Imagine this scenario. You found time in your busy day to schedule and prepare a family dinner. You included protein and vegetables to make it balanced, only to see your child piling pasta on his plate... then more pasta... and eating nothing else but pasta!
Sound familiar? You are not alone. I have met many parents who were concerned about their child's love for plain starchy foods like noodles, bread, rice, or mashed potatoes.
A seemingly logical step would be to implement portion control and encourage the child to eat in a more balanced way. But limiting food does not work for children (or grown ups) who tend to react to dietary restrictions with intense cravings and usually find a way to get what they want. I remember counseling a family in which a five year-old girl was sneaking bagels into her bedroom after her health-conscious parents started "watching" her portion sizes.
But the question is, are starchy foods bad for your child?
Far from it. Starchy foods are rich in carbohydrates. This makes them a great option for kids. Here's why:
But it's easy to fall into the trap of preparing the same starchy foods, even nutritious ones, over and over again. For example, my kids went to three playdates last week and were served some kind of pasta at every single of them. And guess who made noodles and mac 'n' cheese for dinner the same week?
Here are a few ideas to increase variety without making your child feel carb-deprived:
Starchy foods are most kids' all-time favorites. Instead of limiting them in the hope to get children to explore other dinnertime offerings, use the "power of pasta" to introduce more variety in meals. Chances are you'll see your child learn to enjoy a more balanced diet without mealtime drama.
Related: 5 Healthier Pasta Recipes
Natalia Stasenko MS, RD, CDN is a pediatric dietitian based in London and New York. She offers an online, one-on-one support program for parents of picky eaters called Feeding Bytes, and is the mother of three. Natalia is the cowriter of the cookbook Baby-Led Feeding, and when not writing, teaching or consulting, she is in the kitchen cooking and eating with her family. Read more of her stories on feedingbytes.com.
Image: Boy eating pasta via Shutterstock