts behind food, but as a gardener and world traveler she savors the classical dishes our great-grandmothers once made. When she’s not in her kitchen, you can find her and her family exploring the US in their campervan, Olaf!