Pasta has long been an easy and quick way to fill the hungry tums of our little ones, but the question has always been about how to make it healthy. Now, Maya Meron from Quince Organic tells us how we can introduce alternatives to white pasta into our children’s daily diet, including ways to cleverly introduce veggies into the mix. Quince is an enlightened catering company that delivers hot organic meals for schools.
There is one thing that ALL children have in common when it comes to food- they all enjoy eating pasta!
Having spent the past two years feeding a few hundred children each day, I think I have come across every possible variation of fussiness and ‘difficult eaters’, and yet I have never met a child who refused to eat Pasta.
As parent to a 5-year-old, pasta features regularly in our meals at home and we have a very large shelf designated for all its different varieties, shapes and sizes that my family has collected over time (latest addition being matcha rice spaghetti!)
There is no doubt that it’s the number one convenience food that allows to prepare a meal in minutes with endless possibilities of turning that canvas of white pasta into a colourful and delicious meal. The problem for me is only when the plain pasta becomes for a child a meal in itself.
There is no sauce (of any kind!) which after all is the way to camouflage all those vegetables that a lot of fussy eaters would otherwise not eat.
At Quince, our chefs are still having to prepare from time to time the ‘plain pasta only’ meals on the odd request, but generally, almost all the children that were previously eating mostly pasta have since broadened their interest of food and their ability to enjoy a far bigger variety of ingredients.
How did this happen?
To begin with, as with anything else, most children learn best when they experience something as part of a group with other children. Food is no exception and healthy eating choices and habits need to be learned. What better way to do so than in a school environment!
Those dinner table battles of trying to get your kid to eat that piece of broccoli are but a distant memory when you have a group of children sitting around a table with their fellow school friends all eating the same food (which includes that broccoli).
Then, there is the change that happens when the children feel that they are genuinely listened to and that their opinion counts.
The Quince team and I have spent countless hours going around schools at lunch time and talking to the children about their lunch. Their feed back has really shaped the recipes we use at the Quince kitchen and the way we decide on our weekly menus.
For the children, knowing that they are a part of the decision making can really change their attitude to what they eat. Thanks to them, we came up with our recipe for macaroni and cheese (with lots of cauliflower!) and pasta with green vegetables (broccoli, green beans, peas, sugar snaps, parsley and lemon) for those children who prefer their pasta with clearly seen vegetables that are not swimming in sauce.
Finally, we started the food club for Adventurous Eaters, and we regularly invite to our meetings the fussiest of children.
In the meetings we give the children a chance to create their own meal and to prepare it from scratch. The result is that by the end of the session all the children try to eat foods that they would not have eaten previously. The hands-on experience has a fantastic effect and really gets the children to be enthusiastic about what they eat.
If your child is a fussy eater, here are some suggestions from the Quince team of how to expand their food repertoire around the theme of Pasta:
- make your vegetables look like pasta! Vegetable spirilisers are a quick and easy way to prepare raw vegetables in a form that children love- spaghetti. Cucumbers, carrots and work really well, and surprisingly spaghetti from peeled courgette and kohlrabi tastes great when lightly sautÃ©ed and topped with some olive oil and fresh herbs.
2) Try getting lots of different vegetables into your pasta sauce, which for us at least fall into two main categories: Red (tomato sauce- all vegetables that colour-wise will blend well with a general tone of red) and Green (pesto sauce- all green vegetables pulsed in a food processor to create pesto like consistency, with lots of Parmesan cheese and different types of nuts and seeds, if your child is not allergic)
3) There are so many different varieties of pastas and noodles, ranging from different types of grains, pulses and even vegetables.
Encourage your child to give the non white pastas a go!
By Maya Meron, Director of Quince Organic Limited