i had mac and cheese last night. i used an ounce of dry pasta, a cup of chopped cauliflower, an ounce of velveeta, a teaspoon of nutritional yeast, a 1/4 tsp paprika, a dash of cayenne, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk with a half cup of frozen peas. 280 cals, 42 g carbs, 7 g fat, 15 g protein, 7 g fiber and 536 sodium. and that was for almost four cups of food.
when i make the boxed stuff i add a teaspoon of oil instead of the Tablespoon called for [or butter or whatever it is] and i add a cup or two of chopped veg and occasionally a cup or two of beans [i cook from dried, portion into cups and freeze so that i have the convenience of canned with the sodium content of the dried]. i do this with all the lipton/knorr sides and boxed mixes as well. add a little less oil than called for, a cup or two of veg and a cup or two of beans. it generally cuts the calories, fat and sodium in half while increasing the protein and the fiber. and it's the least intensive cooking ever while still turning on a burner.
i also love mixing zucchini in with pasta. i like mine on the more raw side, so i cut the zucchini in the same shape or size as the pasta and add it to the just cooked and drained pasta. then i stir to mix and add whatever sauce i was planning on. i aim for at least a third of the volume being the zuke and up to half to two thirds. that really cuts down on the cals as those kinds of vegetables have significantly less calories than pasta.
i've also seen recipes for meatballs that incorporate vegetables. so load your pasta up with veggies. load your red sauce up with veggies [grate anything into it]. load your meatballs up with veggies. and you'll be able to either eat the same amount of calories from a greater volume of food or eat the same volume of food for fewer calories.
-google first. ask questions later.