March is National Noodle Month
By: Jodie Shield, RD
If you could use only one word to describe the perfect family meal, what would it be? Versatile? Convenient? Economical? Healthy? Delicious? I would use the word pasta, because it’s all of the above. Pasta comes in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors; it cooks in 30 minutes or less; it’s a low-cost meal (for just a few dollars you can feed a family of five); it’s naturally low in fat; and best of all, kids love it. But before you get your pasta pot boiling, here are a few pasta pointers to keep in mind.
- Fresh pasta and dry pasta are nutritionally identical. So what’s the difference between them? Fresh noodles are soft and have a high moisture content. They cook faster than the boxed variety, but they’re more perishable and must be stored in the refrigerator and used within a few days. Dry pasta is hard and has undergone a heating process to eliminate moisture; therefore, it can be stored for longer periods of time in your pantry.
- Colors and fancy names can be deceptive.Tomato basil linguine and spinach fettuccine may sound healthier than plain-pasta counterparts, but they’re not. These pastas have had vegetable puree added to their basic recipes to make them more colorful and flavorful. But because such a small amount of puree has been added, these types of pasta have no extra nutritional value.
- Sneak veggies in your sauce. Try mixing chopped bell peppers, broccoli, or grated carrots with your child’s favorite tomato sauce or try my Homemade Tomato Basil sauce. This is a great way to get your child to eat more vegetables and to boost the nutritional content of a pasta dish.
- There’s power in protein. Pasta contains only a small amount of protein, so round out a pasta dish by including some lean protein options such as ground turkey breast, shredded chicken, seafood, or a reduced -fat cheese. For instance, you could offer stuffed shells or lasagna baked with reduced-fat mozzarella and ground turkey breast.
- Serve whole wheat pasta to boost fiber. Whole wheat pasta has three times as much fiber as regular pasta and can pack a family meal with even more nutritional punch.
So when it comes to healthy eating, use your noodle and serve up a tasty plate of pasta. What are some of your family’s favorite pasta meals? Stay tuned – I’ll share some of mine in my next blog.