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Kids, Teens Eating Pasta Have Better Overall Diet
Illinois Ag Connection - 05/19/2017

Pasta is a convenient, nutritious, easy-to-prepare meal for families. Pasta pleases even the pickiest of young eaters. And now, even more good news: new research shows that pasta consumption in children and adolescents is associated with a better diet quality than that of children who do not eat pasta. The research, which was presented at the 2017 Experimental Biology conference at the end of April in Chicago, demonstrated that young pasta-eaters have greater intakes of important vitamins and minerals and lower intakes of saturated fat and total fat in the diet compared to their peers who do not consume pasta.

The research, "Pasta Consumption in American Children and Adolescents is Associated with Greater Daily Intake of Shortfall Nutrients as Defined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, Improved Diet Quality and Lower Added Sugar Intake," was conducted by Nutritional Strategies, Inc. on behalf of the National Pasta Association. The study examined associations between pasta consumption, shortfall nutrient intakes as defined by the 2015 Dietary Guidelines (2015 DG) and diet quality in comparison to non-pasta consumption in U.S. children and adolescents (ages 2-18). Pasta consumption was defined as all dry domestic and imported pasta/noodle varieties made with only wheat and no egg. The data review did not look at any health outcomes associated with pasta consumption except for the ones specified below.

From the analysis, researchers identified a number of key positive nutritional dietary patterns associated with children and adolescents who eat pasta as part of their diet compared to those who don't eat pasta. They are:

- Better overall diet quality (as measured by USDA's Healthy Eating Index-2010 scale)

- Greater intake of key shortfall nutrients like dietary fiber, folate, iron, magnesium and vitamin E

- Lower daily intakes of saturated fat and total fat

- No significant associations were seen with body weight, waist circumference and body mass index

Pasta has long been celebrated as one of America's favorite foods and is advocated by nutritionists for its good nutrition.

"Good nutrition is critical to the developing minds and bodies of children and adolescents. Certain grain foods, like pasta, are a great complement to a healthy well-balanced meal and provide plenty of opportunities for improving the diet," explains registered dietitian Diane Welland, nutrition communications manager for the National Pasta Association. "Think of pasta as a canvas from which you can add nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods like fresh vegetables, fruits, cheese, lean meats and legumes, when creating meals for your family."

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