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.
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.
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.
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.
Get dinner on the table quickly with this simple cheese sauce, cooked pasta and a buttered breadcrumb topping. No baking required.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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