Remember Chia Pets? (I was a big fan back in third grade.) Turns out chia seeds are good for much more than growing goofy chia pet hair!

Chia seeds, once a staple of Mayan and Aztec diets (cool, huh?), have re-emerged over the past decade as a popular health food. And for good reason. Just one tablespoon packs 3 grams of protein, 6 grams of fiber, and a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids—in only about 60 calories.

Chia seeds have a mild nutty flavor, but are fairly tasteless, which makes them a great addition to many popular meals or snacks. I often add them to smoothies, oatmeal, salads, granola, and baked goods (like muffins or quick breads). One of my favorite ways to use chia seeds is making chia seed pudding (chia seeds can absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid, which makes them a great thickener). Chia seed pudding is quick, easy, and makes a unique breakfast, snack, or even healthy dessert option. If you Google chia seed pudding, you’ll be hit with thousands of interesting, yummy recipes, but the basic concept is to mix a quarter cup of chia seeds with one cup of liquid (usually milk or a milk alternative). Then you can add whatever flavors or extras you like. Let it thicken in the refrigerator for a few hours (overnight is best)…and voila! You have a delicious, simple pudding.

Below is one of my current favorite chia seed pudding recipes. How do you use chia seeds? Let us know on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

Creamy Coconut Orange Chia Seed Pudding
(Adapted from Simple Roots Wellness)

1 cup coconut milk
Juice of 2 oranges (~1/2 cup)
Zest of 1 orange
2 tbsp maple syrup or honey
¼ cup chia seeds*

Combine coconut milk, orange juice, zest, and maple syrup. Sprinkle in chia seeds and mix until well distributed. Pour into bowl with a lid, and refrigerate 4-5 hours (overnight is best). Sometimes I stir once in between to keep the pudding from clumping and to ensure the chia seeds remain distributed. When ready to eat, top with nuts, granola, coconut flakes, dried or fresh fruit, or any other goodies you enjoy.

*Not sure where to buy chia seeds? Trader Joes, Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart and many other well-stocked supermarkets sell chia seeds. You can also buy them in bulk at Sam’s Club and Costco or through online retailers.

Hannah Walters

Hannah is the Let’s Go! SC Project Manager at Eat Smart Move More South Carolina. She received her MPH from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and her BA in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Prior to joining ESMMSC, Hannah was a Nutrition Policy Coordinator for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, DC, where she coordinated national efforts to improve the nutritional quality of school foods, implement calorie labeling on menus at chain restaurants, and reduce unhealthy food marketing to kids.

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