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Four Ways To Use … Chia Seeds

Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3s and easier on the tummy than flax seeds because they don’t need to be ground before eating.

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Chia seeds are a great source of omega-3s and easier on the tummy than flax seeds because they don’t need to be ground before eating. They also aid hydration and reduce hunger and food cravings by keeping you feeling full with about 10 grams of fiber in a one-ounce serving. Best known for appearing in baked goods, chia seeds can complement a variety of dishes, from sweet to savory.

Chocolate-Coconut Chia Seed Pudding

Rich chocolate and creamy coconut milk, thickened with chia seeds, make a decadent pudding. Top it off with chocolate bits and coconut shavings for an indulgent touch. In a bowl, whisk together 1¼ cup vanilla coconut milk, ¼ cup chia seeds, 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder (or unsweetened baking cocoa), 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup, 1 tablespoon brewed coffee and ¼ teaspoon sea salt. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight. Optional: Top with dark chocolate and toasted coconut shavings. Makes two servings.

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Creamy Lemon Pasta Salad with Fresh Summer Veggies

This creamy, zesty pasta sauce, with chia seeds as the unexpected ingredient, will wow any crowd. Combined with a healthy helping of fresh seasonal veggies, this recipe will be a go-to on your summer menu. In a bowl, whisk together 1½ cups skim ricotta, 1/3 cup chia seeds, ¼ cup light sour cream, ¼ cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese, 1 teaspoon sea salt, ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper, and the juice and zest of 1 large lemon. Cover and let sit in fridge for at least 4 hours, and up to overnight. Boil 1 pound of your favorite pasta salad pasta with 1 teaspoon salt, until al dente. Drain and immediately transfer to a large bowl. Toss with the ricotta-chia mixture until thoroughly coated. To the bowl, add 2 diced carrots, 1 cup chopped sugar snap or English peas, 1 diced summer squash, 1 cup halved cherry tomatoes, 1 tablespoon (each) freshly chopped basil and flat-leaf parsley. Toss until well combined. Optional toppings: fresh lemon zest, fresh basil, fresh parsley, freshly grated Parmesan, or toasted pine nuts.

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Chia-Panko-Crusted Shrimp

Crispy, crusted shrimp, with a healthy touch of chia seeds, is baked in the oven for a lighter version of a classic comfort food. Serve up with your favorite dipping sauce or salsa. Set up this dredging station for 1 pound of peeled and deveined jumbo shrimp (tails on): one plate with 2 tablespoons whole-wheat flour, one plate with 2 eggs, whisked, and one plate with a mixture of 1 cup whole-wheat panko breadcrumbs, ¼ cup chia seeds, 2 cloves minced garlic, 2 tablespoons cumin, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon (each) salt and pepper. Heat oven to 450 degrees, and prepare a baking sheet with foil and non-stick cooking spray. Cut shrimp where veins were removed so they will be able to stand with tails facing up. Dredge shrimp in the flour, then eggs, then panko mixture (coat thoroughly). Stand shrimp up on a baking sheet, and bake for 10–12 minutes, until golden brown.

RELATED RECIPE: Shrimp Tacos

Quinoa-Chia Breakfast Parfait

Quinoa is a delicious breakfast option and also adds a substantial amount of protein. Chia seeds can be cooked right into quinoa (or even rice or oatmeal) and add a filling amount of fiber to this colorful parfait. Also try adding chia seeds to quinoa, rice, barley or farro for lunch or dinner. Bring 1 cup of quinoa, ¼ cup chia seeds, 1 teaspoon sea salt, and 2 cups of water to a boil in a small pot. Cover and reduce heat to simmer for about 10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy. In a small bowl, toss together 2 cups of berries, or your favorite cut fruit (grilled fruit is amazing in the summer). To make 4 servings, place ½ cup Greek yogurt in the bottom of 4 parfait dishes. Top each with ¼ cup of the fruit mixture and ¼ cup quinoa. Repeat this step. Sprinkle your favorite nuts over the top, and use a drizzle of maple syrup, honey or agave for sweetness.

RELATED: Four Ways To Use … Quinoa

Jessica Cerra is the owner of Fit Food by Jess, a private chef and catering company in Encinitas, Calif., and the co-founder of Harmony Bar. A former professional XTERRA triathlete, Cerra now races for Twenty16 Women’s Professional Cycling Team. Find 150 more of Cerra’s recipes online at Triathlete.com/recipes.