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From Pasta to Pulses: Boosting Kids’ Intake

Disclaimer: I am a member of Barilla’s Pasta Advisory Council. As always, all opinions are my own. Read my disclosure statement here.

If you want to prepare nutritious and enjoyable family meals, including pasta and pulses can be a great move. Not only do these foods help your children meet their basic nutrient needs to support growth and overall health, they can also help keep our planet healthy.

Pulses (e.g. dry beans and peas, lentils and chickpeas)—the mature, edible seeds of legumes—overflow with nutrients and powerful plant chemicals. Unlike many other protein-rich foods, pulses are relatively low in fat and rich in fiber. They also have no cholesterol, are low in sodium* and tend to be rich in vitamins and minerals such as iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc as well as folate and other B vitamins. Like pasta, pulses have a low glycemic index and have little impact on blood sugar levels. They are also highly sustainable. According to the Global Pulse Confederation (GPC), pulses require far less water to produce than even soybeans or peanuts. The GPC also credits pulses with contributing to soil quality by fixing nitrogen in the soil. I love pulses because even small amounts contribute an impressive dose of protein as well as carbohydrate (mainly in the form of resistant starch—a fiber-like starch that has potential health benefits). These qualities make pulses a dynamic duo for health.

Adding Pasta and Pulses to Your Plate

As plant-based, sustainable, environmentally friendly sources of protein and other key nutrients, pasta and pulses are excellent additions to your plate. You can pair pasta and pulses to make great soups and salads. Adding favorite pulses to your pasta of choice, sprinkling beans or chickpeas into salads, or making bean and cheese quesadillas or tacos or soups with your favorite bean/pasta combo can help you and your family create affordable, tasty meals while boosting everyone’s nutrient intake. Allowing kids to plan menus, grocery shop, and prepare meals can make family meals more exciting and may even encourage them to try new foods. For example, they can experiment by choosing and creating their own pasta/pulse combinations—for example, while grocery shopping, they can choose the pasta shape they like best or their favorite color/shape bean.

Some Meal Ideas

For breakfast, you can make breakfast burritos with low-sodium canned beans, shredded cheddar cheese, shredded lettuce and whole-wheat flour tortillas. For snacks, fresh veggies and bean dip can be tasty and satisfying. And, what kid (or grownup) doesn’t like to dip? For lunch or dinner, you can make a cold pasta salad or warm pasta dish or soup with any combination of greens or other colorful veggies and beans/chickpeas and/or tofu. Chili is also an option as is this delicious recipe for Mostaccioli (a hollow tube pasta similar to penne) with shrimp and cannelloni beans–created by  Chef Lorenzo Boni in coordination with MyPlate’s Spring Food Fun healthy eating for kids campaign. (See photo below.)  Can you say yum?



For more ideas to help you create a nutrient-rich and sustainable diet for your family, check out the Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s Double Pyramid. It’s a visual that demonstrates how so many of the healthiest foods for kids and adults—including lots of plant-based foods like pasta and pulses—are also healthiest for the environment. For more pasta recipes, click here and here. And, to find a registered dietitian nutritionist near you, visit the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

*Canned beans/bean soups tend to contain a lot of sodium which is why I recommend reduced- or low-sodium versions. Draining and rinsing canned beans also substantially reduce their sodium load.

Image via Chef Lorenzo Boni.

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About The Author

Elisa Zied is a nationally recognized and award-winning health and nutrition expert, author, speaker, and spokesperson. A trusted source of food, nutrition, and health information, Elisa has garnered millions of media impressions, lending her expertise and real-world perspective to dozens of TV shows, web sites, news organizations and magazines. She’s the author of four nutrition books. An avid walker, she loves motivating others to #moveitorloseit. A book lover, she recently earned a certificate in children’s literature from Stony Brook Southampton and is currently working on several young adult novels. You can find her previous Food, Fitness & Fiction posts here and connect with her on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

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