Making healthy boxed mac and cheese doesn’t have to be a pain. Here you’ll find my 4 favorite ways to make the boxed kid-favorite better for you. How to make Kraft mac and cheese healthier – or really any brand you typically buy.
I grew up on boxed mac and cheese. Homemade stuff was a delicacy in and of itself that my mom made occasionally.
And to be completely transparent? I totally dug it.
And even more? I don’t really mind giving it to my own kids on occasion.
Now, I’m not saying that boxed mac and cheese is the best, most nutritious option when it comes to meals for your kids.
I don’t think anyone would look at a packet of powdered cheese stuff and be like, MAN this beats a kale smoothie in the nutrition department every. dang. time.
Healthy Boxed Mac and Cheese – Making dinners easier.
When you’re going the easy route, there are no hour-long dinner time arguments. For the most part, it’s a crowd pleaser.
Healthy Boxed mac and cheese is the ideal option for those nights when you need a break. Those are the nights when you just need something quick, easy, and argument free for dinner.
But the truth is, as you’re prepping your blue box dinner, you might still feel a little guilt. Because you know the truth – it’s not necessarily the best option.
And, disclaimer: There is NOTHING wrong with Kraft mac and cheese. At ALL. But I get it. I have that same little annoying person in my brain that guilts me for dumb things like a stupid box of mac and cheese.
4 Ways to Make Healthy Boxed Mac and Cheese
Which is why I’m coming at you today with my 4 favorite ways to make boxed mac and cheese healthier!
Add frozen veggies.
Definitely the easiest option, in my opinion.
When there is about a minute or two left on your pasta, toss in about one cup of frozen veggies to the boiling water. I suggest choosing a veggie that is about the same size as the pasta, since it’s harder to pick out or object to.
To make things run as smoothly as possible, throw in your kid’s favorite. I like to use corn, peas and carrots, but I’ve also used chopped broccoli or spinach with good results. Drain everything and prepare the sauce as you normally would.
My favorite veggies to make healthier boxed mac and cheese
- Veggie purees like cauliflower add veggies and creaminess without your kids knowing. Check out my healthy Alfredo sauce here.
- Frozen peas – bonus, put them in when the pasta is done and they will cool your meal down quicker.
- Peas, corn, and carrots mix
- Frozen spinach
- Steamed, chopped broccoli
- Diced tomato
Substitute Greek Yogurt.
Substituting Greek yogurt in place of some butter and milk to bump up the nutrition factor of a box of mac and cheese.
I like to do about 2 tablespoons of melted butter and a 1/3 cup of Greek yogurt, but you can play with proportions until you find something your family digs. You can totally skip the butter and do about 1/2 cup of yogurt. I do this often as well.
Just mix the Greek yogurt and cheese powder off the heat before adding hot pasta. Greek yogurt helps cut down on the fat and bump up the protein without your kids even realizing it.
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What can you substiture for butter in mac and cheese?
There are so many options for subbing the unhealthy fat – here are some options
- Coconut oil. I like the refined kind when serving to my kids because there isn’t a strong taste.
- Oils like avocado oil or olive oil. Make sure to start with less though, to ensure you don’t have oily/watery sauce.
- Greek yogurt. Cream cheese is another fun option.
- Ricotta cheese. Use the same way you would Greek yogurt.
- Mashed avocado.
Add a bit of puree.
Want to get super sneaky? Add a couple of tablespoons of veggie puree to your mix. Something like carrot, pumpkin, or butternut squash will add a punch of nutrition while not changing the color or flavor much.
If anything it will just be a touch sweeter. It’s a really smart way of sneaking in some veggies without your kids knowing 😉
We like this store-bought option if you don’t want to make your own.
Powdered nutrient boost.
This is one I seem to forget a lot, but a lot of brands right now are coming out with different nutrition boosts that you can add to the food of your littles to fill out any gaps in their diet.
I tend to use the Go and Grow by Similac since I like how they come in individual packets. I just measure out a portion for each boy, add a packet, and go. It’s not a total fix, but it’s a great way to balance out a meal that isn’t nutritionally sound.
Choose a more natural brand.
Look, I’m not going to sit here and say I always choose the more expensive, organic brand. But if/when you can, do.
These brands usually have less questionable ingredients. I like to stock up on them when they’re on sale or if I have a coupon. That being said, the store brand is almost always cheaper and Ryan loves to ask for the fun shaped ones, so, there’s that.
Kraft also recently came out with a version using cauliflower pasta which is awesome. The boys don’t notice at all.
Healthy Boxed Mac and Cheese Brands
- Annie’s Organic Macaroni and Cheese
- Banza Chickpea Mac and Cheese
- Daiya Cheezy Mac
- Back to Nature Organic Silly Sea Life Cheddar Macaroni and Cheese
- Kraft Macaroni and Cheese With Cauliflower
- Modern Table Vegan Mac & Cheese
- Kraft Original Flavor Whole Grain Macaroni and Cheese
Parenting is tough. No one’s going to argue that. Taking shortcuts are necessary to keep it together some days – it doesn’t make you a bad parent. Serving your kid boxed mac and cheese can be a fun treat! Adding a bump of nutrition to make your boxed mac and cheese healthier is even better.
Okay, so tell me – what are your parenting shortcuts? How do you bump nutrition it make healthy boxed mac and cheese? Let me know in the comments!
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I am so trying some of these ideas! My son is two and the worst eater! He loves mac and cheese though! I am going to try purée… I have never done that before though! You should totally post a how to for that! I adore your blog, makes me feel better about being a mommy with a blog and a job when I have those days!
You are SO sweet! That makes me so happy. Honestly, I think all kids go through phases – so long as you keep working on it, his pallet will grow with him. Some days Ryan will eat bites of a salad I’m eating and others he only wants bagels with strawberry cream cheese.
Hannah @Sunshine and Spoons says
I add pureed veggies to mac and cheese all the time 😉 I also add them to pancakes and other foods. My kids love my pancakes and have no idea that they’re actually really healthy by the time I get done with them.
Yes! I love this idea. It’s so smart since it’s things kids already love, made a bit better.
Mother of 3 says
Great ideas! I typically just omit the butter or use very little and add a bit of extra milk. Until this past year my boys refused to eat my homemade mac and cheese and truth be told they still prefer the boxed stuff! In fact yesterday we wrote up our menu for the week and my middle son requested steak, broccoli, and macaroni and cheese “you know the one you get in the box, not the one you make!?”
Hahaha, that’s too funny! But hey, steak and broccoli?! That’s awesome that he actually requested that! We have to call all meat in our house “bacon” to get my oldest to eat it!
Heather @ Polyglot Jot says
I LOVE Daiya’s vegan mac and cheese and i like to add black beans, diced tomatoes, onions, and spinach. so good!
Ooh that sounds like SUCH a good combo!
Julie Hood says
I loooove all of these suggestions!! I swear my toddler will only eat a vegetable if it’s pureed into boxed mac and cheese (and of course, that makes me question all my parenting choices up til now, because how did I create a child that now won’t touch a vegetable when his FIRST food was a cucumber slice?!). And amen to saying “forget you, mom bashers!” 🙂
Girl, I FEEL YOU. I was SO good with baby led weaning and for a while, Ryan’s favorite food was broccoli. Today he requested a donut for breakfast and glares at veggies.
YES to no mom-bashing!!! All moms are different and that is 100% ok! Love your ideas, Morgan <3 Hope you're doing well!
Thanks Edye! I agree – mom-bashing is seriously not cool!