Focusing on better nutrition has once again made it to my New Year’s goals list! I say “once again” because this has been a constant feature on my list for several years. Previously though, the goal was always heavily linked to weight-loss as opposed to healthier eating. What’s different now is that I’m no longer looking for a quick fix to lose weight. Instead, I’m more focused on making better food choices for longer term health benefits and stronger running. I usually make poor food choices when I don’t plan my meals and in the past I’ve found that packing lunch always makes a huge difference. In the last week, I’ve had fun making healthy lunches with quinoa as the main ingredient.
When I told my mum I was testing out some quinoa recipes, her first question was “What’s that?” So let me start there! Quinoa is a seed that is prepared and eaten similarly to a grain. In recent years, it has become more widely recognised and used in many parts of the world, particularly by those seeking a healthier lifestyle. In Gaborone, I’ve seen it at Health Alternatives as well as Spar, Woolworths and Pick N Pay.
The benefits of quinoa are well-documented and this article from Runner Guru summaries why quinoa is good for runners. It highlights that quinoa is a good source of fibre and quality protein as it contains all essential amino acids. It is high in Magnesium which is an essential mineral for runners because of it´s multiple functions (e.g. assisting in muscle contraction and relaxation, keeping bones strong as well as maintaining a healthy immune system). Quinoa is also rich in antioxidants and helps to neutralise free radicals associated with intense training. Being gluten intolerant, another benefit for me is that quinoa is naturally gluten free. A lot of gluten free food (when not in its natural form) is made using refined starches and research has found “that using quinoa instead of typical gluten-free ingredients like refined tapioca, potato, corn and rice flour can dramatically increase the nutrient and antioxidant value of your diet”.
I love recipe books but when it comes to the actual cooking, I am not very patient! So when I was looking for quinoa salad ideas for my lunch box my criteria was straightforward. I needed something 1) quick to prepare with easy-to-find ingredients, 2) easy to pack for lunch, 3) okay to store in the fridge for a few days, 4) tasty and 5) enough to sustain me for my afternoon runs.
The Best Quinoa Salad
This quinoa salad is from Cookie and Kate and was really simple to make with easily sourced ingredients such as quinoa, chickpeas, red bell pepper, cucumber, parsley and lemon. For all ingredients and instructions, go here.
I loved it because it was refreshing and light, and kept me going through the afternoon. I made a batch on Sunday and stored it in the fridge until Wednesday. The salad actually seemed to get better and better with each day!
On one of the days, I threw in some cherry tomatoes and capers which added a nice twist. What I would do differently next time is chop the onion finer and use less of it. I would also use more parsley and lemon which I didn’t have enough of on the day.
Grilled Veggie Quinoa Salad
This salad was loosely based on a recipe I found on Gluten-Free Goddess – I say “loosely” because I was missing some of the veggies like asparagus and squash but decided to go ahead with what I had in the fridge. It seemed to work quite well! I used red onion, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, mushrooms and corn as the main veggies. I loved the combination of corn and quinoa and the grilled vegetables added a nice smokey flavour. This was another win for me. Go here for the recipe.
Tuna, Avocado & Quinoa Salad
After these vegetarian dishes, I was itching to add some form of “meat” to the mix and was lucky to find this recipe from BBC Food. This one was just as simple to make as the others and I had all the ingredients, the main ones being tuna, avocado, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, cashew nuts and of course quinoa.
I think this may just have been my favourite or maybe that’s because I love cashew nuts and who doesn’t love a bit of avocado?! I think it would also work quite well with chicken strips so I’ll try that next time.
There are so many fantastic recipes out there, many of them more exotic and exciting than these! But I loved the fact that these three fit my criteria, the biggest being I didn’t have to be a Jamie Oliver in the kitchen and most of the ingredients were readily available in my pantry. They all stored well in the fridge as I don’t always have time to prepare a lunch daily. Best of all, I had tasty and healthy lunches while slogging away at my desk! Is adding that I’ve been very regular the last 10 days too much information!?
Are you a quinoa fan? Do you have other simple quinoa recipes? Do you pack a lunch box? What’s in your lunch box? Would love to hear from you!
I am so excited to be joining Kim and Zenaida who are hosting a brand new link up called “Tuesday Topics”. Both Kim and Zenaida are such great runner bloggers and I am so happy they are now working together. Hop on over to their blogs and others, and be inspired!