Fall is officially over and winter weather has settled in. We can’t help but notice that the change in season also brings cooler weather and shorter daylight. This can easily make us feel like we have less time and little energy to prepare meals when we get home. Moreover, families’ busy work, school, and play schedules can make it difficult to get a balanced meal on the table every single night. But I promise there are ways to make this happen! While planning ahead is one key to ensure healthy meals, another is having on hand quick recipes with simple ingredients that will be ready in few minutes.
Since time is of the essence to everyone, we want our meal ideas to be tasty and nutritious without spending hours prepping and cooking. Pasta dishes are one of those pantry staples and always a winner in families. They have a long shelf life, are very easy to prepare and are versatile. When it comes to pasta, the options are endless, but not all of them offer the same nutrition value. Here are some tips to help you pick the healthiest ones:
1- Look for pasta that has at least 4 grams of fiber per serving. Go for whole grain pasta, or some good options might be made with lentils, quinoa or flax seeds which will increase the fiber content.
2- Check the protein content! A lot of pasta on the market offer an interesting amount of protein per portion that might range as low as 5g and as high as 21 grams!
One of my new discoveries is the Lentil & Quinoa Rotini from GoGoQuinoa. It’s made simply with 2 ingredients, red lentil flour, and quinoa flour. This makes it a good gluten-free option for those who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. However, what is more, interesting about this product is the protein and fiber content. With 21 grams of protein per portion, the lentil, and quinoa rotini offer almost twice as much protein as your typical whole wheat pasta. Moreover, it has 10 grams of fiber per portion, providing you with more than a third of your daily needs. Finally, as a big added bonus a ¾ cup offers 40% of daily value of iron!
So what can we have with pasta? Chances are, you already have everything you need inside your pantry and fridge to create a delicious and well-balanced pasta dish. You can go for a warm meal such as soup or a cold meal such as a salad. You can add vegetable protein such as beans, chickpeas or even tofu. Or, if you are more of a meat lover, toss in some leftover cooked chicken or add canned tuna. What matters is to have a protein source that fills ¼ of your plate and gives you long-term satiety after a meal.
Last but not least, don’t forget to add colors to your meal with all the vegetables in season. Vegetables are a great source of fiber and they are loaded with vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. Broccoli, zucchinis, cherry tomatoes, onions… You name it! Cooked or raw, the more vegetables you can add on your plate the better. Think also of using your vegetable leftovers to avoid any food waste.
Finally, any pasta dish would love a sauce to go with. You can let the inner chef in you invent a sauce or you can simply opt for a simple lemon dressing or a homemade tomato sauce. For those busy nights, commercial options come in handy. Knowing how to read a food label can really help you make better food choices for you and your family. The key is to choose a pasta sauce that is low sodium, saturated fat and sugar added. Look for options that have less than 360 mg of sodium per serving and a maximum of 2 grams of saturated fat per serving.
Now, I will share with you one of my back up quick recipes for those busy days: chickpea pasta salad! Takes literally less than 10 minutes to make if you have the ingredients on hand. It can be great for a rushed dinner or meal prep for the nextday, and best of all its well balanced and super tasty!
– 1 cup of lentil and Quinoa Rotini
– 1 canned chickpea (ideally no salt added)
– 1/2 cup of cherry tomatoes
– 1 green onion
– 30g (about 2 tbsp) crumbled feta cheese
– freshly chopped coriander
-lemon juice (to taste)
-extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tbsp)
-salad mix spice (no salt added)
-Bring 3 or 4 L to a boil. Add a bit of salt if desired. When the water is boiling well add the pasta and cook for 7-8 minutes for an al-dente texture. Drain and rinse promptly in cold water
-While waiting for the water to boil, wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in half. Wash and dice the green onion. Serve in a salad bowl
-Open and thoroughly rinse the can of chickpea and add to the mix of vegetables
-Combine with pasta, add the dressing and garnish with chopped fresh coriander
Celine Saloumi is a Registered Dietitian with Provigo Le Marché Mont-Royal town and Angus. Want to book a consultation or educational store tour for yourself or your community group or business? Contact her by phone at 514-229-6657 or by email at [email protected]