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Berry Chia Jam

This quick and easy jam is thickened with chia seeds and flax, and is full of antioxidants. fiber, and omega-3s without any refined sugar!

Welcome to the first blog post on Sunshine and Sprouts! I'm so happy you're here, and I hope I'm able to share some useful information on this site. But first, I'd like to say that my intention with all of this is not to tell people what to do, what you shouldn't eat, or try to lay out rigid rules for how to live your life. What I would like to do is present the medical and scientific data we currently have in order to help you make an informed decision about what is the best way for you to live healthy. And share some yummy recipes along the way.

Over the past 8 years, I've gradually reduced my meat intake and have become fully plant-based in January of this year. However, not everyone is ready or able to make that decision! And I still struggle with my intake of sweets and processed foods. Maybe your journey will include starting to incorporate meatless Mondays into your routine, or trying to eat more salads. Or, figuring out how to increase your kids' vegetable repertoire! Approaching health from an "all-or-nothing" standpoint is a sure-fire way to feel like a failure, and worse, to give up completely. It's all of the little changes we make here and there that add up to something wonderful!

I know you all do amazing things every day, so show yourselves some love, right here and right now. And let's move on to our first recipe!

It took me a while to figure out which recipe would be the first I should share on the blog. Kid-friendly snack? Chili (one of my favorites)? Tofu (not gonna lie, I considered it)? But I decided to choose this recipe for a quick and inexpensive jam that you can not only whip up in no time, but it's something kids love (and won't turn away readers before this blog thing even gets started...sorry, tofu). You can freeze it as well. And the best part is, you get to control how much sweetness you add- unlike the jarred stuff from the store! It is full of antioxidants, fiber, and omega-3s without any refined sugar.

The recipe is adapted from Angela Liddon's Magical Blueberry Vanilla Chia Seed Jam on her blog, (you can find her recipe here). She has tons of amazing plant-based recipes on her blog, and her second cookbook, Oh She Glows Everyday, includes ways to make most of the recipes more kid-friendly. However, there are lots of variations of this recipe available online! Dreena Burton just shared her version earlier this month here where she uses chopped pitted dates along with the berries.

I chose to use date syrup as the sweetener for this jam, as it is considered a whole food. Dates are high in antioxidants and fiber, are prebiotic and increase beneficial gut flora, and may also fight colon cancer (see the Nutrition Facts website for more information). Date syrup is made from pureed whole dates and preserves all of the goodness of the entire fruit; most other sweeteners like agave and coconut sugar are just extracted sugar and do not have any inherent health properties. I wasn't able to find date syrup in my local grocery store, and so I ordered it online. Date syrup and date sugar (whole, dried pulverized dates) do have somewhat of a strong flavor, but I like the taste they give to baked goods and certain other recipes. You'll be seeing me use dates to sweeten lots of other recipes to come! You could use chopped dates in place of the date syrup, or make your own date puree. Alternatively, you can sub maple syrup for the date syrup.

The jam is thickened with chia seeds and ground flax seeds, both of which are high in fiber and omega-3s. I've been trying to find ways to incorporate flax into my diet, because it is just so incredibly healthy.

You can use either fresh or frozen berries here, and I recommend going with whatever is most cost-effective and whatever you have on hand. Frozen fruit is picked and packaged when ripe and tends to be a better choice when the fresh fruit is not in season and therefore tastes flat. I love keeping a big bag of frozen blueberries in my freezer so I can whip this up whenever I feel like it! And often I will mix both fresh and frozen together. I prefer to use blueberries, because I love blueberry jam on whole wheat toast, and also because there is no chopping involved, but strawberries are delicious here as well. I've also used a mix of raspberries and blackberries which I enjoyed, but those berries can get a bit seedy and some kids may not care for the texture.

The cost is a bit more expensive than buying a jar of jam, but so much better! Compare to a leading brand of store-bought jam: 1 tbsp. of blueberry chia jam has approximately 6.5 g total carbs, 1.5 g fiber, and 4.5 g sugar while 1 tbsp. of Smucker's strawberry jam has 13 g total carbs, no fiber, and 12 g sugar! For perspective, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 g sugar for an adult female.

I hope you enjoy this berry chia jam! Please let me know in the comments if you made it and what you thought!




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