“My kids would eat pasta every day if I let them!” This is one of the biggest things I hear my frustrated clients say. My response? “My kids too!” And we eat pasta a few times a week sometimes! Surprised? I hope not! Here’s why…
- My kids are “normal” kids (not just “dietitian kids”) and part Italian.
- Pasta can actually be a good source of nutrients for kids.
- Pasta can be an easy & comfortable food for kids, especially for those who are learning to like other foods (aka “picky”). More on that to come…
Regular, plain ‘ole white pasta contains mostly carbohydrates, which is a very important nutrient for growing minds, muscles, and bodies. To simplify it, carbs give us energy. Kids need energy to grow. Pasta can do that. White pasta does contain a fairly decent amount of protein and some fiber, so it is not a total “empty carb” that I hear complaints about. One cup of cooked spaghetti contains 7 g protein and 3 g fiber, which is a great amount for a child at a meal. Many varieties are also enriched with iron and B vitamins.
What about whole wheat pasta? Bean, chickpea, lentil based pastas? They also contain carbohydrates, but score higher in protein and fiber content. Both of these nutrients help sustain energy levels and prevent blood sugar crashes. The extra fiber can also help keep your little ones regular. A great option to throw into the mix!
Speaking of mixing it up - this is key to helping kids learn to like new foods (aka overcome “picky eating”) - I always switch up what types of pasta we serve. White, whole wheat, chickpea/lentil based, etc. I have it all in my pantry. White is definitely a preferred favorite, so I make sure to serve all different forms of it - noodles, spaghetti, angel hair, pastina, stars, holiday shapes, etc. These little changes actually help kids expand their interest in new foods.
Now - the real reason I love pasta for kids: it is EASY and COMFORTABLE. It’s easy to prepare and my kids will never turn down pasta because they love it so much. Win win, especially when I am scrambling to make a meal. Even better? I use pasta as a gateway to introduce new foods or flavors. Different sauces, veggies, and protein choices are much more likely received when something familiar is on the table. Afraid they will ONLY choose the pasta? They might. Probably the first time. But keep trying and do not make a big deal about what they choose, or don’t choose. Sometimes the new foods are served separately, sometimes mixed together, and yes, sometimes we have to pick things out of the dish. But generally, everyone is usually happy!
Comment! What's your favorite way to enjoy pasta?