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You only have to say “pasta” and the kids are all over you, asking unending questions about what shape the pasta is, whether you’ll use a white or red sauce, and most importantly, when it will be ready! Pasta is the latest food trend and enjoys immense popularity especially among the younger generation. But like everything else that feels tempting, pasta too is generally considered junk! As a responsible but doting mom, can you do anything to make a wholesome, balanced meal out of pasta without compromising on taste?
Pasta, now available in interesting shapes and sizes, is an instant hit among children. It is a very versatile food that works well as an evening snack, dinner or even Mamma’s special comfort food for the days your child is feeling low. The only concern – and it is a big one – is that pastas aren’t really health food. Many pastas in the market use refined flour or semolina, are cooked in high-calorie sauces, and don’t do much nutrition-wise.
Well, no more! Nutrition experts around the globe have put their brains together to arrive at some genius hacks that make pasta a healthy meal. You only have to follow these steps to become the super mommy who serves her kids their favourite food but manages to ensure it is nutritious!
1. Look for Fibre-Rich Pasta
Do you steer clear of pasta because you think is is full of maida? Time to change that myth! Colavita, for instance, uses 100% whole wheat semolina and fresh mountain spring water – this means no artificial ingredients! Not only does this make pasta a filling meal but it also helps boosts dietary fibre in your kids.
Secret Tip : Try whipping up a pasta salad with veggies. The best part is that this recipe works well with whole-grain pasta, imparting it a nice nutty flavor that kids are bound to love.
2. Use This Tip to Limit Salt While Boiling
We have always been told to add a pinch of salt while cooking pasta. But did you know that this can increase the sodium content and actually make it take longer for the water to boil? What you should do instead is two-fold: 1. Avoid adding salt to the water you use to boil pasta, and 2. Save some of the cooking liquor after draining the pasta and use it to make a sauce. You’ll get a rich creamy sauce minus the actual cream!
3. Cook Pasta Only Till This Point
Are you cooking your pasta right? The correct method is to cook until “al dente”, i.e. still slightly firm and chewy. Overcooking pasta makes it unhealthy for your kids as it raises the glycemic index or leads carbohydrates to be readily available in your blood stream! Here’s a special Mommy hack: cook your pasta and allow it to cool. This will increase the resistant starch content of the pasta. This means when you reheat the food, this starch stays resistant and adds to the healthy bulk of food! This also means you don’t need to eat cold pasta to enjoy the extra fibre.
4. Choose from One of these Healthy Sauces
More often than not, what makes pasta unhealthy is the calorie-rich sauce it is served with! But the good news is that the dish can be equally yummy minus the calories if you only pick the right sauce. Your best bet would be tomato sauce- maximum nutrition, minimum calories, and vitamins and antioxidants as a bonus! Just make sure you read the nutrition labels carefully and choose a sauce with less than 360 mg sodium per half-cup.
How about meat sauce, cheddar cheese sauce and the eternal favourite pesto? Typically, these sauces can be very high in sodium. But wait, there’s hope! You can add to the health (and taste!) quotient of any sauce by drizzling some Colavita extra virgin olive oil and fresh herbs. Yummy!
5. Sneak Some Veggies into the Pasta
Moms are experts at anything to do with sneaking veggies into savoury dishes! The veggies that work really well with pasta are broccoli, spinach, carrots, celery, onions, beans and peas. But feel free to experiment. You could also serve pasta with veggie side dishes. How about a bowl of pasta accompanied by a big green salad or sautéed greens? It will make you look like quite the Master Chef and we promise the kids won’t mind either. Our pick would be this stunning Pasta Nest with Roasted Vegetables.
6. Give your Pasta a Huge Fibre Boost
Veggies aside, is there another way to up the nutritional content of pasta? Dietary fibre is a must-have for kids of all ages as it helps keep their digestive system in good working condition. When making pasta, do this: add a few tablespoons of oat bran, psyllium or chia seeds to the pasta sauce. Done! You have not only increased the fibre in the whole dish but also slowed down how quickly your body digests the pasta. This keeps blood sugar spikes in check.
7. Choose Lean Proteins Such as These
Did you know pasta can be a great way to include protein in your kids’ diet? Since children enjoy pasta so much, you can use it as base to add cooked beans, or chicken shreds/sausage to the sauce. This will make sure they take in lean protein that speeds up their overall development. For a quick protein-packed recipe, try this Pasta and Bean Soup.
8. Refer to These Figures for the Right Portion Size
How much is enough? Ideally, if you’re serving it as a side dish, one serving of cooked pasta should be ½ cup (50 grams). If it’s your main meal, 1½ cups should suffice. If you’re eating out, try and restrict your portions to these sizes. Remember, you also need to account for creamy pasta sauces, especially grated cheese. When used as a garnish, a tablespoon of cheese (15 grams) is all you need. As for olive oil, a teaspoon (5 grams) or two will work wonders to enhance the taste!
9. Cheese Works Best When Used Just for Garnishing
Think pasta and the mind conjures up images of Parmesan and Ricotta cheese! Well, while cheese and pasta definitely go well together, we recommend garnishing the pasta with shredded cheese on top. This lets you cut down on the saturated fats and calorie content of the meal. If you’re worried that the outcome won’t be appetising enough, don’t worry! Try one of Colavita’s unique pasta nests – they come in exotic shapes like fettucine and tripoolini – and we promise the kids will be spellbound!
10. Finally, Avoid Consuming Pasta as a Street-Food
Bhelpuri and panipuri aside, pasta is the latest rage among street vendors! Now, while we cannot deny that street food has an undeniable charm, especially to kids, it could also mean taking in too much oil and salt. Try making tasty and nutritious pasta dishes at home so you can closely monitor the cooking as well as the serving size. If you’ve never cooked pasta before, this easy masala pasta can be a good starting point.
What are you waiting for, Mom? Now that you’re armed with these healthy pasta hacks, you can make a bowlful of wholesome, lip-smacking pasta your kids will love. The best part is you too can join them in the feast – without the fear of putting on weight!