Move over oatmeal, there’s another grain taking over the breakfast scene. Quinoa is versatile and nutritious, and it has a pleasant, nutty flavor. Plus, it’s gluten-free, making it a great grain option for people with gluten sensitivities.
“[Quinoa] is one of the most nutritious foods in the world,” says Alex Borsuk, a sports nutritionist and mountain athlete in Portland, Oregon. Just one cup contains roughly eight grams of protein. Unlike many grains, it’s a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids—including the ever elusive lysine—that your body can’t make on its own. So if you’re eating a plant-based diet, quinoa is an important food to include, Borsuk says.
You’ve probably heard the common wisdom that a nutritious breakfast includes a solid source of fiber, which helps regulate blood sugar and keeps you feeling fuller longer, Borsuk says. A serving of quinoa offers 20 percent of your daily recommended dose. It’s also especially high in magnesium, a mineral that plays a key role in generating energy and maintaining normal muscle function. You lose magnesium when you sweat—particularly if you exercise in hot, humid environments—and if you fail to restock your magnesium stores, you run the risk of dehydration and muscle cramps, Borsuk says.
Here are four flavor-packed ways to dress it up for breakfast, whether you’re baking quinoa flakes into bars or topping off a savory bowl.
Braveheart Biscuit Bar
Lesley Paterson, a professional triathlete and coach, the 2011 and 2012 Xterra Triathlon World Champion, and author of The Brave Athlete, eats these crunchy, flapjack-flavored biscuits every day with her morning coffee, or she wraps them in foil to refuel during a bike ride.
- 2 cups quinoa flakes
- 1 cup white rice flour
- ¾ cup tapioca starch
- ¾ cup maple syrup
- ½ cup olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ¾ teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 12-muffin tin and set aside. Combine all ingredients and divide batter equally among the muffin cups. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until the muffins are golden brown on the outside. Serving size: one biscuit bar.
Power Egg Cups
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 bell pepper, diced
- 1 low-sodium ham steak or 1 pound cooked breakfast sausage, diced
- 2 hefty handfuls of spinach
- 3 cups Egg Beaters or egg substitute or 12 whole eggs, beaten
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese or other cheese of choice
- 2 tablespoons garlic
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 12-muffin tin and set aside. Divide cooked quinoa equally among the muffin cups. Then dice the onion, pepper, ham or breakfast sausage, and spinach. Set aside. In a mixing bowl, stir together the eggs, milk, cheese, garlic and cayenne until evenly mixed. Add the veggies to the egg mixture and combine. Then divide the mixture evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes. Let cool. Store in an airtight container for up to five days. Serving size: two muffins.
Sweet Quinoa ‘Oatmeal’
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- 1 to 2 tablespoons nut butter of choice
- ¾ cup berries of choice
Simply combine the quinoa, nut butter, and berries.
Savory Quinoa Bowl
If your tastes are more on the savory side, throw together this quick quinoa bowl, which includes a wide range of important vitamins and minerals.
- ½ cup cooked quinoa
- 1 to 2 whole eggs, cooked according to preference
- 1 cup cooked veggies (Cording suggests sauteed greens, roasted broccoli, or grilled asparagus)
- Drizzle of tahini or ¼ of an avocado
Top the quinoa with the eggs and cooked veggies, and add a savory topping like tahini or avocado.