Make Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Healthier

May 7, 2012   20 Comments

Check out that bright orange up there. That color is indicative of a much loved processed food from everyone's childhood.

Healthier Kraft Mac and Cheese

Yes, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese has produced that school bus likeness with a little help from Yellow #5 and #6. I know for a fact that many love the orange chalky dust that represents "cheese" in the box.

I was cruising around my local grocery store when I couldn't help but notice all the college students in their pajamas. Their carts will filled with ramen, frozen pizza, and boxed macaroni and cheese. Why they walk around in pajama bottoms is a mystery to me - but I KNOW why they buy boxes of mac and cheese. It is cheap, filling, and fast to make.

The only cooking skill it requires to make it is boiling water. Hey, even I could do that at the age of 20.

I decided to try and see if I could add some nutritional upside to the classic. First, Kraft made it easier for me by producing this:


That's right, people! They added 50% whole grain to their recipe and frankly you cannot tell the difference. A wee bit of fiber is a big leap forward in the boxed food arena.

I decided to nix the butter or margarine (90 calories per tablespoon) and go with 1/2 cup of 2% milk fat cottage cheese. There are a bunch of choices when it comes to cottage cheese - 4%, 2%, 1% and "no fat" cottage cheese can be found in the dairy aisle.

It should taste like the original version so I went with 2%. Finally, I added 1/2 pound of fresh tomatoes for color and to bulk up the dish. Tomatoes are a good complement to the salty dried cheese.

Now, you cut the fat, added a fruit, and have MORE to eat per serving. Are you going to like this? Yes. Is it the healthiest recipe in the world? No.

I was just aiming for an upgrade for all those busy students taking their finals. Make your parents proud!!

Have you made over a boxed mac and cheese? What did you add?


Boxed Macaroni & Cheese Makeover Recipe

4.0 from 1 review

(makes 3 servings)
1 box Whole Grain Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
1/2 pound fresh tomatoes
1/2 cup 2% milkfat cottage cheese

Cook pasta following package directions. While water is boiling chop fresh tomatoes. After pasta has finished cooking, put it back into the pot and mix in packaged cheese mix, cottage cheese, and tomatoes. Enjoy!

For one serving = 308 calories, 1.5 g fat, 53.3 g carbohydrates, 8.1 g sugar, 8 g protein, 6 g fiber, 747 mg sodium, 6 Points+

Points values are calculated by Snack Girl and are provided for information only. See all Snack Girl Recipes

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Sigh, I tend to think those "MADE WITH WHOLE GRAIN" claims are marketing whooey -- and I'm in the PR industry! Do you have any tips for figuring out which "whole grain" products are actually worth it, and which are mostly hype?

on May 7, 2012

The cottage cheese replaces the butter AND the milk? Interesting idea. If it smooths out/melts that works. Just hope removing the fat doesn't completely make it lose any staying power (not like the original had much, but I'd have been adding to it somehow I think). There's already a lot of carbs and feeling hungry after an hour kind of ruins the point of making something lower calorie. I've always added tuna and peas, and I'm now contemplating how to work a little (good) olive oil in there. hmm.

on May 7, 2012

What are the calories and points in the original version per serving? Thanks

on May 7, 2012

Sounds really good,I'm with the others on the "whole grain" claim. I also usually add a most(tuna,chicken and a veggie to mine. Salsa and tuna are yummy together too). My biggest question is the texture issue of cottage cheese...does it melt?

on May 7, 2012

The cottage cheese does melt - there are some curds left (see photo) but you don't notice them. It is less runny than the original version.

When dealing with whole grain - you need to look at the grams of fiber per serving - and if it is above 4 g - you are getting the benefit of whole grain. Otherwise, it is just marketing.

The original is 390 calories and I will look up the PP value and get back to you.

on May 7, 2012

If you must eat mac 'n cheese from a box, Annie's is a good option. They have a whole wheat with white cheddar variety. I agree with the commenter above, and you can't always trust the 'whole grain' label. Annie's has real ingredients that you can read and understand.

on May 7, 2012

Way better eating it your way than with the powederd stuff. Someone toldme once that the blue box goes right to your thighs and ever since then I haven't had it! :)

on May 7, 2012

Thanks for posting this. My niece starts college in the fall and I'm making a recipe book for her. I really wanted to add a healthy mac and cheese recipe, but I know she won't go for it. I think this is a great option for her.

on May 7, 2012

We eat a lot of Annie's mac & cheese, and we always add peas. I think my 3.5 year old son thinks that mac & cheese equals Annies with peas... he won't even eat orange colored ones when offered them at other peoples' houses. In college I always made Annies with peas and tuna... it's a pretty decent meal!

