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Ask a Dietitian: Quinoa

by Sarah Barnes MS, RD/LD

Q: I have been seeing more attention and advertising on quinoa; however, I am not exactly sure how to use it. Can you provide me with some fresh ideas on how to prepare it?

A: Absolutely! Quinoa is an excellent product to incorporate as a side dish or even an entrée. While frequently referred to and prepared as a grain, quinoa is actually a seed. Quinoa comes in a variety of colors, the most common being red, black, and white. The flavor between the different colors tends to be similar however, the white grain seems to be a little softer and swell up more while the red and black tend to have a slight crunch.

Quinoa provides many health benefits and is an excellent source of protein. In fact, it contains all nine essential amino acids, which makes it a great complete protein choice for those following a vegetarian diet. It also provides us with iron, magnesium, B vitamins, zinc, potassium and is an excellent source of fiber. Quinoa is also gluten free. It is quick and easy to prepare and makes for an excellent dish at home or to take and enjoy with a friend. Try this recipe for a tasty treat.

Quinoa Salad with Asparagus, Dates, and Orange

Ingredients Salad:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup finely chopped white onion
1 cup uncooked quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup fresh orange sections (about 1 large orange)
1/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
2 tablespoons minced red onion
5 dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 pound (2-inch) slices asparagus, steamed and chilled
1/2 jalapeño pepper, diced

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
Mint sprigs (optional)

1. To prepare salad, heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add white onion to pan; sauté 2 minutes. Add quinoa to pan; sauté 5 minutes. Add 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to pan; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 15 minutes. Remove from heat; let stand 15 minutes or until water is absorbed. Transfer quinoa mixture to a large bowl. Add orange and next 5 ingredients (through jalapeño); toss gently to combine.
2. To prepare dressing, combine juice and next 4 ingredients (through garlic) in a small bowl, stirring with a whisk. Pour dressing over salad; toss gently to coat. Sprinkle with chopped mint. Garnish with mint sprigs, if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Nutritional Information: One serving: ( ¾ cup) Calories: 164, Fat: 6.3 g, Saturated Fat: 0.7 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Sodium: 186 mg, Carbohydrate: 24.7 g, Fiber: 3.4 g, Protein: 4.3 g

For more recipes like this one, visit this website:

For nutritional counseling, Norman Regional Health System offers the guidance of registered dietitians. Those interested can schedule an appointment for an assessment with a referral from their family physician.

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Contact Kelly Wells
Norman Regional Health System

Office (405) 307.2143
Fax (405) 307.2144