Once virtually unknown to Americans, quinoa exploded onto the food scene in a big way in the aughts. Blame the seemingly miraculous amounts of complete protein and fiber crammed into the seeds of this tiny member of the grass family. How much protein in quinoa? One cooked cup has eight grams of protein and five grams of fiber, i.e., nutrition nirvana.
As we push through the late ‘10’s, companies have embraced quinoa’s superfood status, if not its sometimes bitter taste (the result of a natural coating on the seed that repels birds and insects). Of course you can still cook quinoa as you do rice and make a nice main course or side dish for dinner. But a new crop of quinoa products harnesses quinoa’s plant-protein power in quieter, more subtle forms. Here’s what’s new:
Paul’s Sunkissed Vegetables Soup
Paul’s isn’t monkeying around. The Dutch company’s stated goal, “to develop a quinoa category in mass market retail,” means all quinoa, all the time. Their product line is a comprehensive look at what is trending in grocery, with quinoa at its core. Sure, there’s a line of basics – Flour, Puffs, Flakes and Seeds, but the big money is in other categories. A line of heat and eat side dishes – Tajine, Mexican Style, Naturel and Provençale – heat in microwaveable pouches in two minutes. Quinoa meals are targeted at the portion-aware – 250 gram for sharing and 210 gram sizes for eating solo are available. And a line of quinoa bars seems to aim for Weight Watchers’ ideal snack size of 100 calories per bar.
But it is the line of soups that got my attention. A traditional meal in Peru and Bolivia, vegetable soup thickened with quinoa is a perfectly nutritious meal. Loaded with vitamins and minerals and enough protein to power up all day and keep warm during chilly Andean nights. Paul’s Sunkissed Vegetables soup doesn’t pack much protein in its veggie-laden package, but its heat and eat status might push quinoa even further into the mainstream.
Natural Citizen Organic Energy
Plant-based protein is trending for many reasons (it’s gentler on the earth and costs less than animal-based proteins to produce) and countless companies have developed protein blends that include quinoa. Natural Citizen developed a line of smoothie boosters that capture the current zeitgeist of drinkable plant-based protein. It’s Organic Energy is labeled as a dietary supplement, crossing over to appeal to hard core and every day athletes. A blend of quinoa, maca, green tea and the herb rhodiola rosea, it hits the superfoods trend button hard.
Cucina & Amore Quinoa Meals
Cucina & Amore is a Bay Area company at the forefront of nutritious eating on-the-go. Their pre-packaged, Ready-to-Eat Quinoa Meals are individual portion sized powerhouses of protein and flavor. With 4 delicious options, including Mango Jalapeño and Basil Pesto, these scrumptious mini meals are sure to satisfy any palate. Healthy, ready-to-eat, and gluten-free, ready to eat quinoa meals are a nourishing alternative to otherwise unhealthful options of fast food or skipping meals to get through a busy day.
Calling itself a “better for you chocolate company,” Chocxo’s individually wrapped SNAPS are four, easy to share, portion-sized dark chocolate treats. Infused with quinoa crisps, the certified organic SNAPS are 70% dark chocolate, a grown up version of the Nestlé Crunch bars I enjoyed in years past.
Quinoa’s soaring popularity means we are likely to see even more of this nutritious seed. The uptick in products including quinoa has pushed Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador, quinoa’s Andean homeland, and countries where quinoa is a staple crop, to limit quantities that could be sold for export. It may be a while before supply catches up with demand. Until then, there are still countless ways to enjoy this nutritious seed.