No, really. I mean it. Healthy Mac and Cheese.

Like mac and cheese that is healthy. Noodles with sauce that will secretly give you vegetables. Creamy sauce without boatloads of butter and flour. Favorite comfort food that packs a little nutrition.

Backing up, though. It’s getting to that time of year when WINTER IS TOO COLD. I say that with a massive amount of guilt as I recall the many times that I begged the weather gods to send a polar vortex to the Philippines last year. But we’ll leave that in the past. This is the now, and right now, I’m done being cold.

Also please add this to the list of things I’m done with: having a cold. The bad news is it will not be done with me. Like, come on already justgetoutofhere. And to make matters all the more winter-dramatic, as I was writing this I just used the last Kleenex in the house and sent Bjork a panicked text to please pick up some Kleenex right now. SOS ASAP OMG haaaalp.

When I have a cold//when it is cold outside//when both happen at the same time//all year round any time no matter what, I like to ease my soul with foods like healthy macaroni and cheese.

Contents

How to make our Healthy Mac and Cheese (1 MIN):

I’ve been making variations of this recipe for the last few years, but always with extra stuff in it, because, you know, the whole food blog thing.

For example, Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Apples, and Bacon.

Or White Cheddar Mac and Cheese with Squash and Toasted Walnuts.

At the moment, I’m getting sort of annoyed of my toasted-walnuts-in mac-and-cheese ways, so I’m giving it to you straight up, in all it’s plain creamy wonderfulness: Healthy Mac and Cheese. No need to fancify. Especially if you’re sick. Which, if you are, please just come over and we’ll eat this and watch the Cesar Milan being the amazing Dog Whisperer and feel glad that just have colds and not red zone dogs. Truth: Netflix and a cold and me left alone for too long can bring out some weird times.

This healthy mac and cheese is perfect for times when you don’t want anything really far outside of the box. Like, literally, nothing too far from the powdered cheese noodle dinner that comes in a blue box. Just maybe a little healthier and homemade. And more vegetables and less butter. Bonus.

If that’s you (and if you can’t tell, it’s definitely me right now), then this is your stuff.

One of my favorite things about this saucy + healthy mac and cheese is the inclusion of a caramelized onion in the pureed sauce. The flavor gets a warm depth to it without the issue of the caramelized onion pieces floating around in there. Heeey now, don’t look at me like that. Because normally I love things like pieces of caramelized onion and maybe when this cold leaves me alone I’ll be back to that sort of bold, dangerous eating. But this is the day where we’re sticking to plain-Jane. No messing around with texture. Just smooth delicious sauce, creamy melted cheese, and noodles to bring it all together.

So if I were to have a bottom line here, it would be this –> make the sauce, cook some noodles, shred some cheese, and be a happy mac and cheese eating person who still fits into a swimsuit. Because summer is coming. I can feel the sun on my face right now. Ready? Here it comes. One two three now. Three two one summer. Ready set go. Sun. Come. Bam. Snap. Poof.

Just… I’ll work on that.

Description

Healthy Mac and Cheese: one heaping cup of comfort food for just under 400 calories. Simple, creamy, homemade goodness. So good!

Scale 1x2x3x

Ingredients

  • 2 cups uncooked elbow macaroni – whole wheat, low glycemic, gluten free… any will work!
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 1 small butternut squash (4–5 cups cubed)
  • 5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup shredded cheese – I like Gruyère but any kind will work
  • parsley for topping
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. Cut the onion into thin rings and add to the butter in the pan, sauteing over low heat until fragrant and golden, about 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the skin and the seeds from the squash. Cut the flesh into small cubes. Bring the broth to a boil and add the squash. Cook for 5-7 minutes or until fork tender. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup broth, and transfer squash to the blender. Add the onions, milk, salt, and reserved broth and puree until completely smooth and creamy. This should yield about 4 cups sauce.
  3. Pour the pureed sauce over the cooked noodles and add the shredded cheese. Stir to melt the cheese; add water or milk to adjust consistency as needed. Serve with parsley, salt, and pepper to taste.

Notes

When caramelizing the onions, keep the heat low to prevent burning. The deeper the golden color, the more flavorful they will be.

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★★★★★

5 from 5 reviews

Healthy Mac and Cheese in one pot in 15 minutes. Creamy, cheesy and flavorful and as healthy as it gets. No weird ingredients because life is short, friends.

Is Mac and Cheese Healthy?

The reason I didn’t post healthy mac and cheese recipe until now is because I didn’t like any. I am sorry but I am willing to take the healthy route only that far.

Over the years, I tried all healthy alternatives of homemade macaroni and cheese. With: butternut squash, cauliflower, no cheese, barely any cheese, yogurt. My kids cringed, I cringed and we opened a box of Annie’s mac and cheese and hummed.

Who doesn’t love good old mac and cheese, right?!

So, I think I finally found a perfect healthy formula for mac and cheese. It = whole wheat macaroni + moderate amount of cheese + don’t eat it every day. Plus we boil pasta in flavorful broth and creamy milk thus reducing amount of cheese and calories. Agree?

This is an ultimate comfort food in a bowl. Even my husband, Alex, who vouches not to eat any cheese because “live until 100”, gave in. It was truly warming to the bones on a stormy ocean day and completely happy food coma on a couch by the fire kind of food.

Country life is the best. And so is this super easy healthy homemade mac and cheese. One pot!

Best Cheese to Use

I am using 2 kinds of cheese: marble cheddar and Parmesan cheese.

Marble cheddar is a blend of white and yellow cheddar. You can use only white or only yellow cheddar as well. It is harder to find organic yellow cheddar because it is artificially coloured.

It is best to buy a block and grate cheese yourself because it will melt better. Pre-shredded cheese is mixed with anti-caking agent to prevent it from sticking.

Same goes for Parmesan cheese. Make sure you buy a block of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano and grate yourself. 1/4 cup goes a long way and adds a lot of flavor without many calories.

Pasta Options

Me and kids agree that elbow macaroni shape pasta is the best for mac and cheese. Even when we buy Annie’s, kids always eat shells in a Costco size pack last. You can use any short pasta.

We actually love the heartiness and firmness whole wheat pasta adds to mac and cheese. Small bites coated in creamy cheesy sauce are just the best.

