I’ve been eating chia seeds for quite some time now, before Zane was even a twinkle in my eye. I love their alternately crunchy and gelatinous textures and the versatility of their neutral flavor, but their nutritional value is what first put them on my radar. Chia seeds are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acid, high in fiber, and a good source of iron, calcium, and other minerals.

It wasn’t until I noticed that some Happy Family brand purées, specifically the Happy Tot pouches, include chia seeds (a registered variety called Salba) that I thought to include them in baby food. It made sense to me, though, since I recalled in some peripheral reading that omega-3′s were beneficial for brain development. So I decided to do a little research, and boy was it overwhelming.

I am not a nutritionist (much less a pediatric nutritionist). I’m just a mom who loves food, including its relationship to health. My initial curiosity turned into too much time spent reading claims and abstracts after Zane went to bed, when I should have been cozying up with a book or my husband on the couch!  It seems pretty well agreed upon that omega-3 fatty acids provide health benefits; however, which sources of essential fatty acids are best and in what volume they should be consumed are not. For example, while breast milk and fish oil are sources of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and linked to cognitive development, chia seeds contain the omega-3 alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). ALA can be converted to DHA, although not at a convincingly efficient volume.

My conclusion? Chia seeds are a fun ingredient to play with and generally nutritious, but I don’t buy in to the idea that you need to purchase specialty foods to raise a healthy baby.

I made some purées inspired by the Happy Tot flavor combinations, and the good news is they are delicious (and good for you!) with or without the chia seeds. Zane and I happily taste-tested them and gave each a thumbs up. We’ve been eating the butternut squash & apple purée in eggs (à la the pumpkin scramble). The mango & spinach flavor was great stirred into rice. All of them are lovely on their own, but the coconut & banana was particularly heavenly served solo, like a pudding.

Below are the ingredients and their quantities as we enjoyed them. For any of the variations, add the ingredients to a food processor or blender and purée until smooth. Feel free to add water to thin to your desired consistency, especially because the chia seeds will thicken the mixture over time.

If you give them a try, let me know which is your favorite!

Butternut Squash and Apple Purée

1 c butternut squash (cut a small squash in  half, remove seeds/pulp, and roast “face-down” at 350° until tender)
1`apple, peeled (unless your blender or food processor can handle the skin), cored, and roughly chopped
1 tbsp chia seeds

Banana and Coconut Purée

3 bananas, peeled and broken into chunks
1 c coconut milk
1 tbsp chia seeds

Mango and Spinach Purée

1 mango, pitted and cubed (here is a good tutorial on how to cut a mango)
1 c loosely packed spinach, rinsed well
1 tbsp chia seeds