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?!
So 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!
Melissa Lachapelle, Registered Dietitian