White pasta works. Also gluten free pasta is great, just cook it for shorter amount of time.

Tips for Healthy Mac and Cheese

  • This easy recipe comes together quick in one pot for a 15 minute dinner. So I recommend to have all ingredients prepped and ready to go before starting.
  • When bringing broth and milk to a boil, do not walk away. Keep an eye on the pot because milk runs right after boiling.
  • Mixture with pasta should be at medium simmer, not boiling hard.
  • Stir pasta while cooking often. It really sticks to the bottom if you don’t stir, especially towards the end as liquid evaporates.
  • If you notice your pasta is almost ready and there is still a lot of liquid, turn up the heat.
  • Likewise, if you see pasta is not done and you are running out of liquid, add 1/4 cup at a time.
  • Stir in cheese with heat off.
  • Add cheese in small portions and stir to ensure even distribution.

Serving

Mac and cheese is best to be served immediately. That’s when sauce is the most creamy and macaroni still firm. Pasta absorbs liquid really fast and makes mac and cheese dry. I am not a fan of dry baked mac and cheese.

You can bulk it up with small veggies:

  • Frozen peas or edamame beans – rinse under hot water and drain.
  • Finely chopped broccoli or cauliflower that has been blanched or steamed.
  • Spinach – add a handful into hot mac and cheese and stir until wilted.

You can also add hot sauce.

More Quick One Pot Pastas

  • Spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • Healthy Tuscan chicken pasta
  • Healthy chicken alfredo
  • Veggie mac and cheese muffins
  • Browse all healthy 30 minute meals.

Healthy Mac and Cheese

★★★★★

5 from 5 reviews

Healthy Mac and Cheese in one pot in 15 minutes. Creamy, cheesy and flavorful and as healthy as it gets. No weird ingredients because life is short, friends.

  • Author: Olena of ifoodreal.com
  • Prep Time: 2 minutes
  • Cook Time: 12 minutes
  • Total Time: 14 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Dinner
  • Method: One Pot
  • Cuisine: North American

Scale 1x2x3x

  • 3 cups whole wheat elbow macaroni, uncooked
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp butter, salted
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp mustard (condiment)
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup marble cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded

  1. In a medium pot, add broth, milk, butter, garlic powder, mustard, salt, ground black pepper and bring to a boil.
  2. Add elbow macaroni and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent sticking. Cook until al dente or desired firmness and adding more milk or broth if you wish.
  3. Turn off heat. Add marble cheese and Parmesan cheese in portions and stir between each until melted. That’s it.
  4. Serve immediately as mac and cheese tastes best fresh. Saucy, creamy and so comforting!

Store: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 1 day. To reheat simmer on low with a splash of milk and stirring.

  • You can use any short pasta, white or gluten free Cooking time might differ especially GF pasta cooks faster.
  • Shred cheeses while pasta is cooking to save on prep time.

★ Did you make this recipe? Please give it a star rating in the comments.

Recipes and images are a copyright of ifoodreal.com

Healthier Mac and Cheese Recipe

Mac and cheese: the undisputed king of comfort food. Over the years, we’ve tested dozens of iterations of the classic—spiked with chiles, topped with bacon, toned down with non-fat cheese. However, we keep returning to this formula: a béchamel base, laced with extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, and finished with a bit of yogurt to give the sauce that perfect texture. Are there more decadent bowls of mac? Absolutely—but not for under 400 calories.

Nutrition: 360 calories, 16 g fat (8 g saturated), 560 mg sodium

Serves 4

You’ll Need

2 cups elbow macaroni, fusilli, or cavatappi pasta
2 Tbsp butter
2 Tbsp flour
2 cups 2% milk
11⁄2 cups shredded extra sharp Cheddar
1⁄2 cup grated Parmesan (Note: Real Italian Parmesan is called Parmigiano-Reggiano, and its sharp, nutty flavor has nothing in common with the stuff you shake from a green can. It may be a bit pricey, but a little goes a long way, so it’s worth getting the authentic version.)
1⁄4 cup Greek yogurt
1⁄2 cup panko bread crumbs
Black pepper to taste

How to Make It

  1. Cook the pasta according to package directions until just al dente. Drain and reserve.
  2. While the pasta cooks, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking to prevent
    lumps from forming.
  4. Simmer the béchamel for 5 minutes, until it begins to thicken to the consistency of heavy cream.
  5. Stir in the Cheddar and 1⁄4 cup of the Parmesan, and cook until completely melted.
  6. Cut the heat and stir in the yogurt. Add the pasta and toss to evenly coat.
  7. Preheat the broiler.
  8. Pour the macaroni and cheese into an 8″ x 8″ baking dish (or into individual ramekins).
  9. Top with the bread crumbs and the remaining Parmesan and season with black pepper.
  10. Place on the middle rack of the oven and broil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the bread crumbs are golden brown.

Eat This Tip

Nutritional Upgrade

Yes, this mac and cheese is fantastically low in calories when compared with restaurant and frozen versions out there, but that being said, there is always room for improvement. Cut calories by swapping in low-fat cheese for the full-fat Cheddar; add fiber by using whole wheat or fortified pasta (we like Ronzoni Smart Taste) instead of white noodles; and boost nutrition by stirring in steamed broccoli, cherry tomatoes, roasted peppers, or even a few scoops of salsa.

This recipe (and hundreds more!) came from one of our Cook This, Not That! books. For more easy cooking ideas, you can also buy the book!

2.5/5 (197 Reviews)

Get the New Book!

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

WW Recipe of the Day: Light Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese
(322 calories | 9 9 9 myWW *SmartPoints value per serving)

I’ve had a hankering for macaroni and cheese for a while, but not all the fat and calories.

So, I went in search of a lighter, healthier alternative.

This light stove top macaroni and cheese is just what I was looking for.

Weight Watchers Friendly Macaroni & Cheese

Easy and creamy, but without butter and processed cheese, it’s a lighter alternative that doesn’t sacrifice flavor.

Skinny on Lighter Stove Top Macaroni and Cheese

I adjusted this recipe a bit to suit our tastes. Of course, a recipe like mac and cheese can be varied in lots of ways to suit your preferences.

