Fitness Fuel: Quinoa Beet Salad

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Fitness Fuel: Quinoa Beet Salad

A new year is fast approaching and after the pandemonium that was 2016, you may be feeling eager for some renewal. It’s time to cleanse the clutter that’s accumulated over the past year and clear the way for new intentions and healthy goals, like getting back in shape or signing up for that first 5K race.

But nothing hinders a fresh start like perpetuating unhealthy habits, especially those that have mindlessly slipped in to regular practice. It’s hardly fair, when something as seemingly harmless as swapping holiday goodies with friends and co-workers leads to tighter clothes and sluggish energy. One of the worst of these sneaky culprits is likely lurking around the house at this very moment, just waiting to wreak havoc on your New Year self-improvement plans. That’s right, it’s holiday leftovers.

Sure, the long anticipated broccoli-cheez casserole and three-stick-butter mashed potatoes were incredible. Epic, even. But how can you expect to charge into healthier ways with a fridge full of sugary dishes heavy in saturated fat, calling to you each day to go back for one more bite … just one more bite.

Toss it. Don’t start the year with the dreaded food guilt baggage that comes from the prolonged overindulgence in holiday eating. Instead, get a jump on feeling your best with this energizing recipe featuring a nutritional powerhouse: the beet.

Beets are the jet-fuel of the vegetable world. They give your body a natural boost (literally), with energy enhancing nitrates that convert to nitric oxide and contribute to blood vessel dilation. This allows for more oxygen delivery to muscles, meaning they can perform for longer. In studies of athletes, beetroot juice has also been found to lower blood pressure, as well as reduce the amount of oxygen needed for exercise so that muscles use less energy to produce the same amount of work.

If you don’t think you like beets or have never tried them, this recipe is perfect for you. If you love beets, it’s a win for you, too. Whether you’re looking for a meal to fuel intense exercise or simply want something healthy and delicious, the nutritional benefits of this dish combined with beet’s savory sweetness will have you adding this to the menu rotation.

The beets caramelize by roasting them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, giving just the right balance to their earthiness. The roasted beets are combined with sautéed greens and crunchy toasted walnuts in light and fluffy quinoa, and then topped with a garlicky dill yogurt sauce (you’ll be eating with a spoon) to infuse the flavors.

Needless to say, there’s no shame in this leftover game.

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Ingredients

-1 cup uncooked quinoa
-1 bunch of beets, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into 1 inch wedges. Trim the beet greens, chop and set aside. (Note: avoid using a wooden cutting board, beets will stain.)
-1 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
-2 Tablespoon olive oil
-½ cup walnut pieces, toasted
-Avocado slices (optional)

Sauce:
-1 cup of the roasted beets
-½ cup plain greek yogurt
-3 garlic cloves, peeled
-1 Tablespoon fresh dill
-½ cup vegetable broth

Directions
-Heat oven to 400 degrees.
-Place beets on a large piece of foil on a baking sheet, toss with 1 Tbsp. olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and season with salt and pepper. Roast about 40 minutes or until fork tender, turning with spatula mid-way.
-Meanwhile, place uncooked quinoa and 2 cups water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
-Toast walnuts in saucepan over medium heat with 1 Tbsp. olive oil for about 2 minutes, then add beet greens to pan and sauté about 3-5 minutes.
-Once beets are done roasting, reserve 1 cup of wedges, and toss remaining beets with quinoa, sautéed greens, and walnuts.
-For the sauce, add 1 cup of beets to a high powered blender with greek yogurt, garlic cloves, dill, and blend until smooth. Add broth as needed to reach desired consistency. Pour over quinoa mixture to taste and blend.
-Garnish with avocado slices.

Image: ssibara, CC-BY

Ashley Sigmund is a Denver-based RDN with ten years in the medical field helping patients and clients improve their health and fitness.

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