Macaroni and Cheese - From Basic to Bold

My son’s favorite meal is macaroni and cheese. The cheesier it is the the more he enjoys it. I like it myself, but the cheesier it is, the more fattening it is, too. Here are some ways to make that family classic a little more nutritious for the kids.

Mix up the cheese. Macaroni and cheese is nothing unless it is oozing cheese from both ends of the noodle. But, the cheese your mother used doesn’t have to be the same cheese that you use. Choose Velveeta® Light cheese spread. The light version has a third of the fat and melts even better than regular cheese. This cheese works well if you cook your macaroni and cheese in a saucepan on the stovetop. If you are a person that bakes your macaroni and cheese like a casserole, you can substitute fat-free sharp cheddar for the full fat version and add skim milk to make it creamy.

How about turning that side dish into the main meal? Macaroni and cheese can become the entire meal if you add some protein. Turn your side dish into a casserole dinner with lean ground beef. This turns your dish into cheesy beef and macaroni. The beef will help to fill your kids up faster and will give them the protein that their body needs. Add a teaspoon of chili powder to give it a southwestern flavor. For a weekend lunch, add chunks of ham to their macaroni and cheese for a quick meal. The meat breaks up the monotony of just having the same dish all of the time. Chunks of boneless chicken breasts will also work as well as the ham if your child prefers chicken. Hotdogs also work with macaroni and cheese but because of the nitrites they contain, don’t use them as often as you use the ham and chicken.

Change your pasta. There are lots of healthful alternatives to the standard macaroni pasta noodle. Now, grocery stores provide a whole wheat or multigrain pasta that is derived from wheat flour instead of white. The pasta is brown in color but when you add the cheese, no one should know the difference. If brown pasta doesn’t do it for you, Barilla® makes pasta called Barilla Plus® that has added nutrients to make it more nutritious for the eater. The pasta remains the natural yellowish color. Dreamfields® has macaroni noodles that contain only five grams of digestible carbohydrates. That means nothing to your little ones, but to you it means that they won’t get fat from consuming that particular brand.

Add a little color to their macaroni and cheese. Chop a tomato and stir it into the macaroni and cheese prior to serving it. The red makes a bold statement in the sea of yellow. Tomatoes contain antioxidants which are awesome for your body. If your little ones prefer spicy foods, add a few crushed red peppers or diced red and green peppers to their macaroni and cheese for a bolder flavor. If you don’t have any peppers or tomatoes on hand, add a cup of salsa in the macaroni and cheese in a pinch.

What about breakfast? Your little ones would like to be served macaroni and cheese for breakfast. Add a few slices of turkey bacon or low-fat bacon to the meal. Crush the bacon on top of the macaroni and cheese and serve. If bacon is not your child’s favorite, add sausage crumbles. It’s a unique option, but it’ll taste good.

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About The Author, Christine Steendahl