We would all like to be the perfect '10 but only five made it to our best of list. Voted on by us, these are foods that caught our attention and warrant consumption through 2011.
Chia seeds - flaxseed, you're too much work. You need to be ground to release your omega 3's. You must come wrapped in black packaging otherwise your delicate oils are destroyed. You often cause bloating, the exact problem people are trying to eradicate. And food scientists have damaged you - added you to cereal, crackers and breads but your omega 3's are spoiled by heat and commercial processing. And flax oil? Well you're just a shell of your former self - striped of all of your goodness: omega 3's, fiber, lignins - all gone. Move over flax, chia seeds are stomping all over you. Chia seeds have more vegetarian omega 3's (ALA) than any other food and are packed with vitamin E which helps protect the oils from rancidity. They have 8 grams of soluble fiber and only 105 calories per 3 tablespoon serving. They absorb 10X their weight in water forming a gel that suppresses the appetite and regulates transit time. Plus they taste delicious! You can add them to smoothies, soups and salads but my favorite is a chia seed tapioca (photo above). Simply add 2 cups of organic almond milk to 3 tbl of chia seeds. Let it sit for 5 mins to absorb the liquid, then stir. Add water if required. Add a dash of agave, fresh mint and 1/2 tsp cinnamon and stir. Serves two. While this looks and tastes decadent, it's only 125 calories and packed with fiber, omegas and minerals. Goodbye flax, hello chia!
Sea Snax - Who would have thought that nori (the sea vegetable used in sushi) would be so addictive? Dusted in sea salt with a touch of olive oil, these toasted nori sheets are so utterly delectable that I can consume the entire packet in less than 2 mins. Greedy? Well possibly, but with only 42 calories, zippo carbs and 80mcg of iodine, I'm getting a delicious snack that boosts my metabolism (iodine is required for the synthesis of TSH) and doesn't cause an insulin spike. While you can buy toasted nori snacks at the Korean market (and Annie Chun does a version), Sea Snax uses sea salt versus regular salt and olive oil versus canola and sesame oil. Eat Sea Snax on their own use them as a wrap alternative.
Jungle Snacks - A very easy way to increase your vegetable intake. These are raw kale chips with sesame seeds and salt. Like the Sea Snax they are very easy to polish off. However, the sesame seeds jack up their caloric content. Keep them to one serving which is 120 calories. You'll get all the pleasure of eating a chip but without the damaged fat and carb-loading. While they may seem expensive, $7.70 per packet, they have 4 servings which makes the price more palatable. Just remember to portion them out and not eat them directly from the bag.
Pacific Organic Almond Milk - Organic almonds, water and not much else. 40 calories for 8oz and only 2 grams of carbohydrate. It is one of the few milk substitutes that actually tastes nice. Cow's milk can trigger an inflammatory cascade within the body while almond milk will not (unless you're sensitive to almonds). You'll also save yourself 80 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate. Almond Breeze is another brand but Pacific is organic and has fewer additives.
Pamela's Gluten Free Brownie Mix - Gluten-free doesn't always equate to 'healthy' and these gluten-free brownies aren't, but they taste so damn delicious it would be a travesty to exclude them. Reminiscent of Ottolenghi brownies, chocolate just drips into your mouth when you bite them. I became so addicted to these in December that I nearly had heart palpitations when I thought the store ran out of them (I was giving them way to people, not eating them...). Eating a gluten-free diet can feel restrictive at times, but these little gems remind us that it's entirely possible to be gluten-free and still enjoy our favorite treats.