Quinoa: Sweet or Savory

May 13, 2011

While eating familiar foods at regular intervals is beneficial for the digestive system’s ideal function, variety provides a full spectrum of vitamins and nutrients.  Many of us get into a routine that includes our standard dishes with our ‘go-to’ ingredients.

In reviewing patient food journals (and taking a look at my own), I noticed that we often eat with great repetition.  For example we have the same breakfast (oatmeal) or side (rice) or vegetable (broccoli) throughout the week.  While these examples represent a staple of any healthy diet, their repeated use is limiting.

What would happen if, for example, we had oatmeal (from oats) on some days…and cereal from other grains and seeds on other days?  Mother nature has given a variety of options; surely they each have something to offer?

Quinoa is actually not a grain (it’s a distant relative of spinach), though its texture resembles one.  It is a seed, it is gluten-free, and one of the only non-animal sources of a complete proteinIt is high in fiber, and contains high amounts of manganese, phosphorous, and magnesium.

Most people think to use quinoa as a side dish as they would rice or pasta.  The following savory recipe was inherited from a family friend.  It calls for a lot of ingredients, but you can add and subtract to them based on what you’ve got on hand and your personal preferences.  I especially love the bok choy, sugar peas, sprouts, mushroom, green onion and ginger.

It was after reading a patient’s food journal that I became enlightened to the idea of sweetening the quinoa and using it as a morning cereal.  Her recipe is easy, delicious, and even kids like it!

Both of these recipes yield a large amount and leftovers can be reheated for convenience throughout the week.  An appropriate serving size of quinoa for weight loss or management is ½ cup cooked.  If you are looking to build muscle or are very active, a 1 cup serving may be appropriate.

Oriental Quinoa Salad:

3 c. cooked Quinoa (see cooking instructions)            Snow or sugar peas, thinly cut

3 scallions, sliced diagonally                                           ½ c. celery, diagonally sliced

1 c. thinly sliced bok choy or baby bok choy                 2-3 tbsp. sesame seeds, toasted

½ – 1 c. sliced mushrooms                                              Some cilantro, chopped

Red pepper, thinly sliced (about 1 ½ inches long)      Sunflower sprouts

¼ c. slivered almonds, toasted


¼ c. olive oil                                                                   1 to 2 tsp. grated ginger

3 tbsp. soy sauce                                                            1 tbsp. brown sugar (optional)

2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Blend dressing until well mixed.  It can be refrigerated for later use.  Bring back to room temperature so oil is not congealed before serving.

Toss salad and dressing together, and enjoy!

Serves 6-8.

Sweet Breakfast Quinoa

1.5 c. (uncooked) quinoa, rinsed            3 c. water

1 banana                                                      1 tsp. cinnamon

½ – 1 tsp vanilla                                        (nuts/fruit/honey/agave nectar/maple syrup)

Place all ingredients (except the nuts/fruit/sweetener) into a large sauce pan, mash the banana with a potato masher, and bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer for 15 minutes, or until quinoa is cooked.

Serve with nuts/fruit/sweetener.  Leftovers can be reheated with a little bit of almond/soy/etc milk.  Remember, for those looking to regulate blood sugar, a serving size of ½ – 1 teaspoon of sweetener per serving is reasonable and appropriate.  As your blood sugars regulate over time, your palate will taste the natural sweetness in grains and fruit and you might not need any additional sweetening.

Remember, you are what you eat.

In good health,



One Response to “Quinoa: Sweet or Savory”

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