Loaded Quinoa Salad | Nutrition Stripped #recipe #plantbased
Eat Well Mar. 6. 2018

Loaded Quinoa Salad

Mar. 6. 2018
McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Founder of Nutrition Stripped® and the Mindful Nutrition Method™

Thought quinoa was so last year? Quinoa gets a salad makeover rich in plant-based protein, fiber, and antioxidant-rich toppers.

You know how we’re always saying “sneak in those greens”, incorporating dark leafy greens with a grain-based salad is great to add more fiber and phytonutrients from greens. Along with greens and quinoa, there’s a full flavor profile here with sweet golden raisins, crunchy almonds, tangy sun-dried tomatoes, and bright dressing with olive oil and lemon to bring it all together. The result is proof that simple flavors can come together to make a dish that tastes really complex, is easy to make, and leaves you satiated.

Quinoa, when paired with fresh greens and nourishing toppers, is a great meal that can be pulled together in a flash. When prepared on batch cooking day, it can easily be added to meals throughout the week. This plant-based protein has a neutral, versatile flavor that combines beautifully with tons of flavor-packed ingredients. As you may remember, I’ve shared different variations of quinoa salad before; the Curry Quinoa Salad, Warm Quinoa Salad, and Apricot Quinoa Salad all prove how amazing — and different — quinoa salad can be!

Are You Trying It?

Let me know when you try out this recipe — I want to see how it turns out! Submit your photo in the comments section below, and/or tag NS on Instagram @nutritionstripped and #nutritionstripped.

xx McKel


Plant-Based Protein:

Quinoa earned its spot on our Top 10 Plant-Based Proteins You Should Be Eating. Here’s why — 1/2 cup cooked quinoa = 7-9g protein. Quinoa is a gluten-free grain, technically a seed, that is used as a carbohydrate. It’s considered a starchy protein because it contains carbohydrates as well as protein and fiber. It’s a nice alternative to rice when you’re looking for more diversity in your carbohydrate intake.


Fiber from the quinoa, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes and raisins help keep our digestion working properly and running smoothly. This includes everything from the act of consuming food, breaking down food, processing, and utilizing it for energy. A healthy digestion will also help your body absorb nutrients from food. (1)

Arugula, along with other bitter foods, work wonders “toning” our digestive system. They engage our digestion to do more work and to do the work it should be doing. Beyond digestion, bitters have actually been shown to help stabilize blood sugars, and reduce hunger, too. (2)


Those sun-dried tomatoes? They’re tiny, but they’re full of nutrients — especially antioxidants in the form of lycopene. Lycopene has been studied for its role in preventing heart disease and various types of cancer. (3)(4)(5)

Raisins pack an antioxidant punch, too. They have nearly 3x the antioxidants of grapes, making them one of the richest sources of antioxidants of all foods. (6) These antioxidants help detoxify any excess build-up from free radicals that result from environmental stressors, pollution, and normal metabolism. (7)

Lastly, olives deliver many antioxidants! Studies have shown olives to help decrease cholesterol, and improve the “bad” to “good” cholesterol levels, which leads to lowering the risk of heart disease. Olives also contain many antioxidants from vitamin E and trace minerals zinc and selenium, all of which provide protection from oxidative stress. The antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals found in olives have also been shown to help protect against cancer. (8)(9)

Optimizer Option:

This simple, versatile salad is a great time to pile on nutrient-dense toppers like avocado or a fried egg. With these, you’ll get a nice addition of healthy fats and added protein. If you’re looking for even more protein, try adding a sustainable, ethically-raised animal protein like antibiotic-free organic chicken or wild-caught fish.

The Recipe

Serves 4



1 cup quinoa

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

2 shallots, thinly sliced

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

2 cups fresh arugula (or other dark leafy greens like spinach)

3 tablespoons slivered almonds

1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes

1/4 cup golden raisins

1/4 cup chopped olives (use assorted or your favorite)

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley


Step 1

Prepare quinoa per box instructions. Typically, 1 cup quinoa is added to 2 cups water and a dash of sea salt in a small pot — bring to a boil then turn down to a simmer, cover with a lid, and cook quinoa for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat with the lid on, for 5 minutes, before taking the lid off and fluffing the quinoa with a fork.

Step 2

Start with the dark leafy greens in the bowl first, then add all ingredients and stir to combine. The heat from the quinoa will gently wilt the dark leafy greens.


Serve at room temperature, chilled, or warm. Store leftovers in an airtight glass container.


  1. Valussi, M. (2012, March). Functional foods with digestion-enhancing properties.
  2. McMullen, M. K., Whitehouse, J. M., & Towell, A. (2015). Bitters: Time for a New Paradigm.
  3. Giovannucci, E. (1999, February 17). Tomatoes, Tomato-Based Products, Lycopene, and Cancer: Review of the Epidemiologic Literature | JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute | Oxford Academic.
  4. Story, E. N., Kopec, R. E., Schwartz, S. J., & Harris, G. K. (2010). An Update on the Health Effects of Tomato Lycopene.
  5. Rao, A. V., & Agarwal, S. (2000, October). Role of antioxidant lycopene in cancer and heart disease.
  6. Berkeley Wellness. Raisins Versus Grapes.
  7. Bell, S. J. (2009, December 31). Overview Of Antioxidants: Emphasis On Raisins.
  8. Barbaro, B., Toietta, G., Maggio, R., Arciello, M., Tarocchi, M., Galli, A., & Balsano, C. (2014, October). Effects of the Olive-Derived Polyphenol Oleuropein on Human Health.
  9. Lafka, T., Lazou, A. E., Sinanoglou, V. J., & Lazos, E. S. (2013, March). Phenolic Extracts from Wild Olive Leaves and Their Potential as Edible Oils Antioxidants.

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