According to my calculations, each generous 3/4-cup serving of this lightened up mac & cheese has 322 calories and:

9 *SmartPoints (Green plan)
9 *SmartPoints (Blue plan)
9 *SmartPoints (Purple plan)
9 *PointsPlus (Old plan)

Enjoy!

WW Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Variations

pasta – use whatever shape pasta you prefer

cheese – use whatever cheese you prefer – American, Swiss, Cheddar, Gouda, Havarti, Parmesan, Feta, Cottage, etc. A combination is always nice.

more veg – broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, peas (add to macaroni during the last few minutes of cooking) chopped tomatoes (stir into the cheese sauce)

more protein – stir chopped cooked ham or a can of drained tuna into the cheese sauce

spicier – add more cayenne or hot sauce to the cheese sauce

no dry mustard – skip it or add in a little jarred Dijon mustard into the cheese sauce

baked – scrape the mixture into a greased baking dish and bake at 375 for 20 – 30 minutes, until bubbly and golden

Find More Weight Watchers Friendly Mac & Cheese Recipes

I love how this video from Cooking Light demonstrates making a cheese sauce without butter. It’s a technique you can use when making any white sauce or cream sauce…

If you like this lightened up macaroni and cheese, be sure sure to check out my other easy, healthy Weight Watchers friendly recipes including Light Macaroni & Cheese with Cauliflower, Baked Pasta with Zucchini & Cottage Cheese, Skinny Artichoke Baked Pasta, Mom’s Easy Baked Chicken & Spinach Alfredo Ravioli and Light & Creamy Pasta Primavera.

4 from 12 votes

Light Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese Recipe

This light stove top macaroni and cheese is just what I was looking for. Easy and creamy, but without butter and processed cheese, it’s a healthier alternative that doesn’t sacrifice flavor. Prep Time5 mins Cook Time20 mins Total Time25 mins Servings (adjustable): 8 Calories: 322 Author: Martha McKinnon | Simple Nourished Living

  • 2-1/2 cups uncooked medium elbow macaroni (about 12 ounces)
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2-1/4 cups fat-free milk
  • 1/4 cup (2 ounces) 1/3-less-fat cream cheese, softened
  • 2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
  • Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  • While pasta cooks, make the cheese sauce. Place flour, dry mustard, salt, pepper and cayenne in a large saucepan. Add milk, stirring with a whisk until well blended.
  • Drop cream cheese by teaspoonfuls into the milk mixture.
  • Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.
  • Reduce the heat and let the mixture gently bubble until it thickens and the cream cheese melts, about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Remove from the heat.
  • Add cheddar cheese and stir until it melts.
  • Add the pasta and stir until it is coated with the cheese sauce.

Recipe Notes

Serving size: 3/4 cup 9 *SmartPoints (Green plan) 9 *SmartPoints (Blue plan) 9 *SmartPoints (Purple plan) 9 *PointsPlus (Old plan) Nutrition Facts Light Stove Top Macaroni & Cheese Recipe Amount Per Serving (3 /4 cup) Calories 322 Calories from Fat 90 % Daily Value* Fat 10g15% Carbohydrates 39g13% Fiber 2g8% Protein 22g44% * Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet. Course: Side Dish Cuisine: American Keyword: macaroni cheese made lighter, stovetop mac and cheese Did you make this recipe?Mention @simplenourishedliving on Instagram and tag #simplenourishedliving – we love to see your creations!

*PointsPlus® and SmartPoints® calculated by Simple Nourished Living; Not endorsed by Weight Watchers International, Inc. All recipe ingredients except optional items included in determining nutritional estimates. SmartPoints® values calculated WITHOUT each plan’s ZeroPoint Foods (Green plan, Blue plan, Purple plan) using the WW Recipe Builder.

More Lightened Up Recipes for Mac & Cheese Lovin’ Weight Watchers

  • Mega Mac and Cheese (HungryGirl)
  • Skinny Baked Broccoli Macaroni & Cheese (SkinnyTaste)
  • Creamy Butternut Squash Macaroni & Cheese (EatYourselfSkinny)
  • Macaroni & Cheese Italian-Style (SkinnyKitchen)
  • Mac & Cheese Muffins (EmilyBites)
  • Crock Pot Buffalo Mac & Cheese (DrizzleMeSkinny)
  • Baked Macaroni and Cheese (SkinnyTaste)
  • Cheeseburger Mac Attack (HungryGirl)
  • Skinny Alfredo Macaroni and Cheese (SkinnyKitchen)
  • Cheesy Bacon Mac & Cheese Cups (DrizzleMeSkinny)

Martha is the founder and main content writer for Simple-Nourished-Living.

A longtime lifetime WW at goal, she is committed to balancing her love of food and desire to stay slim while savoring life and helping others do the same.

She is the author of the Smart Start 28-Day Weight Loss Challenge.

A huge fan of the slow cooker and confessed cookbook addict, when she’s not experimenting in the kitchen, you’re likely to find Martha on her yoga mat.

More about Martha McKinnon

This post contains affiliate links to products I like. When you buy something through one of my Amazon links or other (affiliate links), I receive a small commission that helps support this site. Thank you for your purchase!

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Light Macaroni and Cheese with Spinach

DIRECTIONS

  • Heat oven to 400F.
  • Spray 8″ square baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  • In small bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the milk and flour until smooth.
  • In heavy medium saucepan, heat remaining 1 1/2 cups milk over medium heat until steaming.
  • Add flour mixture; cook 2-3 minutes or until sauce boils and thickens, whisking constantly.
  • Remove from heat; stir in cheddar cheese until melted.
  • Stir in cottage cheese, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
  • Cook spinach according to package directions; drain.
  • Rinse under cold running water; squeeze out excess moisture.
  • Cook macaroni in large pot of boiling lightly salted water 4-5 minutes or until not quite tender, stirring often.
  • (Macaroni will continue to cook while baking.) Drain; rinse with cold water.
  • Drain again.
  • In large bowl, stir together cheese sauce and macaroni.
  • Spread half of the macaroni mixture in baking dish; spoon spinach over top.
  • Spread remaining macaroni mixture over spinach layer; sprinkle with wheat germ.
  • (Dish can be made to this point and refrigerated for 2 days or frozen for 2 months. Thaw in refrigerator before baking.) Bake 35-45 minutes or until bubbly and golden.
  • TIP*If you can’t find wheat germ, substitute an equal amount of Parmesan cheese, cracker crumbs or bread crumbs.
  • VARIATION: To make Southwestern Macaroni and Cheese with Peppers, substitute 1 cup grated pepper Jack cheese for 1 cup of the cheddar cheese.
  • Omit the nutmeg.
  • Add 1 (4 1/2-oz.) can chopped mild green chiles, 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro and dash cayenne pepper to cheese sauce.
  • Omit spinach.
  • Instead, cook 2 cups thawed frozen pepper stir-fry vegetables in 1 teaspoon olive oil 3 to 4 minutes or until tender.
  • Replace spinach with pepper mixture.