on May 7, 2012

The 'made with whole grains' is hype. the way to tell is by checking the ingredient list to see if the first ingredient is whole wheat. SG - thanks for the tip on cottage cheese, I am going to try that tonight!

on May 7, 2012

Thanks :). I havnt read the lable on this box, but I was thinking what the commenter above said-that if the 1st ingrediant isnt whole grain then you arnt getting whole grain, they can add fiber back with more additives. Either way its still a great option for a quick and cheep meal. Thanks for the tip Snack Girl!

on May 7, 2012

When I was younger and not so health conscious, I would add sliced up hot dogs to my Kraft mac n cheese. The thought absolutely disgusts me now! I usually buy Annie's in the purple box. My DD is a picky eater but will eat any mac n cheese, so I figure Annie's is the best. On the evenings when mac n cheese is also my dinner (because I'm too tired/lazy to cook something for myself) I will add veggies to my bowl, usually peas. My DD wants nothing to do with peas and asks that I remove the foul green orbs from her bowl (ok, she doesn't use those exact words, it's more or less just "ick")

on May 7, 2012

My favorite mac and cheese trick is pureed butternut squash or pumpkin. Makes it more creamy (and orange), and as long as you err on the side of caution, undetectable.

on May 7, 2012

The whole grain thing IS hype... Bran cereals have LESS whole grain than ones that have "whole grain" claims up the wazoo because they have more fiber ingredients like bran. I'd much rather have 13 grams of "whole grain" in a cereal with 10 grams of fiber than a cereal that's almost 100% "whole grain" with very little fiber. "Whole grain" does not equal fiber necessarily--think about brown rice which adds a gram of fiber or 2 to the white rice. Not that it's not significant--there are nutrients in the outer layer. But this whole "whole grains" thing that includes pepperidge farm goldfish is so hokey.

on May 7, 2012

Hi-A girl at the checkout gave me this addition. It's great-Just add a can of Rotel to Mac N Cheese.

on May 7, 2012

There's also the blue box with CAULIFLOWER added to the noodles. I've tried them and those are pretty good, too.

When i was in college one of our staple recipes in an apartment of 4 girls was a box of mac n cheese + a can or two of tuna + a can of green peas. It's awesome and requires no chopping, one pan, and only 1 bowl to eat it! I love the idea of adding tomatoes. Blue box mac n' cheese is still a staple at my house because of my DH - he loves the stuff. Cracks me up! He's a kid at heart. I make it healthier by stirring in the powder right after I drain the pasta to evenly coat the noodles, then add a smidge of butter and a splash of milk and stir until it gets creamy. You need about 1/4th of what it calls for to make it work. Then I just add more milk later if i reheat it to add back in liquid. Much healthier than the box recommends. Still not great, but better. I love the idea of cottage cheese. I might even try greek yogurt!? Hmmmmm....

on May 8, 2012

love the idea of using cottage cheese instead of butter/milk and adding in chopped tomatoes. I think I'll give the cottage cheese a whir in the blender so it's nice a smooth! Thanks for a great quick and easy idea.

on May 8, 2012

I usually use plain 0% greek yogurt when I make boxed mac and cheese to replace the fat and most of the milk. It works perfectly, tastes creamy and delicious, and ups the protein content! All you need is about 2 heaping tablespoons.

on May 16, 2012

Amazing! I just made this and it tasted 99% the same as the original prep.

on January 11, 2014

For years I made it by HALVING the amount of butter (stopped using margarine decades ago) and DOUBLING (or more) the amount of milk (skim).

Still healthier.

But now I'm experimenting with yogurt; the tangy taste works well with the tang of "cheddar-ish powder." I'll still try a bit of butter ) one teaspoon) or a bit of extra virgin olive oil (not quite as good; and don't use regular; the flavor is too strong).

I've found that if you slowly warm the yogurt up first you'll get less problems with it melting quickly and evenly.

After doing some (very) rough math using the nutrition info panels on all the ingredients, the yogurt version is BY FAR healthier and lower calorie; not so much by what it adds, but for the "less-than-good-for-you-stuff" it leaves out.

WARNING: This is STILL NOT health food :)

Also, if you are looking to add some good fiber to any white pasta (which is WAY cheaper than whole grain pasta), try mixing in some cooked lentils into your cooked pasta. Simmering the lentils in chicken or vegetable broth (with no draining) and you might be surprised. It works exceptionally well with more rustic Italian red sauces.

Not so much with plain mac n cheese, but if you're doing another variation using salsa/tomatoes, lentils are okay.

on March 19, 2015

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