Alexandra, whose friends call her Alex, is a Registered Dietitian that specializes in plant based diets, weight management, and sports nutrition. On top of being a busy mom and wife, she develops nutritious recipes for her clients, which often include one of her favorite foods- pasta! Her take on food is that it should be fun, delicious and creative.
- We understand you’re a new mom to a baby boy! What advice do you have for balancing motherhood and professional life while still preparing healthy meals?
- Meal prep! Right now, my main focus when it comes to meals is offering a variety of nutritious foods to my 10-month old son. That usually means I prep a few things ahead of time to make for easy eating: 2-3 cooked vegetables, a “main dish” like pasta or beans/lentils and 1-2 simple snacks. I’ve found that prepping in bulk saves me time and I don’t have to go through the process of actually making a new dinner every night.
- Your goal is “to make healthy eating simple and accessible.” How do you use pasta to create those easy and delicious dishes?
- Growing up in an Italian-American household, we ate pasta at least 3-4 times a week. Now that I am responsible for feeding my own family, I find that we turn to it just as often for simple, easy meals. I love that I can turn almost anything in my fridge into a delicious pasta meal. As long as I have a vegetable or two on hand, I’m confident that I can whip up a delicious dinner using pasta! My simple weeknight zucchini pasta is the perfect example of that. I sauté fresh zucchini until they become jammy and browned, then toss with just al dente pasta and a healthy splash of pasta water. I finish cooking the pasta with the zucchini, so it soaks up even more flavor and helps the zucchini cling to the pasta. I finish everything off with grated parmesan cheese and that’s it! Dinner is served.
- As an RD, what do you want people to know about pasta from a nutritional standpoint?
- I am a follower of the Blue Zones, research from areas of the world where people live longer, on average. The theory being that individual people can get lucky when it comes to aging, but populations don’t. So, what’s the difference in these special spots? While a few factors are involved, diet plays a huge role in reducing chronic disease risk and Blue Zones research has narrowed it down to a few things: a mostly plant-based diet filled with whole grains, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds and fruit. This is how I choose to eat and pasta fits into this eating pattern perfectly! It’s why I almost always combine pasta with vegetables and legumes and also encourage my clients to eat more of it. The answer to healthy living is not more protein, it’s the opposite. A diet filled with carbohydrates from mostly plant-based sources is key when it comes to longevity.
- What is your take on eating pasta while maintaining a healthy weight?
- Eat pasta like Italians eat pasta—meaning portion size is key. My grandmother’s food is not filled with cheese, heavy meat sauces and overflowing bowls. Instead, it’s light, packed with vegetables and legumes and served in 2 ounce portions of pasta at a time. This is how pasta is meant to be eaten and how I encourage my clients to eat it. Linguine with tomatoes, zucchini and white beans is a very different dish than lasagna with béchamel and a meat sauce, though we might classify both of those as pasta meals. Add nutrient density to your pasta dish by incorporating a vegetable or two and sticking to 1-2 fist servings.
- As it is quickly turning to fall, what is your favorite pasta dish for this time of year?
- I love roasting butternut squash until caramelized and pureeing that with cooked garlic, onions and a pinch of sage. I then toss that with fettuccini for a healthy, fall-inspired take on fettuccini Alfredo.
Bio: Alexandra Caspero MA, RD, CLT, RYT is owner of Delish Knowledge and author of Fresh Italian Cooking for the New Generation. As a consultant and spokesperson, she works with companies to develop nutrition communication strategies, corporate wellness programs and recipes. Her award-winning blog, Delish Knowledge, focuses on making whole-food eating deliciously simple.
Alex is the co-founder of Plant-Based Juniors, a complete guide to plant-based prenatal and pediatric nutrition. Additionally, she is the co-author of Joyful Eating, Nourished Life, which helps others discover a happier, healthier relationship with food and their body.