Lightened Up Mac & Cheese

Is there anything more comforting than mac and cheese? The warm ooey gooey cheesy goodness is hard to beat. My favorite mac and cheese recipe is a show-stopper with substantially more cheese than pasta in the recipe, but it’s the kind of dish I make only once or twice a year for a special occasion. If you’re looking for an everyday mac and cheese, this lightened up version may be just the thing.

I’ve taken a three-pronged approach to lightening things up. First, the pasta. I used a combination of regular pasta (gemelli, I think those twists are called) and chickpea fusilli. Legume pasta is all the rage where I live, and it’s so great to see such a selection on the shelves these days, from red lentil penne to black bean spaghetti, there are so many to try. Using part legume pasta means you substantially bump up the protein and fiber content of the dish. You could certainly use all legume pasta, but if you’re trying to get the dish past a discerning palate they may find the taste and texture too “healthy,” if you know what I mean. I like to use a blend to start, and once people are used to the taste I’ll increase the percentage of legume pasta.

Then there’s the sauce. We start with a smaller amount of classic cheese sauce, then pump up the volume by stirring cauliflower puree through the mix. The neutral flavor and velvety texture of the cauliflower puree is a perfect match, and using a strongly flavored cheese like Parmesan in the sauce ensures that the cheese flavor doesn’t get dulled down.

And lastly, the remaining cauliflower florets get broken down into bite sized pieces and stirred in with the pasta, bumping up the vegetable content of the dish. It’s like a beautiful marriage between mac and cheese and the classic British cauliflower cheese, and the result is a comforting and healthful dish you can feel good about serving any day of the week.

This baked mac & cheese has all the creamy deliciousness of classic versions of the dish, but with fewer calories thanks to the addition of cauliflower and healthy chickpea pasta.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 4-6
  • 12 ounces rotini (or 6 ounces rotini and 6 ounces legume pasta)
  • 1 medium cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  • 1 cup 1% milk
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  1. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Butter a baking dish, and set it aside.
  2. Set a large pot of water over high heat. When it comes to a boil, salt it well and add the pasta. Boil until al dente, about 10-12 minutes depending on the pasta. Drain the pasta well and set aside.
  3. Place a steamer basket over a pot of boiling water, and steam the cauliflower florets until they are tender. Remove from the heat and run under cold water to cool.
  4. Take half of the steamed cauliflower and place into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an S-blade, or a blender. Add a bit of the water from the steamer, and blend until it becomes a smooth puree. If it’s the texture of cauliflower rice, add more water to thin and smooth the puree.
  5. Break the remaining cauliflower into bite sized pieces and set aside.
  6. Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium-sized pan. Add the flour, and whisk into a roux. Let it cook, whisking constantly, for about 1 minute. Slowly add the milk, whisking well as you go.
  7. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, whisking all the while, until it begins to thicken. Add the cheeses to the sauce, and whisk until smooth. Add 1 to 1 1/2 cups cauliflower puree to the cheese sauce, and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Mix the cauliflower cheese sauce into the cooked pasta, and stir in the remaining cauliflower florets. Pour the whole mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  9. In a small bowl combine the panko bread crumbs with the olive oil and sea salt. Sprinkle this mixture over the pasta dish.
  10. Bake, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until the top is slightly browned.
  11. Remove from the oven and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Lightened Up Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese that hits your macros?? It’s Christmas come early! Our kid-friendly Lightened Up Mac and Cheese is creamy, cheesy, and checks ALL the comfort food boxes. And yet it’s lower in carbs and higher in protein than traditional mac and cheese recipes. The secret is in the sauce! And an extra serving of veggies 😉

Servings: 8

Serving Size: 1 ¼ cup (210g)

Prep Time: 25 minutes

Nutrition Facts: 326 calories / 37.5g carbs / 21g protein / 10.5g fat

  • 11 oz (312g) uncooked elbow macaroni pasta

  • 3 cups (258g) frozen cauliflower florets (one 10-oz package)

  • 1 cup (226g) 1% cottage cheese

  • 3 tablespoons (43g) butter

  • ¼ cup (31g) flour

  • 2 cups (490g) nonfat milk

  • 2 ½ cups (283g) shredded reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ¼ teaspoon pepper

Instructions:

  1. Cook pasta according to package directions in a large pot with extra water. Add the cauliflower to the pot for the last 4 minutes (you will need to bring the water back to a boil after adding the cauliflower.) Strain the pasta and cauliflower and set aside.

  2. While the pasta is cooking, puree the cottage cheese until smooth (about 1-2 minutes) using a blender or food processor.

  3. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour and cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until the mixture is golden brown.

  4. Slowly add the milk, stirring constantly with a whisk. Continue cooking over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce is thickened and comes to a gentle simmer.

  5. Stir in the shredded cheese, pureed cottage cheese, salt and pepper. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if desired.

  6. Mix the cooked pasta and cauliflower with the sauce and stir until well combined.

  7. Serve garnished with shredded cheese, chopped parsley, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce if desired. Enjoy alongside a side salad or green veggie for extra crunch!

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Lightened-Up Macaroni and Cheese is so creamy, cheesy, ooey, and gooey that you’d never know it’s better for you!

Pin the Recipe

You may not believe me, but lightened-up macaroni and cheese does exist, and I am going to tell you how. But before I do, let me fill you in on my love of mac n cheese.

As a child, a box of macaroni and cheese with the yellow cheese powder was one of my favorite dinners. I was a picky eater back then and it was one of the few meals that my mother knew I would eat. And I did so very happily. As my palate and I matured and as I became interested in the study of nutrition and ingredients in food, I came to realize that boxed mac ‘n cheese had nothing on gourmet varieties that are made with freshly grated cheese, added herbs and spices, and lots of butter.

