Quinoa: The Superfood of 2013

Quinoa pronounced “Ki-nwa”….is it a cereal? is it a seed? is it a vegetable? I was looking for a true definition to share, and good ol’ Wikipedia seems to be the easiest to digest (haha!). Here is our history lesson for the day: “The Incas, who held the crop to be sacred, referred to quinoa as chisaya mama or ‘mother of all grains’, and it was the Inca emperor who would traditionally sow the first seeds of the season . . . During the Spanish conquest of South America, the Spanish colonists scorned quinoa as ‘food for Indians’, and even actively suppressed its cultivation, due to its status within indigenous religious ceremonies . . . [and] forbade quinoa cultivation for a time . . . the Incas were forced to grow wheat instead.” (Wikipedia) I wonder if this oppression is why wheat is so popular in our diets today…hmmmmm food for thought?!

Quinoa WikipediaSo back to what is it??? It is a grain-like crop grown mostly for its edible seeds. Quinoa is “a pseudocereal rather than a true cereal, or grain, as it is not a member of the true grass family. As a chenopod, quinoa is closely related to species such as beets, spinach, and tumbleweeds” (Wikipedia). Nutritionally speaking it is most similar to cereals/grains in its nutrient profile rich in protein, B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and iron but higher in potassium (like vegetables). It is considered a complete protein source, having all 9 essential amino acids. Of note though is that it is not meant as a protein replacement. In comparison of an amount one would typically consume (1/2 – 1 cup), it compares more to grain products than to the protein content of meat, fish, poultry, eggs, tofu, nuts, beans, peas, and legumes. A 1/2 cup cooked portion provides 70kcal, 2g protein, 13g carbohydrate, 1.3g fibre, and of course loads of micronutrients. This has been a common misconception with some of my clients. It is recommended as part of a healthy diet, but not to replace this food group (vegetarian, vegan, or not). I incorporate it into my diet as a “cereal/grain product” as this is what it most resembles despite its origins.

I think it is VERY interesting that 2013 has been declared International Year of Quinoa by the United Nations, especially since it is a food that has been around for centuries. CBC news has even brought it to the spotlight in terms of its economic effects. I learned about quinoa at a young age, with my Aunt and Uncle in Victoria frequently eating the superfood. I could never pronounce it, didn’t know how to prepare it, had tried it and wasn’t too keen on it at the time as pre-teens tend to be. Now that I am a Dietitian with a broader palate for foods, it is something I enjoy. One thing I love about quinoa is its versatility. You can cook it similar to rice, make pilafs, add it cooked and cold to salads, or add it to your morning oatmeal. You can roast it and add it to cookies, granola, yogurt, breads, muffins, and the list goes on! I am constantly looking for new recipes and ways to use it to incorporate it into my family’s diet as my husband is still not keen on it.

Today I hoped to change his mind as I made Quinoa Cookies. I think this recipe can be a snack for the kids, a great breakfast cookie on the go paired with a fruit and a glass of milk, or a cookie exchange delight!

Healthy Quinoa Cookies Recipe (adapted* from Blogger Quinoa, Kale & Exhale):

  • 4 medium frozen, thawed & mashed bananas
  • 6 tbsp smooth peanut butter – I did not use natural pb this time, but you can to reduce the sugar content.
  • 1 1/4 cup fast cooking oats*
  • 1 1/4 cup cooked quinoa*
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup white sugar*
  • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened, coconut
  • 1/2 cup white or dark chocolate chips ( I used white chocolate because my husband doesn’t like milk or dark chocolate – he is missing out!)*
  • Mix all ingredients together. Drop spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet. Bake in the oven at 350F degrees for 25-30 minutes. I think my oven is a bit hotter than it should be, so you may lean to 30 minutes. You can also try 375F for 20-25 minutes. I did both an they worked well to produce a soft, gooey cookie. As RAchael Ray would say, YUM-O!
  • Makes about 30 cookies about 2″ diameter.
  • Dietitians of Canada eaTracker Recipe Analyzer: 110 Kcal, 5 g fat, 15.4 grams of Carbohydrate, 1.5g fibre, and 2.5g protein
  • *Sorry no pictures as little hands have misplaced my camera cord!

If you haven’t tried Quinoa before, I hope this inspires you to try it!

Enjoy,

Melissa Lachapelle, Registered Dietitian

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“I only break for cookies”

My son Nolan has this cute T-shirt that says “I only break for cookies”. He truly embodies this saying as he is such a busy boy, and can rarely be stopped in his tracks unless cookies are to be had! It is not surprising then that “cookie” was one of his first words, one of his favorite foods, and he would specifically pick this shirt from his closet above all others.

Cookies are considered a treat in our house, but probably one we have too often! Considering this and my husband’s cereal addiction, I was looking for a way to make a healthier cookie, and use up odds and ends from the cereal cupboard. I drew inspiration from the book Better Food for Kids 2nd Edition, by Joanne Saab, RD and Daina Kalnins, MSc RD. It is a parent focused book with great nutrition information and recipes. I opted to adapt one of their recipes by reducing the sugar a bit and boosting fibre. How do you know that a cereal (or other grain) is a good source of fibre? A source of fibre will have 2g fibre/serving, a good source will have 4g fibre/serving, and an excellent source will have > 6g  fibre/serving. Below is my adapted cookie recipe.

Cereal Cookies

  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, cherries or blueberries
  • 2 cups of high fibre cereal *I used 1 cup All-Bran Original® and 1 cup Fibre 1 Raisin Bran Clusters® which are both excellent sources of fibre, though you can use almost any cereal that you have on hand (preferably high fibre).

In a large bowl mix together oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat butter and brown sugar until it is a smooth sandy mixture. Beat in egg and vanilla. Add in dry ingredient mixture. Stir in dried cereal and fruit. Drop by tablespoons onto greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake in preheated oven at 350° F  for 9-12 minutes or until edges are slightly golden. Transfer to wire rack to cool. Makes ~ 3 dozen cookies.

Let me just say that everyone in my family took a break from play for these cookies. Happy baking!