Posted in Cooking and Recipes, Foodies, Lifelong Learning

Power Lunch Packs: Eating Less Calories by Maxing out on Nutrient Rich Seeds and Grains – Chia Seeds and more

Brush Brown Bag - Mercy Supply, Michigan
Brush Brown Bag – Mercy Supply, Michigan

Exciting Times.  What is in your lunch pack?

Seeking out ways to cheat in a good way seems to be an ongoing effort on my part.  Let me be clear.  By that I mean cutting down on the empty calories without taking out the fun and the “I am looking forward to relishing every last morsel” feeling of my meals or sacrificing a balanced healthy diet.

No way you?  Yes way!  How you ask?.  adding a few power ingredients – Whole grains.  Millet, Job’s Tears, Rice, Timothy, Oats are a few examples of whole grains.  And yes, it is just that simple.  These gems make make a world of difference.

Did you know that even in greater quanities than fruits, whole grains have more and some other valuable antioxidants not found in fruits and vegetables, as well as B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron and fiber?  and if your curiousity gets the better of you want to find out what  “Job’s Tears” are read on to the end.

The following is an overview of a few other power packing grains or seeds based on their special nutrtional value. 

Quinoa, Teff and Chia Seeds 

Quinoa – pronounced (Keen-wah); Native of South America.

Commonly viewed as a grain, it is the seed of a plant related to beets, Swiss chard and spinach (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics).  However, it is considered a pseudo-grain because its nutritional profile, preparation, and use are so similar to other grains.


It is gluten-free, high in fiber and protein and a good source of iron, magnesium, folate and phosphorous.  It is one of the few plant-based proteins to contain all the essential amino acids that the body cannot produce on its own.

“Jobs Tears” – aka Coix, Adlay, Mary’s Tears, Chinese Pearl Barley;

Native to China, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Malaysia. Seeds are tear-shaped and come in several colors including yellow, black, gray, brown, white, and purple. The seeds are sometimes used as ornamental beads for jewelry and rosaries.

2) Teff – Origin – Ethiopia.   It is  a gluten free whole grain with a sweet and malty flavor that is slighlty smaller than poppy seeds.  It is the smallest grain in the world and derives its name from the Amharic word “Teffa” which translates as lost because of its small size the grain can be easily lost.


Teff is considered one of the “ethnic flours” which includes fufu and cassava. It is used as a food thickening agent. Given its size, the bulk of the grain is germ and bran which explains its high fiber content which for one (1) cup of uncooked Teff is about 15grams .

It contains twice as much iron as barley and wheat and is a rich source of calcium, magnesium, boron, copper, phosphorus and zinc. A cup of cooked teff offers about the same amount of calcium as in a half-cup of cooked spinach. It is an excellent source of of vitamin C, a nutrient not commonly found in grains.


Ethiopians make injera, a spongy sourdough flatbread from fermented teff.  It comes in different colors, with red teff being the most common. Red teff is rich in iron. White teff has a chestnut-like flavor and the darker varieties are more earthy in flavor with a slight hazelnut taste.

In the United States, Idaho is one of the primary producers of Teff.  It is used in making gluten-free Teff wraps.  A number of Ethiopian long distance runners attribute their energy and health to their teff rich diets.

3) Chia – (Salvia hispanica L.) Origin: Southern Mexico.  Chia seeds were a staple food of the Aztecs and Mayans.

The USDA does not consider it a whole grain which is a grain that has 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm.  Chia seeds are an oilseed that is part of the mint family.  However, they are the highest plant source of omega-3 fatty acids; high in soluble and insoluble fiber, omega fatty acids, calcium, antioxidants and high-quality protein.

These seeds can absorb up to ten (10) times their weight, acting as a solid hydration booster and expands to curb appetite.  The fiber helps slow digestion and makes one  feel fuller by soaking up fluid and expanding in your digestive tract and thereby reducing the caloric consumed.

.  ChiaA ChiaB

These seeds can be stirred into yogurt, smoothies and cereals; sprinkled on salads; and baked into breads, pancakes and muffins.

FACT – “Chia” stems from the Mayan word for “strength.” Has more omega-3 acids than Salmon. Chia is grown in Argentina, Mexico, Peru and Bolivia and also grown in Australia by The Chia company.


Trivia:  What is inaccurate with the the label (in US)  that reads “whole grain whole wheat?”

Answer – whole wheat is a type of whole grain, just as apples are a type fruit and therefore not all fruit are apples, and likewise not all whole grains are whole wheat.



Broad based knowledge seeker; outside and beyond the box - arts and culture, travel, writing, christian faith walk, good reads and refreshing conversation - and not necessarily in that order. Storytelling by connecting the dots between the traditional and non-traditional, the obvious and not so obvious.

7 thoughts on “Power Lunch Packs: Eating Less Calories by Maxing out on Nutrient Rich Seeds and Grains – Chia Seeds and more

  1. I wonder if this is the main component in chai tea, which I am currently loving for it’s rich aroma. A great recipe for smoothie includes, chia seed or hemp seed (quite popular these days), almond butter and coconut butter and milk. Nutritious and delish – Emma.

    1. From my preliminary search it appears that chai is a way of making tea with tea leaves, honey and milk while chia is an oilseed. Be on the look out for more on my findings in one of my upcoming posts.

  2. Thanks for the informative introduction to chia – and the added facts about quinoa and teff, both of which I dearly love. A perennial fave is red quinoa salad; I put all kinds of delicious (and nutritious!) veggies and seeds in, all dressed with lime-cumin-honey. Must be time for lunch 🙂

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