So, over the years I have experimented with different versions of macaroni and cheese that would taste just as gourmet but would be a little friendlier to the waist line. A couple of years ago I shared a Recipe ReDux for Baked Mac n Cheese loaded with veggies like cauliflower, mushrooms, and kale. Recently when I experimented with a new recipe, I received so many comments and “likes” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, especially from my friends with young kids asking for the recipe ASAP. So I went back in the kitchen to perfect the recipe and here it is.

But before you scroll down to the ingredient list, I would like to share with you one thing. This recipe has a handful of better-for-you substitutions and additions, including pureed squash. As I said in a recent Parents.com article, “I’m not a fan of sneaking veggies into kids’ food because it doesn’t teach them how to eat and enjoy the actual food.”

While it may seem like that’s what’s going on here, the pureed squash added to the cheese sauce is meant to add to the creaminess and gooeyness of the dish and is not meant to be a secret. For parents who have difficulty with picky eaters, give this dish a try, but if your child asks what’s in it, have him taste it and no matter what the response, be honest about the ingredients.

I hope your family enjoys this mac and cheese upgrade as much as my family does. I’d love to know if you give it a try and what your kids think – leave me a comment below or tag me on social if you make it!

  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 1 pound whole wheat fusilli pasta
  • 1/4 cup light butter spread with canola oil
  • 1 cup minced yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves,, minced
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons grainy Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 3 cups nonfat milk
  • 3 cups reduced-fat shredded sharp cheddar, (I use Cabot Sharp Light)
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped sage, (optional)
  • Fried sage leaves for garnish, (optional)
  1. Bring a small pot of water to a boil; add butternut squash and cook 15-20 minutes until tender. Drain and puree with a hand immersion blender or food processor until smooth. Set aside.
  2. Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and return to pot.
  3. While pasta is cooking, melt butter spread in a large saucepan over low heat. Add onion and garlic to melted butter and stir for 1 to 2 minutes. Add flour, mustard, salt, and chili powder; whisk to stir until a thick paste forms.
  4. Slowly pour in the milk and whisk vigorously to prevent curdling. Add the pureed squash, stir to combine, and whisk every couple of couple of minutes until mixture is thickened, about 10 minutes total.
  5. Remove pot from the heat; add shredded cheddar, parmesan, and chopped sage if using. Stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Mix sauce and pasta. Serve with fried sage leaves if desired.
Nutrition Information:

Yield: 8 Serving Size: 8 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 445 Nutrition information was calculated by Nutritionix. It may not be 100% accurate.

Do you have a dish that brings back childhood memories?

If you want it lightened up, let me know in the comments below!

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Light High Fiber Macaroni and Cheese

I was so incredibly picky as a child that I wouldn’t even eat Macaroni and Cheese. I basically lived on chicken fingers and pasta with butter. Super balanced.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I actually tried macaroni and cheese and I never looked back.

Obviously macaroni and cheese is DELICIOUS but it’s not exactly the lightest dish around so I don’t have it often but I wanted to do some experimenting in the kitchen to see if I could create a lightened up recipe without having to use butternut squash or throw in tons of broccoli to increase the volume.

That’s right you guys, no veggies have been harmed in the making of this recipe.

Here’s how I was able to lighten this up without pulling a Jessica Seinfeld:

  1. Fiber Gourmet Elbow Pasta: This stuff has 130 calories per 2 oz (versus 210 calories in regular pasta). It also has 18 grams of fiber (compared to 2 grams in regular pasta) and HALF the net carbs. I also think it tastes just like pasta and I trick my husband with it all the time.

  2. Chicken Broth: This is my culinary secret weapon for adding moisture and flavor to food without a ton of fat and calories.

  3. Low fat cheese: It might come as a shock to some but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with dairy and there’s even less wrong with low fat dairy. We need to stop fear mongering!

  4. Panko: I use the smallest amount of panko but let me tell you, it makes ALL the difference!

Check it out!

Serves: 3

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz Fiber Gourmet Elbow Pasta, Dry

  • 2 tsp Light Butter

  • 2 tbsp White Flour

  • 2 tbsp Minced Onion

  • 5 fl oz Skim Milk

  • 3 fl oz Chicken Broth

  • 2 oz Cabot Sharp Light Cheddar Cheese

  • 1 oz Fat Free Cheddar Cheese

  • 1.5 tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese

  • Propellant free cooking spray

  • Optional: 2 tbsp Bread Crumbs of choice or GG Cracker Crumbs

Directions:

  1. Salt pasta water and cook pasta according to directions on box.

  2. Preheat oven to 375°F.

  3. In a medium skillet, add butter and allow to melt. Add flour and reduce heat to low, whisking flour into butter mixture to create a roux.

  4. Add minced onion to the butter mixture and allow to cook for ~2 minutes.

  5. Increase heat to medium-high and add milk and chicken broth. Whisk and allow mixture to come to a boil. Once the mixture is smooth and has thickened, season with salt and pepper to taste.

  6. Remove milk mixture from heat, add cheese and mix well until cheese has melted. Add additional salt and pepper if needed.

  7. Add cooked pasta to cheese mixture and then transfer to a baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.

  8. Top with grated parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs (optional). You can serve as is or if you prefer baked macaroni and cheese, continue to the next step.

  9. To bake your macaroni and cheese: Spritz top with nonstick cooking spray.

  10. Bake for ~15 minutes and then increase heat to broil for ~3 minutes to allow breadcrumbs to crisp up.

Today is Fabulous Food Finds Friday, and I’ve got a great one to share – I have found the world’s healthiest macaroni and cheese!! This amazingly good for you, yet still incredibly yummy, boxed, low calorie Light Macaroni and Cheese made by Fiber Gourmet. So, you’d make it exactly the same way you’d make your traditional boxed macaroni and cheese. Its tastes JUST the same, but this version is a LOT better for you! Keep reading…!

