Point Values for Commonly Used Seeds

Back in June, 2011, I started realizing that seeds could carve a deep hole in my daily WW points. I knew about the high fats in nuts, but I wasn’t sure about seeds. This was during the height of the chia seed craze, and they seemed to be in every recipe I looked at.

Research on chia seeds confirmed my worst suspicions: 2 tbsps. = 3 points (see note at bottom) because of the high quantity of fat in the seeds. True, chia seeds contain healthy fat but, unfortunately, WW doesn’t distinguish between good and bad fats when assigning point values. Clearly, I wasn’t going to be sprinkling chia, or any other, seeds around with happy abandon.

I wrote about the seed problem in what has turned out to be the 2nd most popular post on this blog, To Chia or Not to Chia: This is the Seed/Nut Question. I attribute part of this popularity to the fact that the WW Pocket Guide doesn’t include point information on seeds—nuts, yes; seeds, no.

But I hadn’t really delved into all the seeds or provided an easy basis for comparisons among the seeds. My remedy is a “Point Values of Commonly Used Seeds” chart which uses 1 tbsp. as the common quantity.

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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

Quinoa-Flax Sweet Potato Squares

Okay, I admit it—I’m having a lot of fun trying out non-gluten flours and meals made from seeds and nuts, primarily because I’ve given up worrying about failure. 

My parents grew up during the 1930s Depression and taught me that food should never, ever, be thrown out under any circumstances. “Think of all the starving children in the world,” my mother used to say.  I wasn’t sure that even a starving child would want to eat horrible canned spinach, but I managed to pick up a lot of food guilt from such admonitions.  And the trouble with recipe experimentation is that failure means stuff ends up in the garbage.  Guilty!

Well, I’ve stepped away from the guilt.  Yes, I have.  It’s still there, but it’s a shadow of its former self.   In fact, one of these days, I’m going to tell you about my first attempt at a gluten-free yeast bread.  Promise.

Today, however, I’m reporting on a success: tasty, moist, rich, dense, and very filling squares.  I made 12 squares because I was serving them as part of a lunch for a meeting.  Otherwise I would have made 16 to keep the portions small.  

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 12 (or 16) squares

Ingredients

  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • ½ cup flaxseed meal (not flax seeds)
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup potato starch
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2 tbsp. tapioca starch
  • 1 tsp. xanthan gum
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • ½ tsp. ground ginger
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sweet potato puree
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 tbsp. canola or olive oil
  • 1 – 1½ cup unsweetened soy milk or other alternative milk, as needed
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients: rice flour, flaxseed meal, quinoa flour, potato starch, artificial sugar, xanthan gum, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, sweet potato puree, applesauce, oil, and 1 cup of the milk until smooth.
  3. Gradually mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
  4. If batter begins to form a ball, add in additional milk, as needed. (I needed the full 1½ cups.) Batter will be thick.  
  5. Spray 9″ x 9″ pan with cooking spray.
  6. Scrape in batter, smoothing the top with a spatula.
  7. Bake in 400° F oven for 30 minutes or until knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

For Weight Watchers:

  • 12 squares: Each square is 4 points on the Points plan and 6 points on the PointsPlus plan.
  • 16 squares: Each square is 3 points on the Points plan and 4 points on the PointsPlus plan. (Why not 5? Beats me.)

Nutritional Information for 12 and 16 squares:

12 squares

  • Calories 221 (70 from fat)
  • Fat 8 g
  • Carbohydrate 29 g
  • Fiber 4 g
  • Protein 9 g
  • Cholesterol 171 mg
  • Sodium 351 mg

16 squares

  • Calories 161 (47 from fat)
  • Fat 5 g
  • Carbohydrate 22 g
  • Fiber 3 g
  • Protein 7 g
  • Cholesterol 128 mg
  • Sodium 263 mg

(Adapted from “Sweet Potato Flax Muffins” by The Dusty Baker.)