To Chia or Not to Chia: This is the Seed/Nut Question

A word about seeds and nuts for food refashionistas

I visit many food blogs when I research recipes.  Many of the blogs that promote healthy eating and/or vegetarian/vegan lifestyles include seeds and nuts in their recipes: chia seeds, sesame seeds, flax seeds or flaxseed meal, almonds or almond flour, pecans, coconut, and so on.  In fact, many recipes that appear to be low-calorie and appropriate for dieters include small amounts of such ingredients.

From one health standpoint, the use of these foods is very sensible.  Seeds and nuts are rich in protein and often high in fiber and other important minerals.  Here, for example, is a description of chia seeds from Nutritiondata.self.com which provides nutritional data and analysis of different foods: This food is very low in Cholesterol and Sodium. It is also a good source of Calcium and Phosphorus, and a very good source of Dietary Fiber and Manganese.  And this doesn’t begin to mention the delicious taste and crunchy texture that these ingredients can bring to a dish.

So, why not throw a tablespoon or two of chia seeds, flax, coconut, or nuts into a recipe if you can?  After all, we all want to eat “healthy,” don’t we? There is one important reason for people who are dieting.  All seeds and nuts contain very high levels of oil in comparison to their quantity.  One ounce (two tablespoons) of chia seeds, for example contains 9 grams of fat!  But it’s healthy fat, you say.  Unfortunately, fat is fat when it comes to calories.  For Weight Watchers, 2  tablespoons of chia seeds translates into 3 points in both the Points and PointsPlus plans.  That can make a dint in your daily plan.

This doesn’t mean avoiding seeds and nuts, but it does mean being extremely careful about their use.  For instance, if a recipe calls for 1 tablespoon of chia seeds, I suggest using 1 teaspoon.  The result would be a Weight Watcher value of .5 points instead of 3 points.  I generally either cut out, replace, and/or reduce the amount of these ingredients in any recipe I’m re-fashioning.

To help you decide how much of these ingredients you should use, I’ve calculated the point-values of seed-and-nut ingredients that are not included in the Weight Watcher booklets.  If I’ve left any out, please let me know.

  • Almond meal flour (¼ cup): Points 4; PointsPlus 5
  • Chia seeds (2 tbsp.): Points 3; PointsPlus 3
  • Coconut, sweetened (2 tbsp.): Points 2; PointsPlus 2
  • Coconut, unsweetened (2 tbsp.): Points 2.5; PointsPlus 2.5
  • Flaxseed meal (2 tbsp.): Points 1; PointsPlus 2
  • Poppy seeds (2 tbsp.): Points 1; PointsPlus 1
  • Quinoa flakes (¼ cup): Points 2.5; PointsPlus 3