Growing up, I dreamed of ways to enjoy a healthier mac and cheese because as a child, this cheesy dish was by far my favorite food! With a passion to show people that healthy food can taste good too, healthy mac and cheese was one of my first challenges. Traditional mac and cheese is high in fat and low in fiber, making this dish one that should surely be limited. With only a few swaps, you and I both can enjoy one of our favorite foods without all of the guilt that comes with it! Here are 7 ways to make healthier mac and cheese that not only tastes good but provides a little bit of healthy nutrition too!
1. Add Veggies
One of the first ways to make a healthier mac and cheese is to bulk up the dish with added veggies. Sauteed onions and garlic make for a perfect base as you start your dish. The meat of butternut squash and sweet potatoes are great options for sneaking in veggies since they are the same color as traditional mac and cheese. Another one of my favorite vegetables to add to mac and cheese is finely chopped spinach. This gives the dish a little bit more color with specks of green throughout, as well as a boost in fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and antioxidants.
2. Use Greek Yogurt
Another way to give your mac and cheese a healthy spin is to use low-fat plain Greek yogurt in place of sour cream. This really increases the protein content of the dish while lowering the saturated fat. This small substitution still provides a rich and creamy, melt in your mouth texture. In fact, my 15 year old little sister can’t even notice a difference!
3. Sub Almond Milk
Substituting almond milk for cow’s milk is another one of my favorite ways to increase the healthfulness of homemade mac and cheese! Unlike cow’s milk, almond milk is free of lactose, which is hard for many people to digest. Not only that but almond milk is high in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, fat and cholesterol and provides many disease fighting antioxidants!
4. Add Spices and Seasonings
Another delicious way to add a healthy touch to your favorite homemade mac and cheese recipe is to toss in spices, herbs and seasonings. A few of my favorites include nutmeg, mustard and cayenne pepper. Spices and herbs provide several different health benefits without adding any more sodium to the dish. This is the best way to add a great deal of flavor without many calories!
5. Use Less Cheese
It’s no secret that it’s the cheesy goodness of mac and cheese that makes it so delicious! However, by using about half of the cheese that the recipe calls for, you will notice very little difference in taste but the calories and fat will be substantially reduced! By sneaking in mashed butternut squash or mashed sweet potatoes as mentioned above, you won’t even notice a difference in color or creaminess either! As a vegan myself, I substitute vegan cheese for dairy cheese and even the non-veggies in my house love it just as equally!
6. Use Whole Grain Pasta
The easiest way to make your mac and cheese healthier is to sub that white pasta for whole grain pasta. Whole grain pastas are high in vitamins, minerals and fiber, which will help you feel full for much longer than white pasta. Whole grain pastas are much heartier than white pasta, which really increases the crunchy texture of the overall dish.
7. Sneak in Flax
Instead of using whole eggs, another healthy substitution that you can make is using a flax egg to boost the amount of heart healthy, anti-inflammatory omega-3s found in the dish. To make a flax egg, all you have to do is combine one tablespoon of flax meal with three tablespoons of warm water. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes, stirring with a fork after about five minutes, until a gel like consistency is made. Double the recipe according to the amount of eggs that you need (one flax egg can be used in place of one whole egg).
As you can see, mac and cheese doesn’t have to be a food that is consider off limits. Use a few of these tips and make your dish a little bit healthier for your entire family. Are you a mac and cheese lover like me? What are your favorite healthy additions to homemade mac and cheese?