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Healthy, gluten-free quinoa snacks hit shelves


With more and more Canadians switching to gluten-free diets, a start-up food company called I Heart Keenwah is responding to a dearth of ready-to-eat products with new, innovative offers.

The U.S.-based company says it has developed one of the first ready-to-eat quinoa products on the market. 'Keenwah clusters,' as the snack food is called, comes in four flavours – almond, cranberry cashew, chocolate sea salt and ginger peanut.

According to co-founder Sarah Chalos, the product is surprisingly versatile. “You can eat it anytime,” she says. “You can eat it for breakfast, after lunch or after dinner for a palette cleanser or dessert.”

And because its primary ingredient is organic quinoa, the snack is perfectly guilt-free. Quinoa (pronounced keen-wah, just like the company’s name) is low-glycemic, high-fibre, packed with vitamins and minerals and high in protein.

And most importantly for people who suffer from celiac disease or a gluten allergy, it is also gluten-free.

The Canadian Digestive Health Foundation estimates that more than 330,000 Canadians are affected by celiac disease. Of that figure, only about 110,000 have been diagnosed.

Among the many challenges that come with maintaining a gluten-free diet, notes Chalos: “A lot of healthy food or gluten free food doesn’t taste really good.”

Her product, on the other hand, has received positive reviews from customers (and an endorsement from Oprah’s O Magazine).

Keenwah clusters have been sold in Canada for almost a year, but are currently only available at smaller health stores. (Chalos said the company is “talking” to bigger chains).

Th United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has declared 2013 the International Year of Quinoa.

Also on the quinoa snacking front is Enerjive quinoa skinny crackers. Developed by an Ottawa culinary artist and a naturopathic doctor, the five-sku line, at under 90 calories, "optimizes metabolism, boosts energy and cut cravings with with specially-selected ingredients," according to a release.

Enerjive crackers are currently available in over 200 stores including specialty, natural food and large chains (including Longo’s and Metro stores later in January) across Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Meanwhile, Richmond's Wise Bites muffins and cookies are made from Canadian quinoa and high-fibre organic date paste, and free of wheat, gluten, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and soy.

The products are already carried at Stong's Market in Vancouver, and Nesters Markets in B.C. will soon introduce them. And according to a report, a deal with a major natural foods grocer is being negotiated.

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