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Pasta taps into top health and dining trends

Good-for-you food doesn’t do much good if it’s a hard sell to get diners to eat it. Luckily, pasta is nearly always a crowd-pleaser, especially with student athletes who benefit from its nutritional boost. pasta dish from NC State

“One thing about pasta is that students like it,” says Lisa Eberhart, a registered dietician and director of nutrition and wellness for North Carolina State University, where they serve Barilla pasta. “It’s also a great source of slow-burning carbohydrates.”

In fact, 57% of Gen Z consumers and 58% of millennials call pasta a “preferred food,” according to Technomic’s 2016 Generational Consumer Trend Report. 

When athletes train and compete, they deplete their glycogen reserves—that all-important stored carbohydrate fuel.

“For student athletes, two times are critical,” says Jennifer Roberts, a registered dietician and senior director of nutrition communications for Compass Group North America, noting that students need sustained energy for both training and competition. “Carbohydrates are critical to both, and pasta offers a great source.”

In addition to its sustained-fueling properties, pasta is easily digestible—making it a good pre-competition meal.

“It fits into almost every diet,” Eberhart says.

Pasta at colleges and universities has come a long way [from the plain red sauce days.] Customization is a huge trend right now, especially with millennials, and pasta is a prime candidate for build-your-own options. Plus, companies have rolled out nutrition-enhanced noodles such as Barilla Protein PLUS.

At NC State, diners love the pasta bar that features a choice of whole-wheat or standard pasta, tomato and other sauces, lean meats, vegetables and cheeses.

“The DIY bar is a great choice for student athletes,” Roberts says.

“Made-to-order stations that allow students to design their own meal are very popular and allow for unlimited creativity,” she says. “Pasta bars that let students choose everything from the pasta, to the sauce, to delicious mix-ins allow student athletes the option to create a meal that meets their specific needs.”

The ability to customize pasta plays into another key trend across all of foodservice: Transparency. Consumers want to know exactly what’s in their food, and what better way to accomplish that than having them fill their own plates?

“Foodservice directors can ramp up pasta’s already stellar nutritional profile by considering whole-grain varieties and focusing on toppings and mix-ins that are heavy on vegetables, beans and other plant-based ingredients,” Roberts says.

Pasta’s versatility makes it at home in a wide variety of cuisines.

“NC State students enjoy pasta salads made with whole-wheat noodles, as well as an assortment of Asian noodle dishes featuring thin spaghetti,” Eberhart says.

For heavier refueling, athletes especially enjoy baked pastas like lasagna, and ziti.

“Those are go-to foods for a lot of athletes,” Eberhart says.

This post is sponsored by Barilla

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