Low Calorie High Fiber Macaroni and Cheese

Not only is it lower in Weight Watchers Points, but it has a WHOPPING 18 grams of fiber!!! That is a tremendous amount — it’s 72% of your Daily Recommended Value! It has 35% less calories than regular mac and cheese (which has about 270 calories), it’s made with no artificial colors or flavors, and it’s Kosher. Not only is the Fiber Gourmet Light Mac and Cheese a great meal for any Weight Watcher who loves macaroni and cheese recipes as much as I do, but this is a nutritious and healthy meal to serve to your kids! It tastes fantastic, and they will have no idea how much nutrition they are getting from it. And this is great meal to prepare if you are following the Weight Watchers Momentum Plan, because the insane amount of fiber, REALLY makes you feel full, so you are less likely to let the Hungry Monster tempt you into eating something bad. With just 3 Weight Watchers Points per serving, this is a super quick and easy meal to make and is a great food to help you stay on track of your weight loss goals.

18 Amazing Mac-and-Cheese Recipes for Weight Loss

If there’s one food that brings back memories of childhood, it’s mac-and-cheese. But as grownups, the calorie, sodium and fat counts should make you think twice. Blame it on the butter, milk, cheese, or carb-laden noodles — this dish is traditionally by no means a healthful one. But it can be! We’ve compiled 19 nourishing macaroni and cheese recipes that comprise everything from veggies to chili to fruit. They’ll let you indulge in nostalgia while boosting your health and even shrinking your waist. As a general rule, keep serving sizes to about a cup, substitute low-fat dairy and volumize with one of our best veggies for weight loss!

1

SRIRACHA MAC & CHEESE VEGETABLE BAKE

Getting kids to eat their veggies is no small feat. If you’re a parent, you’re probably guilty of whipping up a box of mac-and-cheese to avoid the everyday food battle. But what if we told you there was a way to make that instant child-pleaser more nutritious? This recipe combines organic macaroni and cheese mix with fresh bell peppers, squash, broccoli, bread crumbs and parmesan cheese. It’s a fun spin on the classic that helps you sneak nutrients into your kid’s belly, and you’ll love it too.

WHAT YOU NEED
1 cup (about 1 pepper) sliced red pepper
1 cup (about 1 pepper) sliced yellow pepper
½ cup cup sliced squash
1 large broccoli head
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 box Horizon Classic Mac, prepared according to instructions
2 tablespoons sriracha
½ cup bread crumbs
¼ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

WHAT TO DO
Preparation: Heat oven to 425 degrees F.
Toss all vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper. Divide mixture between two bake sheets and roast for about 20 minutes or until slightly browned. Remove from oven; set aside. Prepare Horizon Classic Mac according to package. Mix in Sriracha (add more to taste if needed). Transfer mac and cheese to an oven proof pan. Fold in oven-roasted vegetables. In a separate bowl, combine and mix breadcrumbs with parmesan cheese; sprinkle mixture on top of mac and cheese. Transfer to an oven and broil on high for 2-3 minutes or until top becomes brown and crunchy.

Recipe and photo by Real Food by Dad.

2

CAJUN SHRIMP MAC AND CHEESE

Heat things up with this Cajun shrimp entree. Not only is seafood a great source of lean, low-calorie protein, but unlike its aquatic brethren, shrimp is super-convenient to make. Pre-cooked and deveined shrimp is ready to eat in just minutes, and it’s one of our favorite convenience foods to fight belly fat! Looking to cut calories and carbs? Add more metabolism-boosting and appetite-suppressing shrimp and cut back on pasta.

Get the recipe from Lemons For Lulu.

3

5-INGREDIENT CHEESY SQUASH QUINOA

Packed with protein and loaded with essential amino acids and fiber, quinoa is a wholesome alternative to pasta. With just five ingredients in this recipe, you can create a bowl brimming with nutrients and flavor for less than 250 calories a serving.

WHAT YOU NEED
1½ cups quinoa
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable stock
1 acorn squash
2 cups reduced-fat colby jack cheese, shredded

WHAT TO DO
In a medium pot with a lid bring water and vegetable stock to a boil and add the quinoa. Stir once or twice, then reduce heat to low and cover with lid.

Meanwhile, in a microwave safe Tupperware container add the whole acorn squash. Cook for 12 minutes (or until a fork pokes in easily). Remove from microwave and allow to cool for 5 minutes, then cut in half and scoop out seeds and innards, then scoop out the cooked squash and put it in a bowl and mash until smooth in consistency.
When quinoa is done cooking (20 minutes) fluff with a spoon, then add the squash and cheese, stir to combine and put in a bowl and serve!

Recipe and photo by Sweet Phi.

4

FRENCH ONION SOUP MACARONI AND CHEESE

When savory french onion soup pairs up with cheesy macaroni, the combination is divine. It isn’t the skinniest dish of the bunch, but it provides 32 grams of satiating protein and meets 81% of daily calcium needs. Just limit yourself to one helping.

Get the recipe from Savory Simple.

5

30 MINUTE CHEESY CHILI MAC

This is the ultimate comfort food dish. Spicy chili seasonings complement a blend of Mexican cheeses. The best part? It’s simple to make, provides 76% of your daily dose of vitamin C and fries fat. Studies have linked capsaicin, the compound that gives chiles their signature kick, to boosted metabolic rate and decreased appetite. According to researchers at Purdue University, it takes just 1 gram of red pepper (about 1/2 a teaspoon) to do the trick!

Get the recipe from Creme de la Crumb.

6

BROCCOLI CHICKEN MAC & CHEESE

You can fight cancer with this comfort food. Clinical trials show that eating steamed broccoli just a few times a week can lower rates of prostate, breast, lung and skin cancers. How? Sulforaphane, a compound that “switches off” cancer genes. You can feel very good about spooning up this recipe.

WHAT YOU NEED

1 pound dry pasta (I used small shells, but you could use macaroni or any shape of pasta)
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-sized florets
2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
1 cup nonfat milk, warmed
2 1/2 cups 2% reduced-fat grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, or more to taste
2 cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts
(optional topping for the baked version) 1/2 cup extra reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese and 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

HOW TO MAKE IT

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Cook pasta al dente in a large stockpot of salted water according to package instructions. About 2-3 minutes before the pasta reaches al dente, add in the broccoli florets and let them cook alongside the pasta for the remainder of the cooking time. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, as the pasta water is heating, melt butter in a (separate) medium saute pan over medium-high heat.
Add garlic and saute for 1 minute or until fragrant, stirring occasionally. Whisk in the flour until combined and cook for an additional 1 minute, whisking occasionally. Slowly whisk in vegetable or chicken stock until the mixture is smooth. Then slowly whisk in the milk until it is combined. Continue cooking for 1-2 minutes, or until the mixture comes to a simmer. Then remove from heat, and stir in the cheddar, Parmesan, salt and pepper until the cheese sauce is smooth. Remove from heat.

