Pasta has so many options to keep the flavor profiles interesting, satisfy many dietary preferences and not take a lot of time in the kitchen.
Welcome to our Simple, Sustainable & Fun Family Dinners series! At SHF, we know planning your family dinner menu for the week can be stressful and we want to help you with that process. This is the 4th week in a 7-week series where we will be highlighting a Family Dinner that you can implement in your kitchen any night of the week that everyone in your family is sure to love!
This meal idea might seem like a no-brainer. After all, pasta is your go-to meal when you can’t come up with anything else right?
We want to offer some variations to your traditional pasta dinner that will vary the tastes and help you introduce more healthy options to your family!
IT’S ALL ABOUT THE NOODLES… OR IS IT???
What is your go-to pasta? Penne? Spaghetti? Shells? Regardless of what shape you prefer your noodles to come in, there are some options you can incorporate into your dinner prep to make this meal a little healthier.
- Protein Pasta: Barilla makes a great protein pasta that is made from wheat and legume flours. This makes a standard serving have 10g of protein!
- Chickpea Pasta: While there are several gluten-free pasta options, we like this one best because it is also high in fiber (8g per serving) and high in protein (14g per serving).
- Zoodles: Maybe you are following a low-carb, Keto or Paleo diet, but you still want to eat pasta…not to fear! Zoodles, or zucchini noodles, are a great option! You can spiralize them with a veggie spiralizer…or buy them pre-spiraled either fresh or frozen!
- Spaghetti Squash: Another non-pasta alternative is spaghetti squash. Just bake this beauty for 35-45 minutes at 350°F (cut in half, face down in a glass dish with about an inch of water) and scrape out the insides. Then add your favorite sauce and toppings and you are ready to go!
Pasta is probably the most versatile meal there is with endless possibilities for mix-ins. When it comes to protein, it really depends how much time you have to cook. On a night when you get home late because the kids all had different activities, try something easy like frozen meatballs (we like the Earth’s Best Frozen Mini Meatballs or the Trader Joe’s Frozen Turkey Meatballs). You can
also use leftover chicken, beef or pork from a previous dinner. Pre-cooked chicken sausages that just need to be heated up (try these ones from Aidells) are also delicious!
Ground beef mixed into sauce is another simple, yet classic option to cover all the major food groups.
Is your family a sauce or no-sauce family? If you prefer sauce, there are many options at your local grocery store pre-maid in jars or in the refrigerated section. Our recommendation is to always look at the ingredients and make sure the label doesn’t include words you don’t understand! Also, pay attention to the amount of sugar in the sauce. Often times the sugar content is more than you would suspect.
If you are looking to change it up from traditional red sauce, other options include pesto or cream sauce. Or just a light covering of olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and Parmesan cheese and you are set!
DON’T FORGET YOUR VEGGIES!
Veggies are so good for our bodies to get all the nutrients we need and they also fill us up! Pasta is a great place to get creative with your veggies. Tomatoes are always a hit, but try some new things too like kalamata olives, artichoke hearts, carrots and spinach to make your pasta more colorful and nutritious.
Pasta is a great weeknight dinner that you can make in a large portion and plan to have leftovers for to-go lunches or other dinners in the week. However you make it, incorporate some healthy lifestyle options the next time you cook pasta for dinner!