There are several health benefits of chia seeds for kids and toddlers. Chia seeds can be a wonderful and important source of nutrition with many creative uses.
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Disclaimer: While I am a Registered Dietitian, this post is for informational purposes only, and is not meant to give medical advice. Please talk with your dietitian or medical care provider for individualized advice.
If you’re new to chia seeds, my hope is that you find this post very helpful in learning more about chia seeds for kids.
We love to include chia seeds in a variety of toddler meals and snacks (like these healthy homemade toddler snacks) for all of their health-promoting benefits.
Chia seeds come from the chia plant (Salvia hispanica), and were actually a staple food for the Aztecs and Mayans. Pretty neat, right?
How to Serve Chia Seeds to Kids
Your first question about chia seeds for kids and toddlers is probably how to serve them, especially if you’re new to this small, nutrient-dense seed.
When it comes to serving chia seeds to kids, it may come down to accessibility or preference.
You can find white or black chia seeds, and both are about the same nutritionally.
We usually find and buy the black chia seeds based on what’s available in our grocery stores.
Your next question is probably, Are chia seeds good for kids? Absolutely!
When serving chia seeds to kids, it’s easy to just throw them into any kid-friendly recipe and toddler meal ideas, however there some things to keep in mind.
Here are a few recommended measures to take.
- Make sure not to serve them dry or by themselves, as there have been reports of choking and GI disturbances in adults. Since kids have less mature GI systems, I would be more hyper alert about this.
- It’s recommended to soak chia seeds overnight or mix them into a recipe where they are fully absorbed and “gelled,” such as cereals, oatmeal, cookies, yogurt (they’re great in diy yogurt pouches!), smoothies, patties and more. We have several recipes with chia seeds mixed in at the bottom of this post.
- A small amount is powerful. You don’t need to overload children. Just 1-2 tablespoons should be plenty and offer ample nutrition in a small punch.
Diana Rice, a pediatric Registered Dietitian of Tiny Seed Family Nutrition, adds, “Chia seeds are a great option for kids if they like them.
Dry chia seeds could be a choking hazard since they will clump together on contact with saliva, but most people don’t eat them that way.”
What do Chia Seeds Taste like?
Chia seeds don’t have a specific taste, and will, if anything, just amplify the flavor of what you add them to.
However, they will likely impart a change in texture.
This can be one of the challenges with serving chia seeds for toddlers, since they can be quite “specific” about what they will and won’t eat.
However, as we discuss in our intuitive eating for kids tips, keep offering for exposure and it will become more and more ‘normal’ over time.
Since chia seeds absorb liquid (up to 10-13 times their weight in liquid), they will often form a “gel,” or thicken things up.
Hence, they can be very hydrating, which is great for many of us who need more hydration in our lives. I’ll even toss them into my homemade electrolyte drinks at times.
What About Chia Seeds for Babies?
Chia seeds can be a great food for babies, too!
While you may not think about these little tiny seeds when introducing solids to babies, chia seeds and babies can be a great match if you follow the same recommended protocols.
Make sure to first talk with your pediatrician or dietitian before starting solids and introducing chia seeds, especially if you have a family history of allergies, intolerances or general growth or developmental concerns with your child.
Do Chia Seeds Pose Allergies Risk?
“It is possible to be allergic to chia seeds, but it’s not nearly as common as the top 9 allergens”, Rice adds. “You’d want to look out for the same symptoms – redness, swelling, hives, shortness of breath.”
Allergies to chia seeds are uncommon, though pediatric dietitian, Arielle Lebovitz, of Kid Food Explorers, notes they have structural similarities to sesame seeds and hazelnuts, which may lead to cross reactivity.
And interestingly, as of 2023, new research has been published showing some cross reactivity between chia seeds and sesame seeds.
Signs of Allergic Reactions
The researchers noticed increasing reports of IgE-mediated allergic reactions to chia seed consumption and an immediate hypersensitivity.
The child’s allergic reaction included facial hives and swelling around the eyes.
The allergic reactions among the adults included shortness of breath, loss of consciousness, oropharyngeal itching, generalized hives, lip swelling and throat swelling.
Precautions to Take
Some other precautions to take (similar to introducing chia seeds to toddlers):
- Make sure not to serve them dry or by themselves, as there have been reports of choking and GI disturbances in adults.
- It’s recommended to soak chia seeds overnight, or mix them into a recipe where they are fully absorbed and “gelled.
- Since babies need a lot of fat (and chia seeds are a healthy source of omega 3 fats), pairing them with another fat source or fiber source can provide great nutrition.
- Chia seeds are a great iron source for babies. Babies ages 7-11 months need about 11 mg of iron per day.
They can easily be added to nearly everything.
Like with kids, there are several benefits of chia seeds for babies. Here are some of our favorite ways to add chia seeds for babies:
- Baby led weaning meatballs
- Baby french toast
- Baby led weaning pancakes
- Baby waffles
- Sweet potato spinach baby food
Chia Seeds and Baby Led Weaning
When doing baby led weaning, it’s recommended to start introducing solids around 6 months, or when baby is developmentally ready.
I wrote a little bit more about our baby led weaning journey and examples with baby led weaning foods for 6 months.
We usually start with one meal a day, and slowly work up from there. By 10-12 months, we were at 3 solid meals or snacks/day.
You could also add them to savory options that you may serve for lunch or dinner.
Chia Seeds Nutrition for Kids
When talking about chia seeds for adults, chia seeds for runners, or chia seeds for kids, the nutritional benefits are abundant.
Plus, a little bit goes a long way in these kid friendly chia recipes.
Here’s a breakdown of chia seeds nutrition:
- Healthy fats – Nearly 60% of the fat in chia seeds comes from omega 3 fatty acids, which are important for little growing brains. They are actually the richest plant source of omega 3 fatty acids.
- Protein – Chia seeds have just about 5 grams of protein per ounce, making them a great complete protein and option for plant-based kids.
- Calcium – If you’re worried that your toddlers aren’t getting enough calcium, or aren’t milk drinkers, chia seeds provide a punch of calcium, offering nearly 200 mg per 30 grams (or per 3 Tbsp). Toddlers ages 1-3 need about 700 mg of calcium per day, while kids 4-8 need about 1,000 mg (Source). This translates to 2-3 servings of calcium-rich food.
- Iron – Similar to calcium, chia seeds are also rich in the micronutrient, iron. Just three tablespoons provide just over 2 mg of iron. Infants and toddlers need more iron than adults, since they are growing so quickly. Children ages 4-8 need about 10 mg daily, while toddlers ages 1-3 need about 7 mg per day (Source).
Make sure to store chia seeds in a cool, dry place away from sunlight. You can also store them in the refrigerator.
While not listed as a top 8 food allergen, chia seeds can cause allergies among some people, as stated above. Some people may experience symptoms like gastrointestinal distress, itching, hives and swelling after eating, and should seek medical care immediately.
While chia seeds are mostly safe, there was a report of a GI blockage reported after a man consumed dry chia seeds. It’s best to consume in liquids or mixed in with other foods.
Now that you know the nutrition and benefits of chia seeds for kids and babies, let’s get to some kid-friendly and family-friendly recipes to include them into!