If you’re at all into health and nutrition you can barely get through a scroll through Facebook, Twitter or the evening news without hearing something about super seeds. Chia, hemp, flax. In our drinks, in our oatmeal, in our cookies. What goes where? Which benefits what? How would I even start getting these into my daily diet? Or my child’s?
Yesterday, I came across a great slide show of seven super seeds. Pomegranate (antioxidants), hemp (protein), chia (calcium), pumpkin (iron), sesame (omega-6), flax (omega-3) and wheat germ (fiber). It got me thinking…a few years ago, I barely knew what most of these were, let alone what nutritional benefit they held and (gasp!) how I could possibly work them into my daily diet. Or my family’s. The amazing thing is that each of these seeds really does pack a punch of nutrition. In my opinion, their size is what makes them super. How is all of that power in such a tiny vessel? As I’ve learned about each one over the years, I’ve played around with ways of mixing them in with recipes and even prepackaged snacks that we already know and enjoy. Without much planning or premeditated thought. Just a little practice. Here are some of my tips:
1. Blend – Smoothies are the easiest way (I think) to get a TON of nutrition without sacrificing taste. Or fun. My daughters love smoothies. So do I. As long as they base is something they love (for my daughter, Rachel it’s peanut butter and banana. For my daughter Claire it’s yogurt and berries) I can add a 1/4 cup of wheat germ, oat bran or whole oats and a teaspoon of flax, chia or hemp. These thicken the smoothie but don’t alter it’s flavor. With a few spoonfuls I add protein, calcium, fiber and omega-3s.
2. Sprinkle – Lately, the girls are obsessed with cereal for breakfast. I used to cringe at this idea until I realized that since they love granola, I could mix a couple kinds of cereal (eg: Cascadian Farms Purely O’s and Nature’s Path Pumpkin Flax Granola) and then sprinkle in a couple spoonfuls of any of these powerhouse seeds on top and they would gobble it up. The first time I tried it, I was sure they were going to call me out. They are VERY sensitive to “strange things” floating in their food. But, because the granola is something they like, adding a few more tiny grains or seeds on top, they don’t notice or care. This same theory applies to oatmeal and yogurt.
3. Mix – I started out in the kitchen as a baker. Precise measurements and little room for error. Watching how the temperature of the butter affected the outcome of the cookie. But being in the kitchen more and playing around (translation: not being afraid to “mess up”) gave me a freedom to try mixing things in for an extra punch of nutrition. Whether I’m making muffins or meatballs, I always add some chia or flax, even if it’s not called for.
4. Swap – As I’ve played around with recipes over the years I’ve come to make flat out swaps for certain ingredients in my pantry. Instead of using bread crumbs (something I haven’t purchased in over 4 years) I use a combination of wheat germ, oat bran and flax seed. Sometimes I just use oat bran, sometimes I use all three. It started when I made crispy chicken bites that are covered in wheat germ, crushed almonds, oat bran and flax and my children devoured them. I use the same combination when I make chicken parmesan now and adults and kids rave about the taste.
Trying to do one of these can be daunting. The next time you’re at the store, buy one. Try it once. Attempt to try it again. Make it accessible and it becomes part of your routine. Start small so it’s not overwhelming. After 4 years of using flax or hemp or chia in my own oatmeal, my husband started using it in his own. Stranger things have happened…