10 Healthy Ways to Switch Up Mac 'n' Cheese

By , Bryn Mooth
When you think of comfort food, doesn’t macaroni and cheese instantly spring to mind? That melty combination of elbow-shaped pasta and gooey cheese never fails to satisfy. But good ol’ mac ‘n’ cheese can be a high-fat disaster if we’re not careful.
What you want is a healthier version of mac ‘n’ cheese. So we’ve assembled a round-up of great recipes with a twist: They’re made with whole-grain pasta to add a boost of healthful fiber, or packed with green veggies, or lightened up with less fat. So you can still have your mac ‘n’ cheese and eat it, too!
Lower-Fat Baked Mac ‘n’ Cheese
This recipe uses fat-free sour cream and low-fat cheese to cut fat and calories. Another smart swap: Using evaporated non-fat milk instead of whole milk to make the cheese sauce. We recommend whole-wheat macaroni here.

Delicious Veggie Mac ‘n’ Cheese
This variation on classic macaroni and cheese features spinach, shredded zucchini and peas for a heaping measure of healthy vitamins and fiber—and it’s flat-out delicious, too. Swap low-fat cheese in this vegetable macaroni and cheese recipe to reduce the calories.
Light & Creamy Mac ‘n’ Cheese
This low-fat variation on macaroni and cheese includes pureed butternut squash, which adds body and velvety texture. Greek yogurt further lightens things up, and the recipe uses bold-flavored Pecorino and Gruyere instead of traditional cheddar. Just 390 calories per serving.
Buffalo Chicken Mac ‘n’ Cheese
What? Yes! Your favorite flavors, all together. And this macaroni and cheese recipe is healthy, to boot, with low-fat roasted chicken, diced tomatoes and a “hidden” serving of vegetables.
Stovetop Mac ‘n’ Cheese
Get dinner on the table quickly with this simple cheese sauce, cooked pasta and a buttered breadcrumb topping. No baking required.
Chef Meg’s Three-Cheese Macaroni
This recipe for lighter macaroni and cheese is genius: Chef Meg calls for a clever cooking trick to add flavor to the cheese sauce. This healthy macaroni and cheese recipe has half the calories and 2/3 of the fat of the classic version.
On the Side: Roasted Tomatoes
Tomatoes and cheese are such a classic flavor combination. Oven-roasted tomatoes make a perfect side dish for macaroni and cheese. Toss a pint of cherry or plum tomatoes with olive oil, a pinch of seasoned salt and lots of fresh-ground pepper and roast at 425 for about 30 minutes, until skins begin to split.
On the Side: Roasted Broccoli
Macaroni and cheese wants a vegetable side dish that can offset its creamy richness. Preheat your oven to 450; place a heavy rimmed metal baking sheet on a middle rack while the oven heats. Wash and trim broccoli; toss with olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper. Carefully transfer the broccoli to the heated baking sheet and roast 15 to 20 minutes, or until just tender and lightly browned.
Make Mac ‘n’ Cheese the Side
A sensible way to enjoy macaroni and cheese, even these lightened-up versions, is to make it the side instead of the main. Go with garlic sautéed shrimp or grilled boneless chicken.
Switch up the Cheeses
If you have a favorite macaroni and cheese recipe, try different kinds of cheese beyond the traditional cheddar. Parmesan and Pecorino Romano give a sharper flavor. Gruyere has a nutty taste, while Swiss and Havarti are milder. With more strongly flavored cheeses, try adding a little less to reduce calories. And look for part-skim or low-fat cheeses.
What is your favorite way to eat macaroni and cheese?

Bryn Mooth is extending her 20-year career in publishing as an independent journalist and copywriter. She shares seasonal recipes, kitchen techniques, healthy eating tips and food wisdom on her blog writes4food.com.

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GRANNYOF05 4/24/2020
yummy Report
EVILCECIL 4/13/2020
great Report
ROSSYFLOSSY 12/11/2019
Great spin on a classic recipe. Report
MUSICNUT 11/2/2019
Thanks for the great article! :) Report
FISHGUT3 9/21/2019
thanks Report
oh....shouldn't have read this....now I really want mac and cheese :) Report
Yum. Thanks Report
I love all of these recipes! Report
Thank you for the suggestions for Mac and Cheese variations. Report
I love all of these ideas! Thank you so much! Report
Absolutely great Report
These are very interesting recipes I would like to try. However, due to sodium restrictions and no listing I am only trying one. This I will use a low salt cheese and only half. Also, adjust as much as possible but afraid will not taste as originally should. Otherwise, would try everyone of them. Report
Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see the shadow. - Helen Keller Report
Mac & cheese, the ultimate comfort food! Report
Yum! Thanks! I really should make one of these for my family. They've been asking for mac n cheese for a while. Report
I add a can of diced salt-free tomatoes and 2-3 cups of baby spinach to my mac & cheese, and top it with my home-made bread crumbs... great way to use up stale bread or left-over tortillas. I also use skim or 1% milk for the sauce. Or if you want it creamier, use evaporated skim milk. Delicious. Report
I have scanned the entire page and I don't see a save link. Report
There is a "SAVE" link on the left side bar and it will put it in YOUR favorite file. Report
I agree with last post- there is no link to SAVE this, which is very, very disappointing. SP, PLS fix this!!! THANKS!!!! Report
Thanks for the good ideas ... these recipes look great. I want to try some; however, I don't see a link to SAVE this post?! Am I missing something? Report
I am going to have to try some on these Report
Some people view mac n cheese as a comfort food, as I do. It brings back such wonderful memories of my childhood and special times with family. It is so wonderful to have some choices and not feel so guilty after consuming a favorite comfort food. Thanks for all the choices! Report
Great ideas! I always eat Mac and Cheese as a side dish but haven't cooked it in quite a while. As with any pasta it CAN be made healthy. Thanks for sharing the recipes! :))) Report
I have Insulin Resistance, so I avoid eating Mac 'n Cheese. Report
I am anxious to try the vegetable packed one although I've never done grated zuchini and am not even sure you can find it in Indiana during the winter months!
Also think the stove top mac & cheese would go over big at my house. Report
No matter how you fix it, there is nothing healthy about mac 'n cheese! Report
Yes this is macaroni & cheese heaven!! Report
Sounds delicious... Report
I've never liked american-style mac'n'cheese - just too goopy for me. I much prefer to make mine the way an Italian might - some twirly-shape pasta cooked al dente, with some broccoli or spinach tossed in at the last minute - drained and then sprinkled with Parmesano or Romano or another hard and strong cheese. A bit of oregano, maybe some pepper flakes, and I'm happy!!! Report
Mac and cheese is just nasty, any way you fix it! Report
The Buffalo Chicken Mac n Cheese looks delicious! I will have to try that for dinner next week! Report
Will definitely try some of these Healthier recipies of Mac n' Cheese.
My kids LOVE it !!!

Thank you :) Report
I make mac and cheese with nutritional yeast instead of cheese. I never use a recipe for it, but the results are good. Report
I absolutely love mac n' cheese but always feel a bit guilty when I eat it! Thanks for the post. Have you ever tried using nutritional yeast instead of cheese? I have the nutritional yeast but haven't made mac and cheese with it yet. Just wondering what you thought :) Report