Pasta Can Help Boost Veggie and Protein Intake; Experiment with Color and Flavor to Celebrate National Pasta Month!

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NEW YORK, October 01, 2013 – Pasta has always been one of America’s favorite foods, offering limitless options for recipes, flavors and comfort.  Even better, pasta is one of the most effective delivery systems for other healthy foods, such as fresh vegetables, lean meats, fish, poultry and beans, which one needs in a well-balanced diet.  And Americans are getting it right!  Pasta Fits, a nutrition and culinary education and resource initiative sponsored by the National Pasta Association, reports that its most shared pasta recipes are those containing fish and poultry.  Fish and poultry recipes are five times more popular than any other type of recipe Pasta Fits offers.

“Pasta is a perfect foundation for healthy, nutritious and satisfying meals, as it can be easily paired with nutrient-dense food partners, such as fiber-filled vegetables and beans, heart healthy fish and monounsaturated oils, antioxidant-rich tomato sauce and protein-packed cheese, poultry and lean meats,” says registered dietitian Diane Welland.  “Fall is a wonderful time to take advantage of the seasonal ingredients and try new colors and flavors.”

In celebration of National Pasta Month, Welland offers the following tips for experimenting with recipe ideas:

Have Fun with Flavors, Colors and Textures

Experiment with different varieties of your favorite fruits and vegetables or try new foods altogether.  Fall is a time when many fruits and vegetables are at their peak and markets are overflowing with ripe, and sometimes local, selections.  Take advantage of the season and look for heirloom varieties like orange pumpkin or winter squash, snow-white cauliflower, crinkle-leafed kale and crisp apples.  Explore a local farmers’ market and experiment with a new food.  Pair it with pasta as a way to introduce more unusual foods to your family.

Color is Key

When preparing a meal, take note of the variety of color in the ingredients.  For example, ripe red tomatoes, dark leafy greens and bright yellow corn offer a diversity of flavor, nutrients and make for a beautiful meal.  Importantly, when selecting fruits or vegetables, those that are deeper in color – whether red, orange, yellow or green – tend to be more nutritious, loaded with vitamins like A and C, minerals like potassium and magnesium and fiber.  Think spinach, sweet potatoes and beets.  It is these brightly colored, nutrient-dense foods that offer more protective health benefits against cancer and other diseases, as well as help control calorie intake and blood sugar, due to an assortment of plant compounds.

Grab a Handful of Herbs

Fresh chopped herbs are a great way to bump up flavor without upping the fat or salt content of a recipe.  Most fresh herbs are milder than their dry counterparts, so more is needed in a recipe.   There are many delicious herbs in season now, such as parsley, chives, rosemary and thyme.  Generally, if a recipe calls for dry herbs, simply double or triple the amount for fresh herbs.  Fresh herbs are also a source of healthy antioxidants.  And when it comes to pasta, fresh herbs add color and aroma as well as flavor.  Another tip:  dressing pasta with herbs while it is still warm enhances the taste.  Choose favorites like thyme, rosemary, sage or dill or create herb combinations like basil-oregano or parsley-basil-oregano for an extra dose of flavor.

There are so many ways a food lover can celebrate National Pasta Month, from learning how to cook the perfect pasta to how to pair a sauce with a shape.  For recipe ideas, tips and resources, please visit www.pastafits.org.