By Jessica Ismert
Quinoa, pronounced “keen-wah,” is a nutrient rich super-food that was tragically given a difficult-to-pronounce name. Perhaps the tricky name has made it seem intimidating to home cooks. Contrary to what you may think, quinoa can be more than just a healthy grain and is really easy to prepare. Making a batch of quinoa to start off your week gives you endless options to use it for breakfasts, lunches, and dinners to come.
Quinoa is a whole grain with more protein than many other grains. Take it from one of the MGH outpatient dietitians, Emily Gelsomin. She was recently quoted in a boston.com article saying “quinoa is one of the only plant-based sources of protein that contains all the essential amino acids your body needs.” Quinoa is also a good source of potassium, which promotes healthy blood pressure.
That all sounds lovely, but how do you incorporate quinoa into your day-to-day meals? The trick is to master one basic recipe like this one that leaves you with a simple fluffy quinoa you can change up throughout the week. Adding different flavors and toppings allows quinoa to play a different role in every meal.
Quinoa for breakfast: Treat cooked quinoa like you would any breakfast cereal. Sprinkle with some cinnamon, chopped walnuts, fresh fruit or raisins and honey. Add a splash of almond milk and you have yourself a morning delicacy. Add this mixture to some Greek yogurt for more of a protein boost to start your day.
Quinoa for lunch: For an easy lunch to take to the office, fold your quinoa into a wrap. For instance, this quinoa wrap with black beans, feta, and avocado. If you’re not a wrap person, try warming up your quinoa with avocado, beans, and cheese and putting it on salad greens. Toss in some diced chicken for an extra protein punch.
Quinoa for dinner: Quinoa can be a great grain to add to any dinner. Eat it as a simple and flavorful side dish by adding some olive oil, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese. Or, make quinoa part of a breakfast-for-dinner meal by adding an egg. Start by sautéing the quinoa with some olive oil, greens (great with spinach or arugula), salt and pepper. Add an over-easy egg on top of your quinoa-green dish and you have a well-balanced meal.
Transforming simple quinoa into different recipes is easy and gives you a chance to be creative with your favorite flavors. Remember to be mindful of your serving size, as you would with any grain. Keep your serving size to less than ½ cup when pairing it with the rest of your meal. One ½ cup cooked quinoa is about 115 calories, 20 grams of carbohydrate, and 4 grams of protein.
(Post reviewed by Debra Powers, MS, RD, CDE, LDN, Senior Clinical Nutritionist)