Once the pasta and broccoli are cooked, pour the cheese sauce on top of the pasta, add in the chicken, and toss until everything is evenly combined.

At this point, you can either serve the pasta stovetop-style as-is. Or pour the pasta into a greased 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and sprinkle with extra cheddar cheese and Panko breadcrumbs. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the top becomes slightly crispy and the breadcrumbs are slightly golden. Remove and serve immediately.

*To cook the chicken breasts on the stove top, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large saute pan. Pound chicken to even thickness, and sprinkle both sides with a few generous pinches of salt and pepper. Add to the pan and cook for 3-4 minutes per side, or until the chicken is cooked through and no longer pink inside. (Cooking times will vary depending on the thickness of your chicken.) Or, to bake the chicken breasts in the oven, follow these instructions.

**If making the baked version of this dish, I recommend ever-so-slightly undercooking your pasta, as it will cook a bit more while it bakes in the oven.

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 414 calories, 15 g fat (8 g saturated), 592 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 2.1 g fiber, 2.9 g sugars, 29 g protein (calculated with skim milk, 2% reduced-fat sharp cheddar and 8 oz skinless chicken breasts)

Recipe and photo by Gimme Some Oven.

7

WHOLE WHEAT MACARONI AND CHEESE WITH SPICY GARLIC SWISS CHARD

Boost your fiber, antioxidant and magnesium intake by adding swiss chard to your mac-and-cheese. The leafy green’s nutrients promote healthy vision, boost immunity and even protect against cancer. This pot calls for whole-wheat pasta, which contains three parts of the grain, all nutrient-rich and fiber-filled. One serving provides a day’s worth of vitamin A, plus booming amounts of phosphorus, vitamin C and calcium.

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 373 calories, 15.6 g fat (8.7 g saturated), 530 mg sodium, 39.1 g carbs, 5.4 g fiber, 6.6 g sugars, 22 g protein (calculated with skim milk and the following cheese combo: 3 oz reduced-fat cheddar, 3 oz of reduced-fat and reduced-sodium American and 2 oz of goat cheese).

Get the recipe from Love and Olive Oil.

8

BAKED BUTTERNUT SQUASH AND BACON MAC & CHEESE

Butternut squash creates a rich, creamy texture in this dish of cheesy bacon amazingness. But the orange gourd does more than add flavor. It’s an autumn superfood that has a ton of nutritional benefits: it fights sodium retention, heart disease, asthma and arthritis, and promotes healthy vision and skin.

Recipe and photo by Sweet Anna’s.

9

PUMPKIN MAC & CHEESE

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, pumpkin season is coming to an end. But that doesn’t mean you have to nix your pumpkin fix. This Pumpkin Mac & Cheese calls for pumpkin puree, which is easy to find year-round and just about $1.99 a can! This recipe has just 330 calories, 208 mg of sodium and 3 g of sugar. Plus, each serving dishes up two days’ worth of vitamin A. To lower the fat content, substitute plain greek yogurt for heavy cream, and swap in an organic, grass-fed cheese.

WHAT YOU NEED
8 oz. pasta, about half a box
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
4 Kraft Singles cheddar cheese
1/4 stick butter
1 cup organic pumpkin puree
Fresh cracked pepper
Fresh chives

HOW TO MAKE IT
Boil pot of water for pasta. While pasta is cooking in boiling water (boils for about 15 minutes), melt butter in a separate sauce pan on medium heat. When mostly melted add your cream and milk.

Bring milk, cream and butter sauce to a slight boil, then add your cheese singles one at a time, tearing them in small pieces and adding more as they melt, stirring constantly. A thick cheese sauce will form. When all your cheese has been added and a thick sauce has formed, add your canned pumpkin puree.

Whisk until combined.

Strain cooked pasta and return to pot. Pour pumpkin cheese sauce over pasta. Top with fresh cracked pepper and chives. Serve immediately.

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 330 calories, 14.8 g fat (8 g saturated), 208 mg sodium, 37.5 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 3.4 g sugars, 13.2 g protein (calculated with whole-wheat ziti, organic cheddar cheese and plain Greek yogurt instead of heavy cream)

Recipe and photo by That’s So Michelle.

10

RANCH AND PIMENTO MAC & CHEESE

Are you that person who thinks ranch dressing goes with everything ? If so, you’ll pleasure your palate with this dish. Classic macaroni and cheese pairs with Hidden Valley Ranch, pimentos, green onions and topped with panko breadcrumbs. Surprisingly, it’s under 500 calories. The dish also contains 21 grams of protein and is sky-high in phosphorus, which can help with post-workout muscle recovery.

Get the recipe from Foxes Love Lemons.

11

LEMON BASIL RICOTTA SPAGHETTI

According to the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee, consuming calcium-rich foods like ricotta may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently! And other studies indicate that consuming more calcium from dairy products causes the body to excrete more fat, speeding your metabolism. This dairy-rich bowl is also packed with vitamin B6, selenium and niacin. It also contains less than 2 g of sugar and is relatively low in sodium.

Get the recipe from Life As A Strawberry.

12

CILANTRO, LIME & WINE PESTO MAC N CHEESE

This is one classy dish. Pesto is poured over elbow macaroni and mixed with a slew of cheeses, butter and milk. Fresh herbs like cilantro remove heavy metals from the body that tend to hide in fat cells; reducing overall toxins in your body can help get rid of excess stored fat, which lessens the appearance of cellulite! However, if you’re looking to reap the full benefits, forgo the wine. You’ll still get a flavorful pesto, without those empty calories.

WHAT YOU NEED
For the pesto
4 oz parmesan cheese, shredded
1 cup cilantro
¼ cup white wine (such as a dry Riesling)
3 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice from half a lime
1 tsp salt

For the pasta
1 lb elbow macaroni noodles (I used Barilla Plus multigrain pasta)
2 cups four-cheese Mexican blend shredded cheese (Monterey Jack, queso, cheddar and asadero cheeses)
¼ cup milk
1 Tbsp butter
1 tsp salt

HOW TO MAKE IT
Cook pasta according to package instructions.

