Macaroni and cheese – it’s the ultimate comfort food! Maybe it was that meal you lived for as a child, whether it came from a blue box or came bubbling out of the oven gleaming with golden bread crumbs. Now that we’re older, mac and cheese is still as rich, creamy and cheesy as ever, but unfortunately it has little nutritional value. Don’t worry, this is a mac and cheese makeover, not a rid-your-diet-of-mac-and-cheese-forever kind of article. Here are some simple tips to transform this high-fat, high-calorie dinner into a satisfying, delicious and nutritious dinner.
Tip #1: You’re not always going to have time to create this amazing concoction from scratch. So be prepared to head to your grocery store’s healthy/organic section. If you need to purchase boxed macaroni and cheese, buy one that contains whole wheat or whole grain blend pasta. Using this type of pasta will ensure that you’re getting more fiber and nutrients than in white flour noodles, meaning that you won’t be hungry again in an hour. Also, pick the boxed mac and cheese that comes with real cheese. Most packaged macaroni uses an artificial, processed cheese, which has little nutritional value.
Tip #2: Let’s face it, high-fat dairy products like butter, milk and cheese are staples for any macaroni and cheese meal. But you can easily slash the calories and fat by making a few simple changes. Cut the amount of butter in half, or use margarine that doesn’t contain partially hydrogenated oils. Substitute 1 or 2 percent milk for whole milk or you can even combine skim milk with white flour to create a thicker, creamier sauce. Lastly, use a reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese for best flavor.
Tip #3: For homemade mac and cheese, always use a whole wheat or whole grain pasta. Just like in tip #1, the whole grains will not only keep you fuller longer, but they also deliver key nutrients to your body. Remember to boil whole grain noodles a minute or two longer so that they aren’t hard or too chewy.
Tip #4: To make homemade mac and cheese a complete meal, dress it up with tons of veggies or even lean protein sources. Veggies that go great with macaroni and cheese are mushrooms, cauliflower, peppers and broccoli. Also try adding chicken breast, tuna, or beans to your mac and cheese. All of these extras will add more nutrients to the meal, making it fit for the entire family.