Quinoa is my absolute favorite gluten-free whole grain. It satisfies 3 very important criteria in my household: 1) it is nutritious, 2) it is very quick and easy to cook, and 3) my 10-year-old will eat it!
If your biggest experimentation with cooking whole grains is brown rice you’ve got to try quinoa. Don’t get me wrong, I love brown rice and it is certainly healthier than white rice, but quinoa packs a heartier nutritional punch. According to the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database, each 1/2 cup serving of cooked quinoa contains 2.6 grams of dietary fiber, 1.4 milligrams of iron, and 39 dietary folate equivalents. Compare these values to the 1.8 grams of fiber, 0.4 milligrams of iron, and 4 dietary folate equivalents provided by 1/2 cup of cooked brown rice and you’ll see what I mean.
If you can cook brown rice (or any kind of rice) you can cook quinoa. Quinoa cooks basically the same way as rice–in water or gluten-free chicken or vegetable stock–with the added benefit of cooking faster. You can use quinoa in meals anywhere you would use rice–alongside chicken or fish, mixed with beans and chopped vegetables, in salads, or as an accompaniment to stir-fries.
I can virtually guarantee that your children will love quinoa. Maybe it’s because quinoa is pale yellow in color so children who are into “light-colored” food (nothing green, red, or orange–please!) don’t find it offensive. Or maybe it’s the lack of strong flavor–or really any flavor at all. Quinoa basically takes on the flavors of the foods it is cooked or served with. Whatever the reason, it is eaten without complaint in my house.
Hopefully, you are now convinced to pick up a box of quinoa the next time you are food shopping. It is readily available in natural foods stores, the natural foods section of supermarkets, and some grocery stores. If it is not available in your area, several brands of quinoa can be ordered from amazon.com.
For more information on quinoa and other gluten-free whole grains, as well as recipes using these grains please see the book, The Gluten-Free Nutrition Guide (McGraw-Hill, 2008) which may be ordered from the Books page at www.glutenfreedietitian.com.