Healthy Mac and Cheese: Best and Worst Picks
It’s no secret that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese isn’t exactly nutritious. But for those of you who adore this beloved comfort food, I’ve got good news: More and more pre-made mac and cheese options are cropping up in stores. Read on for a list of my favorite better-for-you mac and cheese options, as well as those that you should avoid.
First things first
Healthy tip: To punch up the nutrient profile of boxed mac and cheese, add in a handful of spinach or kale, or any leftover veggies like roasted red peppers, mushrooms and zucchini.
Note: For all products except Kevin’s Cauli Mac & Cheese, nutrition facts listed are per container. Kevin’s has four servings per container.
For reference: Stouffer’s Mac & Cheese: 420 calories, 9 grams saturated fat, 1,150 milligrams sodium, 37 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 19 grams protein. Made with white pasta, cheeses, soy oil, white flour, salt, butter and xanthan gum.
Best picks for healthy mac and cheese
- Per Serving: 90 calories, 3.5 grams saturated fat, 280 milligrams sodium, 6 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 4 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Cauliflower, cheese sauce, cream, cheese powder, whey, buttermilk solids, salt, tapioca starch, sea salt, garlic, onion, black pepper, yeast extract, xanthan gum, paprika oleoresin
- Paleo and gluten free
- Per container: 380 calories, 12 grams saturated fat, 700 milligrams sodium, 31 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 18 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Cauliflower, whole milk, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, onions, enriched wheat flour, unsalted butter, garlic powder, tapioca starch, salt, black pepper
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Decent picks for mac and cheese
- Per container: 440 calories, 12 grams saturated fat, 560 milligrams sodium, 44 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 13 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Cooked tubetti pasta, whole milk, cheddar cheese, panko breadcrumbs, truffle sauce, champignon mushrooms, olive oil, porcini mushrooms, truffles, seasonings, spices
- Per container: 450 calories, 10 grams saturated fat, 680 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 18 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Organic macaroni (organic unbleached durum wheat flour, organic whole durum wheat flour, filtered water); organic lowfat milk; white cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, culture, salt, enzymes); butter (cream, salt); organic sweet rice flour; sea salt; organic annatto
Worst picks for mac and cheese
- Per container: 380 calories, 10 grams saturated fat, 820 milligrams sodium, 55 grams carbohydrate, 1 gram fiber, 5 grams protein
- Ingredients include: Organic rice pasta; organic vegan cheddar-style “cheeze” (filtered water, organic potato and corn starch, organic coconut oil, sea salt, organic ground sunflower kernels, natural flavor, organic fruit and vegetable concentrate); organic annatto extract (color); organic vegan mozzarella-style “cheeze” (filtered water, organic potato starch, organic coconut oil, sea salt, organic ground sunflower kernels, natural flavor, organic fruit and vegetable concentrate); organic sweet rice flour; organic high oleic safflower and/or sunflower oil; sea salt; organic nutritional yeast; organic mustard seed powder; organic annatto (color); sunflower seeds
Editor’s note: Registered dietitian Molly Kimball offers brand-name products as a consumer guide; she does not solicit product samples nor is she paid to recommend items. A version of this article originally appeared on WGNO.