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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Ann Arbor, MI!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

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Healthy Macaroni and Cheese: Recipe Makeover

healthy macaroni and cheese recipe

I LOVE Macaroni and Cheese.

The husband reallllly loves Macaroni and Cheese.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s a great once-in-a-while-guilty-pleasure sort of dish. There’s just something so comforting about that cheesy, warm, gooey, starchy goodness that just makes you happy.

But I was tired of only having Mac & Cheese in moderation. I wanted to make it a full dinner, but without the extra fat and calories of the original. (Oh and let me be clear, when I’m talking about Mac & Cheese I’m talking about homemade / from scratch – not the boxed versions which don’t count as real Mac & Cheese πŸ™‚ )

So I scoured the web for recipes to see if I could find some inspiration. I came across this recipe on CookingLightΒ and thought it was the perfect starting point. I made a few modifications (my modified recipe is below), and it turned out just like the original – super cheesy and flavorful!

Most Mac & Cheese recipes use the following ingredients:

ingredients

I lightened up this recipe by using less of the higher-fat ingredients, and substituting in whole grains and vegetables.

My Ingredient List

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli (or fresh broccoli florets – cut small)
  • 1 10oz bag of baby spinach or baby kale (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (omit if you don’t like the flavor of mustard)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (to give it some kick!)

The Directions

Step 1:Β Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.

Step 2:Β Add frozen (or fresh) broccoli to a pan over medium heat, saute with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt until slightly tender. Add kale/spinach towards the end and cook until the greens are wilted.

Step 3:Β Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 cups milk in another large pot over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture to the simmering milk; return to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Step 4:Β Remove from the heat and whisk in Cheddar, Parmesan and mustard until the cheese is melted.

Step 5:Β Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add your veggies into the pasta mixture, and heat through (on low heat) until everything is combined.

Optional: Sprinkle some black pepper on top before serving.Β 

This recipe makes 6 huge servings, and each serving has only ~250 calories, ~8g fat, ~7g fiber and ~14g protein!

Now that’s a Mac & Cheese recipe I can get behind! Oh and did I mention, the husband loved it too πŸ™‚

photo 1

 

Healthy Mac & Cheese Makeover

Total Time: 40 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Serving Size: 1.5 cups

Calories per serving: 252

Fat per serving: 8.2g

Nutritional Info Per Serving: 252 Calories, 8.2g Fat, 536mg Sodium, 30.9g Carbs, 7g Fiber, 5g Sugars, 14.5g Protein

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces whole-wheat elbow noodles, (2 cups)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped broccoli (or fresh broccoli florets - cut small)
  • 1 10oz bag of baby spinach or baby kale (optional)
  • 2-3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 1 3/4 cups 1% milk, divided
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3/4 cup shredded extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard (omit if you don't like the flavor of mustard)
  • Optional: 1/8-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper (to give it some kick!)

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Add frozen (or fresh) broccoli to a pan over medium heat, saute with minced garlic, crushed red pepper, and a pinch of salt until slightly tender. Add kale/spinach towards the end and cook until the greens are wilted.
  3. Meanwhile, heat 1 1/2 cups milk in another large pot over medium-high heat until just simmering. Whisk the remaining 1/4 cup milk, flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl until combined. Add the flour mixture to the simmering milk; return to a simmer and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Remove from the heat and whisk in Cheddar, Parmesan and mustard until the cheese is melted.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the cheese sauce. Add your veggies into the pasta mixture, and heat through (on low heat) until everything is combined.
  6. Optional: Sprinkle some black pepper on top before serving.

Notes

Adapted from CookingLight

https://www.pickyeaterblog.com/healthy-macaroni-and-cheese-recipe-makeover/

 

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54 responses to “Healthy Macaroni and Cheese: Recipe Makeover”

    • It totally is!! I’m just like you – I love M&C but I rarely eat it because it’s so unhealthy for you. This one is delicious and tastes just as good as the original. Enjoy!

  1. My daughter is a very un-healthy eater, she does not like sauce or dip, are there any alternatives for musterd? or can I make it without?

    • Hi Nat! I think you can actually leave the mustard out and it will probably taste just as good. Maybe add a bit of extra pepper so you get some more flavor in, if you leave the mustard out. Let me know how it turns out for you, I’d love to know if your daughter likes it!

