Q&A with Brynn McDowell, RDN
To celebrate National Pasta Month, our October Pasta Spotlight is Brynn McDowell, RDN. Brynn is a mom, registered dietician, and big-time advocate for the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet has risen in popularity over the last few years after being linked to decreased risks of depression, heart disease, and various types of cancer. Brynn focuses on creating meals that adhere to the main pillars of the Mediterranean Diet while remaining delicious and hassle-free for busy moms and dads alike. Below she explains more about the benefits of the Mediterranean Diet, how she incorporates pasta into her own healthy lifestyle, and of course, how she will be celebrating National Pasta Month!
- How does pasta fit into your healthy lifestyle?
I truly believe the age old mantra “everything in moderation.” To me, the joy of food comes from being able to enjoy all types of foods, in a balanced way. Pasta is staple in my house and we create balance through adding tons of vegetables and fresh herbs rather than heavy cream sauces. I also try to be aware of portion sizes at meals and aim for veggies to be the star of the dish, with everything else serving as a side.
- As an RD, what about the Mediterranean Diet appeals to you? How does pasta fit into the Mediterranean Diet?
I love that the Mediterranean Diet is a lifestyle that focuses on which foods can be added to your diet rather than which need to be eliminated. The focus is on fresh ingredients, amazing flavors and spices and incorporating plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seafood, and red wine. You can fill in the rest here and there with your favorites. The beauty of The Mediterranean Diet is that all foods fit in. Pasta is a great example of an ingredient that can be the base for a veggie filled dish, full of great, fresh flavors and herbs, and even lean sources of protein or fish.
- How do you ensure your kids are included in the cooking process? How have you introduced healthy eating early into their lives?
My kids love helping me in the kitchen, which I think is a great way to teach young children about food and nutrition. Their curiosity is amazing and they love hands on learning, so anytime they get a chance to help with cooking, I feel like they take away so much more information about food versus just hearing someone talk about it. They are currently 6 and 4 years old, so I try to find age appropriate tasks they can do in the kitchen. Their favorites include cracking eggs, chopping veggies (they have some great kid knives available online), measuring out liquids and flour, and of course…taste testing!
I try to introduce healthy eating to them by celebrating the amazing flavors of food. We have a small garden and the kids love being a part of the whole process – from planting, watering, harvesting, and cooking. We also talk openly about the different kinds of foods and how something like an orange can offer their bodies more vitamins and fiber than something like candy. Snacks and treats are regular parts of life in our house, so I think not instilling fear around certain foods is important with children. If something is forbidden, they are likely going to want that more.
- What do you say to people who have negative misconceptions about pasta?
I try to show others who may have negative misconceptions about pasta that everything is about balance and that pasta can be a healthy part of anyone’s lifestyle. It’s also about the bigger picture. For example, a serving of pasta tossed with sautéed onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, and zucchini, all dressed with a little olive oil, fresh parsley and sprinkling of parmesan cheese is a balanced way to have pasta along with tons of fresh veggies.
- How are you celebrating National Pasta Month this October?
With lots of pasta! I love fall because it means heartier meals on those chilly nights and that means pasta with delicious butternut squash or roasted root vegetables. I also love having Build-Your-Own pasta night with my kids. I make two types of pasta, tomato sauce, pesto sauce and then have a bunch of toppings available so everyone can customize their pasta dish. It’s fun and makes for great leftovers, too.
- Finally, can you share one of your pasta recipes with us?
One of my favorites is this Mediterranean Tuna Pasta Salad – delicious pasta tossed with tuna, sun dried tomatoes, fresh herbs, capers, and olives. It’s light enough that you don’t feel stuffed afterwards, but it is so filling and packed with healthy ingredients. It makes the perfect lunch.
About Brynn McDowell
Brynn McDowell is a Registered Dietitian and owner of the website The Domestic Dietitian, which focuses on sharing tips for incorporating a Mediterranean style diet and lifestyle into a hectic home. Her focus in on simple, practical recipes that include fresh ingredients, and that don’t require a degree in culinary arts to replicate. She currently lives in Northern California with her husband and two children. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.