Tuesday’s Healthy Fuel Recipe: High Protein Chia Pudding

We’ve got a new high-protein snack option this week. Actually, it’s a great option for breakfast, lunch, snacks, pre-training or recovery. Let’s just call it versatile.

It uses just 4-5 ingredients, packs in a whopping amount of protein (especially for a snack that can be made with vegetarian/vegan only ingredients), and utilizes the great nourishing benefits of chia seeds.

What is it? Ch-Ch-Ch Chia Pudding (never gets old, am I right?).

While it may be a stretch for some, especially due to the soaked chia texture – I’m talking to you, hubby – many people love its flavor, versatility, and yes, health benefits. I’ll admit I don’t generally get hung up on textures, and I love it. You may too.

We’ll start with an easy template recipe, and then add some options and variations.

Recipe of the Week: Basic High Protein Chia Pudding

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup milk (dairy, almond, coconut, etc. – use unsweetened)
  • 2-3 Tbsp chia seeds (here’s the brand I usually buy)
  • 2 tsp real maple or organic honey (to taste)

Instructions:

Place all ingredients in a jar. Shake very well. Allow to set in the fridge 4+ hours or overnight.

Variations:

Serving Options:

For a snack, eat as written.

If you’d like to use it as part of a meal such as breakfast or lunch, either increase by 50-75% (most women) or 100% (most men), or add other foods to round out the meal.

If using as pre-training – Try to consume it at least 90 minutes before your ride. Most cyclists should use non-dairy milk if using milk in pre-training, as dairy can be tough to digest for some.

If using as recovery – add 1 scoop favorite protein powder and an additional 2 tsp maple or honey.

Nutrition:

With 2% Dairy Milk: 180-200 calories, ~25 gm carbs, 16 gm protein, 8 gm fiber.

With most non-dairy milks: 150-180 calories, ~25 gm carbs, ~10 gm protein, ~8-10 gram fiber.

As directed for recovery: : ~340-360 calories, 25 gm carbs, 30-36 gm protein, 8 gm fiber.

Comments:

Whether or not you’re a runner (good cycling cross-training, right?), you may have heard of the book Born to Run.  Personally, I love this book.  It’s a wonderfully entertaining, well-written story of incredible endurance athletes, great racing, and the love of sport.  If you’ve read it, or heard about it, you may also be interested in the fuel used by these incredible endurance athletes.

According to the book, the Tarahumara People used pinole (ground corn) and chia seeds as their primary fuel.  In the ever-increasing sports nutrition market, this revelation sparked a whole new interest in the ancient seed, and a whole new niche for Chia seed sports foods.  While I don’t think Chia seeds are a one-stop miracle food that will solve all your problems and single-handedly get you to the top of the podium, they are a valuable nutrient-packed, high-antioxidant, long-lasting-energy seed that can be utilized in daily eating or training nutrition.  And surprisingly, many athletes tolerate the high fiber content well and don’t report digestional issues like you’d expect from a high fiber food, especially when it’s first soaked before consumption as in our recipe this week. In my opinion, chia seeds make for a perfect complement to quicker energy foods/drinks on the bike.

As a long-lasting energy source, Chia seeds and Chia-based products are most appropriate for consumption 1-2 hours before a ride or during a ride that lasts longer than 2 hours.  A few commercial sports nutrition options that use Chia seeds include:

In addition to long-lasting, slow-and-steady-digesting carbs and fiber, Chia seeds are wonderfully versatile and have a lot to offer nutritionally.  They are absolutely a great choice for everyday nutrition, anytime.  In fact, they provide:

Minerals – Chia seeds are an excellent source of phosphorous, manganese and calcium.  They also contain trace amounts of sodium and potassium.

Healthy fats: Chia seeds contain a high amount of plant based omega-3s.  And, while these cannot replace the omega-3s from fish and seafood, they still promote reduced inflammation and overall health.

Fiber: Chia seeds are a great source of fiber at six grams per one tablespoon!  Soluble fiber promotes digestive health, steady energy and blood sugars, reduced cholesterol, improved immunity, and overall wellness.

Antioxidants: Great for the athlete, Chia seeds provide healthful antioxidants that combat oxidative stress.  Specific antioxidants include caffeic and chlorogenic acids, myricetin, quercetin, and kaempferol.  These nutrients have also been correlated with reduced risk of cancer.

Protein: Chia seeds, like quinoa seeds, contain complete proteins with all essential amino acids.  Every tablespoon of chia provides 2 grams of protein.

I’m a big fan of chia, and the more ways you want to add it, the better (not all in one day, but with variety day to day!). Enjoy the health benefits, the flavors added, and yes, even the texture. Then get on your way like an ancient barefoot runner!

***Kelli Jennings is a Registered Dietician, sports nutritionist, avid endurance athlete, and owner of Apex Nutrition, LLC.  She has partnered with Heights Performance to help clients get and stay healthy, lose fat, recover from injury, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.  She is also an expert in endurance sports nutrition, and focuses on optimal performance, best strength to weight ratio, recovery, endurance and stamina.  She teaches clients to eat nourishing, real foods without spending hours in the kitchen or hiring a personal chef.  Kelli can help you put great nutrition into everyday life.***