  2. My wife and I made this for dinner tonight. I used 14 oz of frozen broccoli instead of 10 oz and did frozen spinach instead of fresh. It was delicious and so satisfying! My wife (who is very much like your husband) LOVED IT! yay, so happy! Thank you so much for this recipe!

  3. This looks great! I always lighten up pasta dishes by adding tons of veggies! You feel like you’re eating something guilty and at the same time getting a bowl full of veggies!

    • Yay! Yeah something about cheese and broccoli together is just so delicious πŸ™‚ I’m sure you’ll love this recipe Rachel!

    • Hahaha! That’s really funny πŸ™‚ This recipe should be perfect for you then Lucy! Let me know how it turns out!

  4. This looks SO much more enticing than normal macaroni cheese! I am not a fan of dishes that don’t have vegetables in them, pasta and cheese on reminds me of depressing student food. But this looks lovely, so I might have to give it a go.

    P x

    • Thanks Porcelina! And I’m totally with you — I never eat a meal without fruits/veggies in it. I figured this classic dish could use some dressing up with healthy green veggies! Can’t wait to hear how you like this recipe!

    • Using cauliflower is a great idea! And actually, if you puree the cauliflower and add it to the cheese sauce, it’s a great way to sneak in veggies for people who are super veggie-phobic πŸ™‚ You can do the same thing with butternut squash too! Thanks for sharing your recipe!

  5. This looks sensational. Everyone loves Mac n Cheese. By making a tasty and healthy alternative, you get to both enjoy the food you love and keep your body strong and feeling great. The addition of shredded sharp cheddar cheese was a wonderful idea.

    • Thanks so much Julia!! You’ll have to let me know if you end up trying this recipe — sharp cheddar cheese is one of my favs! πŸ™‚

    • Sure! I’ve never actually used Dreamsfields before, but I’d assume it would cook the same and taste the same as the whole wheat πŸ™‚

  6. Just wanted you to know that I scoured the internet today for healthier mac-n-cheese recipes. I read through at least a dozen from professional chefs, food magazine websites, and blogs; and yours won! It looks delicious, simple, doesn’t have any strange or really expensive ingredients, and it’s clearly healthier than the regular version. I can’t wait to try it – thanks for sharing! πŸ™‚

    • Oh wow! Thank you so much Christina!! πŸ™‚ I can’t wait for you to try this recipe – you’ll have to let me know how it turned out!

  7. I love your site. It has the most delicious recipes! I have to ask you where you got your beautiful white dishes though. I’ve been looking everywhere and these look so perfect. Great photography of the mac and cheese. Thanks.

    • Awww thank you so much!! Our dishes are pretty old – but I’m pretty sure we got them at Crate & Barrel πŸ™‚ Hope that helps! Let me know if you end up trying this recipe!

  8. Delicious! I didn’t use garlic powder, substituted 1% for skim! and used mozzarella cheese for the cheddar and it came out amazing! Still goes and cheesy, also added in some plant protein (can’t cook without that protein !!) and I couldn’t even taste it! Yummy.

    • Hi Rachael! I’m not sure the almond or coconut milk would simmer properly or have the right consistency for the sauce. My guess is that it wouldn’t, so I’d recommend using regular milk if you can!

  9. Its almost the end of lent and I was getting tired of the same boring meals when I stumbled upon this gem of recipe. It was so yummy! I also added some diced up zucchini and squash because they were on hand and I needed to use them up.
    By the way, I love all your pictures of food! They all look so good that it motivates me to eat clean!

    • Oh great!! I love the idea of adding some diced zucchini and squash to this recipe too πŸ™‚ Thanks for letting me know, and I’m so happy that my recipes and photos are motivating you to eat healthier!

  10. Best. Mac’n’Cheese. Ever.
    I always liked the gooey-ness and creaminess of M&C, but it somehow always felt too heavy and over-flavored. This sauce with less cheese and light milk is so much better, still flavorful and creamy, but not overpowering and goes very well with the veggies (I used broccoli and cauliflower and a small diced jalapeno for extra kick). Plus this is sooo easy to make and super filling! Will totally be added to my “quick-but-yummy-weeknight-meals”-list πŸ˜€

    • Woohoo! That is awesome Julia – I’m so happy to hear that! Love the addition of the jalapeΓ±o and cauliflower too!

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