Taking a stroll down the pasta aisle, we’re simultaneously overwhelmed by the number of choices and feeling guilted into choosing “healthier” pastas. Yes, whole-grain pasta undoubtedly has more to offer than regular pasta in terms of fiber, protein, and other nutrients. But it’s a little more chewy – some would even say woody – and it’s an acquired taste that many kids would prefer not to acquire. So which box should we put in our shopping cart?
For starters, be aware that not all super-charged pastas are the same. Many have whole durum wheat flour (plus water) as the sole ingredient. But Barilla Plus, for example, is made with a grain and legume flour blend that may include lentils, chickpeas, oats, spelt, barley, egg whites, ground flaxseed and wheat or oat fiber. You may need to taste-test a few brands until you find one that you (and your kids) are willing to eat. If the pasta seems too tough, you can try boiling it a little longer to soften it up. And if your kids simply won’t touch the stuff, try mixing it in with regular pasta: Start boiling the whole wheat pasta first, then add in the regular pasta mid-stream so that both varieties are finished at the same time.
Beyond that, you probably shouldn’t get too hung up on whole-grain pasta versus “regular” pasta. Italians eat the regular stuff all the time and most of them are healthier than we are. And as scientist/food blogger Darya Pino of Summer Tomato points out, the benefits of whole-grain pasta are negligible because whole-grain pasta, like all pasta, is a processed food. So if you’re going to be a purist about these things, go and eat some brown rice instead. But if your kids are clamoring for pasta, serve it in moderation with plenty of vegetables and you should be fine.