Looking to make mac and cheese healthy? Grab these 7 hacks to making healthier mac and cheese and serve it up tonight without the guilt. These kid friendly dinner hacks will food even a picky eater. No more fighting with your kids and explaining why they can’t have mac and cheese for dinner tonight – with these tips you could have healthy macaroni and cheese every night and never have the same thing twice.
Ask most kids what they want for dinner and mac and cheese will be in the top 5. It’s such a kid friendly staple – cheese and noodles? It really doesn’t get much better for most kiddos. But the problem is, mac and cheese isn’t much of anything on the most basic level. With no alterations, it’s one of the least health conscious meals when homemade with thick, creamy cheese sauce. Delicious? Duh. Healthy? Ehh..
With this in mind, I’ve been looking for ways to make mac and cheese healthy. Both of my boys can inhale a single box of boxed macaroni and cheese in one sitting, and when I make it from scratch they put down even more.
Here are some genius ways to make mac and cheese healthy so that you can confidently serve dinner without the drama or guilt.
How to make mac and cheese healthy
Try subbing some of the cheese with cottage cheese. So if your favorite recipe calls for 2 cups of shredded cheese, sub .5 -1 cup with cottage cheese, which has less fat and more protein to increase the nutritional value.
Of course I’m suggesting you sneak some veggies in. While making your cream base (milk added to your roux, but you haven’t added the cheese) add .5-1 cup of veggie puree and cook down for a few minutes before adding the cheese in. Carrot puree adds so well with yellow cheddar while cauliflower works with white cheddar.
Or find my hidden veggie healthy Alfredo sauce here – I love mixing it with penne, chicken, and broccoli for an awesome healthy Alfredo bake – basically healthy mac and cheese with cauliflower AND broccoli!
Related reads: Learn how to make vegetable purees here!
Mix in a Vegetable
Probably my favorite way to make mac and cheese healthy, mixing in a chopped veggie is always a great option. Try blanching spinach and shocking them to keep the green color before stirring the drained greens into almost complete mac and cheese. I also love blanched broccoli or frozen peas – you can even add frozen peas, carrots, or corn as a way to cool down your mac and cheese before serving.
My favorite veggies to add to make mac and cheese healthier
- frozen peas, corn, carrots
- Broccoli, blanched
- Spinach, blanched
- Diced tomatoes
- Diced peppers and onions, sauteed for a fajita mac and cheese
Try making the sauce a bit lighter. This might mean less cheese and more milk – preferably skim – to make the sauce on the pasta thinner. While thick cheese sauce is obviously delicious, it also means more fat and calories sticking to each bite.
Substitute some of the milk and cheese in your cheese sauce for whole milk yogurt or, if you don’t mind some tang, Greek yogurt. You’ll get the protein and probiotics from the yogurt without sacrificing the creaminess or thickness of your favorite cheese sauce.
A super simple way to make mac and cheese healthy is to start with the pasta! Kraft recently did this with their cauliflower box mac and cheese, but there are so many pasta options out there now that just switching out normal white pasta can make a huge impact. Whole wheat pasta is always a simple, filling switch, but also look at veggie pastas, bean based pastas, or lentil based pastas to add more protein and nutrition to mac and cheese.
Here are some really great options for alternative pasta to make healthy mac and cheese –
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- Banza Pasta Chickpea Pasta
- Bellabondonza Organic Green Bean Spaghetti
- Chickapea Red Lentil Pasta
- Ancient Harvest POW! Quinoa Pasta
Okay I get it – some days you just want the easy of boxed mac and cheese because it’s so much easier than making cheese sauce and pasta and the whole shebang. Trust me – I have at least 3 blue boxes in my cabinets right now. But it’s not impossible to make boxed mac and cheese healthy too – make sure you check out my other post, how to make boxed mac and cheese healthier to get some tips next time your kids make a request!
Okay so tell me – do you feel more confident about making mac and cheese healthy now? It’s totally doable- just a little but of finesse, some simple swaps and you’re on your way to a a simple, healthy kid friendly dinner. Which of these do you think your kids would like best? Let me know in the comments!