How to add healthy quinoa to your meal plan + tips how to cook quinoa perfectly
In this week’s challenge, I will share with you some easy quinoa recipes including 3 simple steps to add quinoa to your weekly meal plan.
Did you know that quinoa is maybe the best source of plant protein worldwide? These low-calorie, gluten-free small granules contain all nine essential amino acids, something that is very uncommon for a plant food.
The nutrient composition is favorable when compared to common grains, and its biodiversity is impressive. These are just a few reasons to advocate quinoa in the context of clean eating. Let’s take a closer look at this super food.
What is quinoa?
Quinoa is often also called the ancient grain of the Inca, or just an obscure Peruvian grain. And although this food looks a bit like grains, the millet-resembling, starch-containing quinoa seeds derive from an annual herb of the goosefoot family. It is mainly grown in South America, especially in Peru, Bolivia and Ecuador. Although I mentioned quinoa in our whole grain challenge (week #8), it is in fact not a grain; it is a remote relative of red beets, chard and spinach.
United Nations declared the “Year of the Quinoa”
In the Andes, quinoa is a staple together with amaranth. It was only in the ‘90s that the aerospace industry discovered the so called pseudograin for their own use. The outstanding composition of the Inca food, and especially its high protein content, makes quinoa an ideal catering option for space stations. In the last few years, it has come a long way from health stores to the US mainstream, and later also to Europe. It was only in 2013 that the United Nations declared the “Year of the Quinoa.”
Nutritional value of quinoa
The special feature of quinoa is the better protein quality and a higher mineral content in comparison to conventional grain types. Quinoa contains plenty of lysine, an essential amino acid that is missing in most grains. Altogether, the protein content lies at 15 percent.
Regarding fat, quinoa contains mainly healthy, unsaturated fatty acids. Those can help decrease the concentration of damaging LDL cholesterol in your blood, which represents a risk for cardiovascular disease. On top of this, this pseudograin is gluten and grain free, which makes it appropriate for people on a candida diet or with celiac disease.
Super food quinoa: perfect staple with numerous benefits
It probably doesn’t come as a surprise that the super food quinoa is found in many vegan and vegetarian kitchens. Yet it offers so many advantages in comparison to common grains, it can be recommended to anybody, no matter what kind of nutrition they prefer.
Apart from the fact that it is an excellent plant protein, quinoa also contains many essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients. This pseudocereal supplies, for example, more calcium than wheat or rye, and double the iron and 50 percent more vitamin E than wheat.
On top of that, it is rich in manganese and copper. Both minerals can protect red blood cells against attacks from free radicals. Quinoa offers a wonderful and tasty way to support your health and cure a possible mineral or vitamin deficit.
But there are more quinoa health benefits…
Enhances mood: This gluten-free food is particularly rich in tryptophan, an amino acid that is responsible for the production of the happiness hormone serotonin within your brain.
Quinoa weight loss: The glycemic index of quinoa is very low, which means that only a small amount of carbs in this gluten-free food passes into your blood. That makes quinoa an excellent food for all those who struggle with blood sugar or obesity.
How to cook quinoa perfectly
Quinoa dishes can be prepared really quickly, provide satiation, and leave a light, but extremely satisfied feeling in your body. Another reason why it is a perfect staple for your clean eating lifestyle: they can be eaten similar to grains, either raw or cooked.
Heads up! It is very important to wash quinoa thoroughly under running water before usage. Once the water doesn’t show foam remainders and the pseudocereals don’t taste bitter anymore, you can use them.
The most known and popular type of quinoa dish is cooking it similar to rice. Just put one part quinoa and two parts of liquid (water, broth) in a pot. Let the mixture come to a boil, cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then take it from the stove and let it soak for another 10 minutes. Make sure to not overcook this healthy super food as it might get too weak and lose its bite. Also its taste might suffer considerably.
If you have done everything right, which is not difficult, then quinoa has a wonderful, nutty taste and is easy to digest. Combining it with just a bit of olive oil or a dash of sea salt makes it a culinary delight. Serve it with some broccoli and avocado cubes, and here you have it: the first of our easy quinoa recipes.
3 simple steps to add quinoa to your meal plan
Step 1: Buy yourself a larger quantity of 100% pure, organic quinoa seeds (e.g., from truRoots or Trader Joes). You can store it in an airtight glass or plastic container. I use mason jars and store it in my pantry. It will keep fresh for one year if stored properly in a cool, dry and dark place.
=> truRoots Organic Quinoa 100% Whole Grain Premium Quality, 4 lbs (Affiliate Link)
Step 2: Plan a quinoa side dish or use another quinoa recipe and incorporate it in your meal planning once a week.
Step 3: By adding quinoa to your meals regularly, you give you and your family again a wonderful and mindful health gift.
If you wish to reward yourself after cooking with quinoa for several weeks, how about investing in stylish new placemats made of linen, cotton or straw? They not only protect your table surface from stains, but prevent the clatter and clang of dishes and cutlery. A decorative way to make your quinoa meals, and of course all other clean eating dishes, more enjoyable.
3 More tips for easy quinoa recipes
- Best Quinoa Salad recipes
Quinoa also tastes great as a cold dish similar to rice salad – a wonderful idea for your lunch box or as a healthy base for your mason jar salads. Here comes the second of my easy quinoa recipes: add some tomato cubes, hacked spring onions and a marinade of olive oil, lemon juice and salt to your cooked quinoa and mix it. For variation, try it also with cucumbers, pepper or mushrooms.Or think about an easy quinoa salad with chicken, shrimps, chickpeas or kale – or Greek salad, a Mexican salad … the sky is the limit! This super food is very versatile and will bring a lot of excitement into your clean eating kitchen.
=> Quinoa Salad Recipe with Black Beans and Cabbage
- Easy quinoa recipes for dinner
Quinoa can also be used as perfect side dish to meat, fish or vegetables. Just try it; replace your rice, pasta or potatoes with the Inca grain. In a quinoa vs. brown rice comparison, quinoa is simply packed with a wider variety of nutrients, vitamins and minerals than healthy brown rice. Quinoa also gives you a much more generous dose of fiber than brown rice. => Grab here one of my favorite fish recipes with quinoa: clean eating steamed salmon with quinoa spinach
- Baking with quinoa
Being only a pseudograin, it is not advisable to use quinoa flour alone for baking. Use it in a mix with at least one other common flour type for sweet cakes, quinoa cookies, and crepes, but also for hearty recipes like quinoa bread or patties. Used in this combination, it supplies vitamins and minerals other grains don’t contain.
Easy Quinoa Recipes: Are you using quinoa?
Here in Germany, quinoa is not very common and far away from the mainstream. I suppose that our corporate lobbying associations for wheat and other grains don’t want to lose any market share… I can get it in my region only in health stores or online. Around just one year ago I started to use it in my kitchen and I’m thrilled regarding its variety and nutty taste. My family’s favorite quinoa recipe includes mostly casseroles, but I love to use it also as a nutritious, simple side dish instead of brown rice or potatoes.
Do you already use quinoa in your clean eating kitchen? If yes, for how long have you been cooking with it? Please share your favorite easy quinoa recipes in the comment section below.