Guest Author - Cynthia Kilmartin
We all want to feed our children healthily and nutritionally, however with our busy lives and more and more processed ‘convenience’ foods on the market, it is always difficult to think of something to cook for the kids that everyone is happy with. So for me, as a parent, I love finding a new healthy ingredient that my children love. Quinoa (is pronounced Keen-wah, however many people pronounce it as it is written), is not actually a new product, it has been grown and eaten for centuries in South America. Quinoa was a staple grain in many South American cultures and was particularly used for nursing mothers as it is said to improve the quality of breast milk. Quinoa is going through a new emergence in the western world as it is considered a ‘complete’ food and its popularity is rising as more people are finding it is not only nutritious, but tastes good and is easy to prepare.
Quinoa is rich in both cabohydrate and protein and is one of the only proteins to contain all nine essential amino acids. It is particularly high in lysine, an amino acid which is low in other grains like rice and wheat. Lysine is crucial for repairing the body, or fixing kids 'owies'. It also contains magnesium, iron, copper, phosphorus, magnesium and folic acid. It is generally classified as a grain, but it is actually a seed. It comes from the same plant group as spinach and you can also eat the leaves like spinach. Its carbohydrates are slow releasing which means that it satisfies your hunger for longer. For diabetics this is ideal as you can maintain the correct blood sugar levels for longer. Mums of kids with ceoliac disease love it as well as it is gluten free.
A recent study conducted in Ecuador showed that malnourished children supplemented with quinoa produced more insulin-like growth factor (believed to be important for regulating normal growth) than children whose diet contained no quinoa. Previous research indicated that quinoa may be easier to digest as an infant food than other commercial products produced from either soybeans or dairy milk.
Quinoa is easy to prepare, it can be boiled just like rice but takes less time to cook, it can be added to casseroles or other prepared dishes, eaten on its own or in salads. Sprouted quinoa contains even more fibre and can be eaten raw in salads.
Quinoa has a flavour similar to rice, a little nuttier. It is currently widely available in health food stores and is gradually becoming easily available in supermarkets. It comes in various varieties, our family favourite is the red quinoa which takes a little longer than the yellow variety to cook, but is compensated by the pretty colour the kids like. Quinoa is a bit more expensive than other mass produced grains but as it expands up to 4 times its size, a portion for a family of 4 costs around $1.
My children love it and I feel happy cooking it for them!
If you would like more Quinoa recipes I recommend Ken Jones' "The Complete Guide to Cooking Quinoa" which is packed with nutritional information, tips on preparing quinoa and, of course, lots of great recipes.