Is Mac and Cheese Healthy? Calories, Nutrition, and a Awesome Recipe

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Christiana George
Christiana George
Welcome to The Tart Tart, my not-so-tart take on food, writing, and photography. I decided to start up this sucker after repeated nagging from Chris, my fiance, who cannot understand why the sight of a farmer’s market would send me into ecstatic convulsions (okay, total overstatement. I can be quite the histrionic at times).With that said, my interests, though chiefly in food, also span fashion, design, literature, and photography. So don’t mind the seemingly non sequitur odds and ends I toss in posts at times.

Do not deny it; you cannot refrain from having a spoonful or even a whole bowl of Mac and Cheese when it is in front of you. The thing about Mac n Cheese is that it is a classic dish, and everyone loves it. 

And let us not forget how easy it is to make it. You can even get two or three-ingredient recipes online.

But is Mac and Cheese healthy? After all, it is just macaroni and cheese, right? Well, there is much more to the dish that you should know about before making it a habit to eat this affordable and tasty delicacy every day. 

And the good news is that we will go in-depth with this topic. So, if you stick till the end, you can know it all!

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Mac & Cheese Nutritional Information

mac and cheese nutrition

Before we go in-depth with the topic at hand, we would like to familiarize you with the nutritional content of a standard bowl of Mac & Cheese. So, let us take Kraft’s Mac and Cheese, for example. 

A cup of that contains 376 calories. There is 669 mg of sodium, 16 grams of fat, 47 grams of carbs, 8.5 grams of sugar, 9.7 grams of protein, and 2.4 grams of fiber. 

What about Velveeta and Stouffer’s Mac and Cheese? They are each hanging around 360 and 350 calories per serving. The nutritional content will be on the same alleyway as the Kraft’s.

With per serving of Mac & Cheese mainly being around 360 and 370 calories, you will be fulfilling about 1/5th of a daily 2000 calorie intake diet with just one meal! Now, what do these numbers mean? Let us prioritize the calorie count only.

Is Mac and Cheese Healthy?

Is Mac and Cheese Healthy

1/5th of the daily 2000 calorie diet does not sound that bad. Well, the thing is, you cannot just focus your judgment based on the calorie count only. You also need to consider the amount of trans-fat, saturated fat, salt, sodium, and carb. 

So, what determines whether your Mac and Cheese is healthy or not is the ingredients in it. Having too much of these regularly can make you gain massive body fat. 

Yes! The creamy and rich dish that seems harmless can load you with carbohydrates. In fact, Mac & Cheese can cause havoc to your diet if you are following a strict weight loss meal plan. And if you even start having the one serving regularly, you will be very likely to find yourself on the obese territory after a couple of months.

Another thing that you should note is that the standard bowl of Mac and Cheese will have tons of preservatives, MSG, and other chemicals. Those are to enhance the dish’s taste and make it achieve a longer shelf life. But the thing is, those will cause harm to your health.

Does that mean Mac & Cheese is not healthy? Well, the average Mac & Cheese is not healthy. If you have it once a week, it will be totally fine. However, you should not pick up the habit of having it daily. 

This video will show you Healthy Mac And Cheese Recipe

Why Do I Crave Mac & Cheese from Time to Time?

If you had the chance to enjoy a rich and creamy Mac n Cheese, you probably have picked up the habit of eating it three to four times a week. In fact, you could be switching one of your daily meals with one dish serving.

Nonetheless, the thing that might be making you crave Mac & Cheese is probably the cheese. Yes, you read that right! The cheese is the creamy and rich texture that Mac & Cheese gets and gives you comfort.

Do not believe us? When you are craving the dish, opt for a grilled sandwich instead. Make the sandwich with organic white cheddar cheese if possible because it is much better for health and nutrition. 

After having the sandwich, you are more likely to notice that you no longer crave Mac n Cheese.

You may also like: Why Do Healthy Foods Taste Bad?

Healthy Alternative to Standard Mac & Cheese

is homemade mac and cheese healthy

So, by now, we have established that regular Mac n Cheese is not a healthy meal, and you should not have it regularly. But the thing is, there are more nutritious Mac n Cheese recipes out there. 

