7 Delicious Ways to Make Mac and Cheese Healthier

When you crave a warm, comforting meal after a tough day or because you’re suffering from the winter blues, few things hit the spot more than digging into a bowl of macaroni and cheese. The ultimate carb-laden comfort food, mac and cheese has always been a guilty pleasure — but it turns out, you can hold the guilt.

While cheese gets a bad rap for its saturated fat and can be high in sodium, most cheeses are good sources of protein and calcium, reports the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. And some research has found that eating cheese may be associated with other benefits. Cheese was the food most strongly associated with a reduced risk of age-related cognitive problems, according to a study published in November 2020 in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, with people who ate cheese daily scoring highest on intelligence tests over time. And surprisingly, intake of dairy fat like the kind found in cheese was actually associated with a slightly decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, according to a meta-analysis of 18 studies published in September 2021 in the journal PLoS Medicine.

And what of the macaroni? Well, trading any refined white pasta for whole-grain varieties will net you more fiber, and there are plenty of alternative noodles on the market now as well. But that’s just the beginning.

“You can absolutely make mac and cheese a more nutritious, balanced meal without sacrificing taste,” says Julie Andrews, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of The Healthy Epicurean. “The pasta, sauce, and mix-ins can all be optimized to provide more vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein, with less saturated fat and sodium.” The key is to look for easy ways to up the nutrition ante of this cozy dish while maintaining or even boosting all the cherished flavors. Use the following simple swaps and add-ins to make this a healthier, more satisfying meal — like the recipe below, which incorporates all of them. What could be more comforting than that?

Leave a Comment