Nutrition: Quinoa

I would like to put my son on a vegetarian diet and I am worried about providing him with enough protein. I know that "quionoa" has more protein than most meats but it would be hard to serve that every day. Do you know of any good ways to serve it? Are there any other grains that are equally as high in protein as quionoa?

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Sue Gilbert

Sue Gilbert works as a consulting nutritionist. For many years she worked with Earth's Best Organic Baby Food, integrating nutrition and... Read more

Quinoa is a wonderful grain that just in the past few years has been rediscovered. It was a staple in the diet of the ancient Inca Indians. Actually, quinoa is not really a grain. It is the dried fruit of the herb family Chenopodium. However, it looks like and acts like a grain, and so is used that way.

Quinoa is truly a "supergrain" because of the wonderful nutrition it offers. For minerals it contains more iron than other grains, has high levels of potassium, riboflavin, magnesium, zinc, copper and folacin. As you mentioned, it is a great source of protein. Unlike other grains it contains plenty of the amino acid lysine, as well as the other essential amino acids, so it provides complete protein. It is a great kid food, not only because of these nutritional benefits, but because of its light, nutty flavor.

Some delicious ways to serve quinoa are in a pudding such as rice pudding, or as a hot cereal in the morning cooked in fruit juice and topped with nuts. Add it to soups or stews at the end of the cooking time, or make a cold grain salad out of cooked quinoa by adding raw or cooked veggies and herbs and tossing with a light dressing. Make quinoa pilaf with raisins, carrots, onion and garlic.

Most grains will need to be combined with complimentary proteins such as nuts, beans or dairy. However, another grain that will provide you with a complete source of protein is spelt. It is very popular in Europe, and in the U.S. it is now found in many breads. It is especially popular among those with a wheat allergy, since although it does contain gluten, it is extremely fragile so many wheat-sensitive people can tolerate it. You may find some spelt products, such as breads and pastas at natural- food stores.

Check out your local bookstore for cookbooks specializing in grains. You may find other grains to enjoy such as kamut, amaranth and chia. Once you have come up with some delicious recipes, be sure to share them with ParentsPlace.com readers! Thanks!

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