How to make your child’s back to school lunch quick, easy, and healthy

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Students are back in school and parents are likely looking for the best and most affordable way to make sure their child has a healthy lunch and dinner. One thing to grab at the store? Pasta!

Pasta is known for its affordability and versatility in the kitchen. It’s estimated the average American consumes 20 pounds of it annually. While pasta and other white starches are also known for making you gain weight, there are ways to make it healthy.

First, remember carbohydrates are your brain’s favorite energy source. Don’t use pasta as the only thing in the meal. Make sure you’re cutting down on processed foods. Processed CHO tends to raise our blood sugar as quickly and almost as high as eating plain sugar out of the bowl. That means CHO is stored as fat.

Try looking at whole grain pasta. That pasta has been processed but fiber is kept in. High fiber foods won’t raise your blood sugar like processed foods do. Fiber also helps fight chronic diseases including obesity and type 2 diabetes. It also promotes digestive health.

Whole grain pasta has a chewier texture than regular pasta, but it’s also more nutrient rich. If you’re having trouble making the switch to whole grain, start with a half and half blend of whole grain and white pastas and increase the percentage of whole grain pasta each time you cook it.

Remember, a 1-cup serving of whole wheat pasta contains 6.3 grams of dietary fiber, providing 17% of the recommended daily intake for men and 24% for women. White pasta is lower in fiber at 2.5 grams per serving.

We get approximately 300 grams of carbohydrates a day, far too many for anyone trying to maintain weight and most of it isn’t coming from fruits or vegetables. Try this recipe to help complement the type of CHO and boost nutrition of the dish.

BALSAMIC CAPRESE PASTA SALAD (source)

  • 4 cups uncooked penne
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella, broken into bite-size pieces
  • 1/4 medium red onion (about 3 tbsp), chopped
  • Handful grape tomatoes, halved
  • 4 teaspoons balsamic vinegar, or to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, or to taste
  • Large handful fresh basil, torn
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, to taste
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Instructions

  1. Bring a salted pot of water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, prep your other ingredients.
  3. When the pasta is done, drain it and rinse it under cold water. Ensure it’s properly drained again before adding it to a large bowl.
  4. Add the mozzarella, onion, tomatoes, vinegar, oil, basil, parsley, and salt & pepper to the bowl. Gently toss it. Adjust vinegar, oil, and seasonings as needed depending on how much dressing you like. Chill for an hour or serve immediately

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