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
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Lentil-Sesame Bread

Lentils baked into bread?  And spiced with curry?  This bread is an unexpected pleasure: slighly sweet and slightly spicy.  

It’s also chockful of protein and healthy ingredients, including lentils, applesauce, sesame seeds, and quinoa flour.

A particular benefit of this bread for dieters is that it is very filling. I’m one of those people who’s hungry in the morning, and my usual breakfast, fruit and yogurt, only carries me to 11:00 or 11:30 a.m.  When I add a slice of this bread, I can easily go until 1:00 p.m. before getting hungry. 

Diet Update: As I continue to make this bread, I keep finding myself having only 2½ cups of cooked lentils from even 1 cup of dried lentils.  Recently, I also decided to use a liquid egg substitute in place of the eggs.  These two changes don’t make a taste difference, but they do slightly affect the Weight Watcher point-value of this bread (see below).

 

Note: The bread in the photos is made with yellow lentils.

Printer-friendly recipe

Makes 8 slices

Ingredients

  • 1 cup white rice flour
  • ½ cup quinoa flour
  • ½ cup artificial sugar
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • 1½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. curry powder
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. xanthan gum
  • 3 eggs or ¾ cup liquid egg substitute
  • 6 tbsp. applesauce, unsweetened
  • 2 tbsp. oil 
  • 2½ – 3 cups cooked lentils, drained and rinsed (if not using canned lentils, start with 1 cup dry lentils and prepare as necessary)
  • Cooking spray

Directions

  1. In a medium bowl, mix together all dry ingredients: rice flour, quinoa flour, sesame seeds, baking powder, baking soda, curry powder, xanthum gum, and salt.
  2. In a larger bowl, beat eggs until mixed or pour in liquid egg substitute.
  3. Add applesauce, oil, and lentils and mix until well-blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix well.  Batter will be thick.
  5. Spray 9″x 5″ bread pan with cooking spray.
  6. Pour batter into pan and spread evenly.
  7. Bake in 350º oven for 1 hour or until knife comes out clean.
  8. Slice while still warm.

For Weight Watchers:

  • With regular eggs and 3 cups of lentils: 5.5 points per slice on the Points plan and 6 points per slice on the PointsPlus plan.
  • With liquid egg substitute and 2½ cups lentils: 5 points per slice on the Points plan and 5.5 points per slice on the PointsPlus plan.

Nutritional information per 1 slice of 8 with regular eggs and 3 cups of lentils:

  • Calories 264 (65 from fat)
  • Fat 7 g
  • Carbohydrate 39 g
  • Fiber 8 g
  • Protein 12 g
  • Sodium 342 mg
  • Cholesterol 79 mg

This food is a good source of dietary fiber, protein, folate and manganese.

(Adapted from “Lentil Sesame Bread” in The Gluten-Free Gourmet: Living Well Without Flour by Bette Hagman)

Sesame Asparagus with Carrots

Heighten the flavour of fresh, spring asparagus with carrots and the light application of soy sauce, sesame oil, and sesame seeds.

Printer-friendly recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 large bunch asparagus, about 3-4 cups
  • 2 large carrots, peeled
  • 2 tbsp. of chicken broth powder mixed with ½ cup of water, or ½ cup of liquid chicken broth
  • 1 tbsp. minced ginger
  • 1 tbsp. wheat-free soy sauce
  • 1.5 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

This dish requires a skillet that has a lid.

Directions

    1. Mix soy sauce and sesame oil in a bowl and put to one side.
    2. Break off woody ends of the asparagus and cut remaining spears into pieces about 1 inch long.
    3. Cut carrots into thin slices (about ¼ inch).
    4. Pour chicken broth-water mixture to skillet and place over medium-high heat.
    5. When bubbling, add minced ginger.  Cook for 30 seconds.
    6. Add carrots and stir-fry for 30 seconds.
    7. Lower heat to medium. 
    8. Cover skillet and let carrots steam until crisp (about 15 minutes).  If the pan gets dry, add ½ cup of water.
    9. Add asparagus and mix with the carrots.
    10. Cover and let all vegetables steam until tender (about 10 minutes).
    11. Uncover and let water boil off.
    12. Remove from heat.
    13. Add soy sauce-sesame oil mixture and toss vegetables to coat.
    14. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and mix.

For Weight Watchers: Overall point value in both the Points and PointsPlus is 2.5 points for the entire dish.