And they are not that hard to make either. Take a look at these recipe instructions for chickpea pasta Mac & Cheese:

Step 1: Get the Right Ingredients

Before turning the stove on, you need to get your hands on the right ingredients. So, for six servings of this healthy Mac & Cheese, you would need:

  • 12 ounces of chickpea pasta
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of xanthan gum
  • 1/8 cup of butter
  • 1 1/2 cup of chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt

Among these, xanthan gum might be a new ingredient to you. It is a food additive that acts as a stabilizer or thickener. If you add it with broth, it will convert the broth to a goo-like substance. For that reason, you cannot go heavy with this ingredient for this recipe.

Nonetheless, it will make your healthy Mac n Cheese creamy and rich without needing to add too much cheese or fat-rich milk.

Step 2: Prepare the Chickpea Macaroni

Now that you have all the ingredients work with the chickpea macaroni. For this, you should follow the instructions on the packaging. Those instructions will work the best, and you will get a better overall result by following them correctly. 

Set the pasta aside and move to the next step.

Step 3: Work with the Xanthan Gum

After you prepare the chickpea macaroni, it will be time to work with the ingredient that you were probably most excited about. Get yourself a large pot and put butter on it. Heat it and wait for it to turn slightly bubbly. Add the xanthan gum while mixing the butter.

Step 4: Create the Sauce

Next, you will have to mix the broth, unsweetened almond milk, and salt. Simmer the ingredients for around 6 minutes while stirring the mixture regularly. 

Add the shredded cheese when the sauce gains a bit of thick texture. Mix until the cheese melts and creates a heavy and creamy sauce.

Step 5: Add the Pasta

Finally, you will need to add the cooked pasta. But do not just drop it inside the bowl and call it a day. Instead, mix the pasta properly with the sauce and ensure that the sauce gets evenly distributed to the pasta.

What is So Healthy About Chickpea Pasta Mac & Cheese?

Was the recipe we mentioned above not easy to make? But what is so healthy about it? 

First of all, chickpea pasta contains more fiber and protein than regular macaroni. So, you will be cutting a good chunk of fat and carbs and replacing both with a proper amount of protein and fiber.

Another thing that makes the recipe above healthier than the standard Mac n Cheese is unsweetened almond milk. If you swap it with regular white milk, you will be cutting out a massive chunk of calories and fat.

Furthermore, the use of xanthan will eliminate the need to use refined white flour. And by swapping the flour, you will be further cutting a hefty amount of carbs from one serving of Mac and Cheese.

Let us not forget that the recipe we just went through is gluten-free. But butter makes it less suitable for both vegan and vegetarian people. Well, you can simply replace it with olive oil. 

What about the cheese? Replace it with a high-quality non-dairy cheese. That will get you the same level of richness and creaminess. You could even cut down the carb more if you want to! 

Instead of relying primarily on the chickpea pasta, add in a few cauliflower florets or broccoli florets. That will keep the carb level to the lowest.

What are the Other Healthy Alternatives to Standard Mac and Cheese?

Apart from the recipe we just went through, you can try sweet potato Mac & Cheese, organic Cheesy baked Quinoa, Quinoa Mac & Cheese, and Twice-baked Mac and Cheese spaghetti squash. These are quite popular, and they are tasty as well. Most importantly, they will not make you go fat.

Whatever you do, do not just get the microwavable Mac n Cheese. They may say that they are healthy and will not make you gain weight. However, they will have a lot of hidden fat and make you gain that extra belly fat in no time!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is mac and cheese good for losing weight?

As it can make you feel full, it can be added to the diet for losing weight. But it’s not exactly the best option.

Will mac and cheese make me fat?

It depends on the amount you’re eating. If it’s moderate, you should be fine.

Can you live off of mac and cheese?

Certainly no, if you want a healthy life. As you would miss out on all the vitamins and nutrients that are a must for a human body.

Final Words

So, is Mac and Cheese healthy? In short, it will depend on the Mac & Cheese you are having. If it is the standard one, it is not healthy.

On the other hand, if it is the recipe we just went through, it could be the perfect addition to your new balanced meal plan!

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