Did you know that a healthy lunch can improve your child’s learning, concentration, classroom behaviour, and overall well being? Many studies report that better nutrition is associated with enhanced cognitive processing, brain development and behaviours conducive to learning.
While many schools are taking an active approach to improving the nutritional value of school lunches, the best way to ensure your child is eating healthy food at school is to make it yourself!
Working parents often struggle with meal preparation, but a yummy pasta fredda (pasta salad) takes only around 15 minutes to prepare, and planning ahead will let you rest easier at work knowing that your child is eating well at school.
Contrary to popular belief, starchy foods like pasta, which are rich in carbohydrates, are a healthy option for school lunches (and what child doesn’t love pasta?). Pasta provides protein and fuel for your child’s rapidly developing body and brain. And with a little creativity, you can also be sure your child is getting his or her fair share of vegetables.
Here’s a quick and simple recipe for pasta fredda that’s sure to please your little ones. Save time by making it the night before, or simply serve it for dinner with a little extra set aside for lunch the following day (just toss or spray lightly with olive oil in the morning before packing).
- Penne or Fusilli Pasta (125 grams)
- 2 Tablespoons Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (tip: try our basil infused oil for extra flavor)
- 1 lemon
- 1 Red Pepper
- 8 Cherry Tomatoes
- 4 Spring Onions (optional)
- ¼ can of Sweet Corn
- ¼ can Kidney (or white Cannellini Beans)
- Wash, deseed and cut the vegetables into bite size chunks
- Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente (about 2 minutes less than the recommended cooking time).
- Combine the pasta, vegetables and 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl
- Squeeze the lemon into the remaining olive oil, whisk, and add to the pasta
- Pack the pasta salad into a small, plastic container and then directly into your child’s lunchbox (add a banana or sliced fruit for dessert!)
An even simpler alternative is the classic pasta fredda adored by children throughout Italy. All you need is fresh basil, mozzarella, garlic and cherry tomatoes.
Pour about ¼ cup of olive oil into a wooden or glass bowl. Then add quartered cherry tomatoes and roughly cut mozzarella and basil. Let the ingredients blend while you cook the pasta. Drain and combine all ingredients. The entire meal takes about 15 minutes to prepare!
Keep in mind that while the garlic adds flavor, it’s not usually a hit with children. So you can leave it out completely, or try substituting a teaspoon of regular olive oil with garlic-infused oil.
Pasta fredda will satisfy your child’s appetite and provide that boost of energy needed to get through the rest of the school day. Even better? It’s yummy, healthy, and quintessential Italian.