While pasta is cooking, make the pesto. To do so, just put all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse for 30 seconds to a minute, then you’re all done. If you like a finer pesto, pulse for an additional 30 seconds. Set aside.

When pasta is finished cooking, drain water from the pasta and leave pasta in a colander while you make the sauce.

In the now empty pot you used to make the pasta, melt the butter and milk, over medium-high heat. When it starts to boil, sprinkle with salt, and turn heat off.

Now add the pasta back into the pot, pour the shredded Four Cheese Mexican blend over the pasta, and spoon the pesto on top of the cheese. With a spoon slowly fold over until your mac n cheese ingredients are all combined. Allow to cool for a few minutes, then serve!

Recipe and photo by Sweet Phi.

13

LOBSTER MAC AND CHEESE

Shellfish pairs flawlessly with pasta, but the combo is typically unkind to your waist. And although this dish isn’t the lowest-calorie option, it contains a whopping 37 grams of muscle-building protein. Next time you have a craving for Red Lobster, cook this instead!

Get the recipe from Foodiecrush.

14

GARLIC MAC N CHEESE

Garlic and macaroni have an endless love affair, but if you’ve never experimented with garlic mac-and-cheese, you’re truly missing out. Not only does it taste divine, it fights the common cold, thanks to allicin, an antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral chemical in fresh garlic.

Get the recipe from Minimalist Baker.

15

ALL-GROWN-UP MAC AND CHEESE

We may never outgrow our love for mac and cheese, but our waistlines might. That’s why we love this vegan dish. Cashews replace processed cheese for a similar flavor and texture with a serious nutrient punch (they’re one of the best nuts for weight loss). Cashews are brimming with magnesium, and according to Stephanie Middleberg, MS, RD, CDN of Middleberg Nutrition, it does everything from “relieving constipation, insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps” to “regulating the immune system and supporting brain function.”

WHAT YOU NEED
1 (16 oz) package whole-wheat elbow macaroni
1 cup raw cashews
3 Tbsp nutritional yeast
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp vinegar (white wine, apple cider, etc.)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup soy milk
Sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
Chopped basil (optional)

WHAT TO DO
Add the cashews, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, pepper, and part of the soy milk to a food processor. Blend until smooth.

At this point, you have a killer cheese spread that would go great on crackers (try it sometime!) but for this mac-and-cheese sauce, it probably needs more liquid in order to coat the pasta. Use your judgment to add more soy milk and blend until the mixture is creamy but not runny. It’s best to make it a little too thick because you can always add more milk when mixing with the macaroni.

*Ideally, you would refrigerate this sauce for several hours before using. This allows the flavors to meld together and the sauce is improved. But if you’re in a hurry, feel free to make the sauce and pasta at the same time – you won’t notice much of a difference.

Cook the macaroni according to package instructions. It should only take about 10 minutes. When fully cooked, drain through a colander and pour the pasta into a large mixing bowl.

Take the cheese sauce and toss it into the macaroni. This may take several minutes, as the sauce will clump together until warmed by the pasta. Keep tossing lightly until all the macaroni is evenly coated. Again, if it feels too thick, you can add a little more soy milk.

You can (optionally) top with black pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, basil or parsley. These can add a lot of color and flavor, so feel free to experiment with what works best for you.

NUTRITION PER SERVING: 443 calories, 12.4 g fat (2.4 g saturated), 22 mg sodium, 67.9 g carbs, 4.5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 16.4 g protein

Recipe and photo by One Ingredient Chef.

16

CREAMY MAC AND CHEESE

There is just something about shaped macaroni and cheese that just tastes better. And if you grew up on boxed spiral mac and cheese, this super-simple recipe will hit home. As you know, the fewer ingredients, the better. Made with just pasta, milk, flour, cheese and salt, file this recipe away because it’s a keeper.

Get the recipe from What’s Gaby Cooking.

17

CHICKPEAS AND CHEESE

Looking to shrink your belly? Ditch the boxed stuff and whip up this recipe instead. Chickpeas are high in nutrients and soluble fiber, and they’re an essential weight loss food. Thanks to the appetite-suppressing hormone cholecystokinin, these legumes increase feelings of satiety, so you actually take in less. It’s not too often you hear weight loss and mac-and-cheese in the same sentence!

Get the recipe from Inspired Edibles.

18

GNOCCHI “MAC” AND CHEESE

Looking for a gluten-free version? Try this. Fontina, cheddar and parmesan cheeses create a creamy sauce that covers the “dumplings,” creating an indulgent bite for under 400 calories. Quick note: Traditional gnocchi is not a gluten-free food, so if you’re gluten intolerant, make sure you get the GF stuff.

WHAT YOU NEED

2 (1-pound) packages *DeLallo mini potato gnocchi or 3 (12-ounce) packages DeLallo gluten-free potato and rice gnocchi)
3 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup vegetable or chicken stock
2 tablespoons butter or DeLallo extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup milk, warmed
1 1/4 cups freshly grated fontina cheese
1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt, or more to taste
1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper, or more to taste
(optional toppings: finely chopped fresh parsley or basil, extra Parmesan cheese)

WHAT TO DO
Cook the gnocchi in a large stockpot of boiling water, according to package instructions. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, as you are waiting for the water to come to a boil and for the gnocchi to cook, make your cheese sauce. Begin by whisking the cornstarch and the vegetable/chicken stock together in a small bowl until the cornstarch is completely dissolved. Set aside. (Be sure that the stock is room temperature or cooler, otherwise the cornstarch will not dissolve.)

Heat butter or olive oil in a (separate) large saucepan or saute pan over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1-2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant.

Stir in the cornstarch mixture, and whisk until combined. Add in the milk, and whisk until combined. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture reaches a low boil. Then remove from heat, and stir in the cheeses until they are melted and smooth. Season the sauce with salt and pepper, to taste.

Combine the cooked gnocchi and cheese sauce in the large stockpot, and toss together until the gnocchi are evenly coated. Serve immediately, topped with optional toppings if desired.

Recipe and photo by Gimme Some Oven.

Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!

Lite mac and cheese

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