Mac and cheese is a creamy dish that is highly popular in the United States. It is a fairly simple food consisting of macaroni pasta mixed with a cheesy sauce, and it is very delicious. However, many people ask the question – is mac and cheese healthy? We did some digging and will provide the answer in this article.
Needless to say, this dish is very high in fats, calories, and sodium, making it a questionable choice for anyone on a strict diet regime. However, this does not mean you cannot make a healthier version of this dish. Today, we will talk about some nutritional facts about mac and cheese and discuss the ingredients that go into this dish. There is a lot of ground to cover, so let us get started.
Mac and Cheese: Nutritional Information
Before we explore whether or not mac and cheese is a healthy dish, we should first familiarize ourselves with the nutritional content that comes with a single serving. For this, we are going to pick Kraft Mac and Cheese as an example.
A single cup of this food contains 376 calories. You get 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.
Is Mac and Cheese Healthy?
When you see that a single cup of this dish contains 376 calories, your first thought is likely that it is only one-fifth of the daily 2000-calorie diet, which at first sight does not seem so bad. However, whether or not the food you are consuming is healthy is not solely based on the calorie count.
You also need to take into consideration factors such as the amount of sodium, trans-fat, saturated fat-fat, sodium, and, of course, sugar. It is safe to say that mac and cheese are rich in all of these ingredients, and having too much of it can result in massive body weight gain.
Moreover, this dish can cause multiple problems if you are following a strict weight loss plan. If you start eating this food regularly, it is likely that you will increase your body weight in a matter of weeks. Essentially, mac and cheese is not a healthy meal, but you should be fine if you consume it moderately, for example, once a week. However, if you make a habit out of it and start eating it regularly, you will gain body weight and put yourself at risk for bigger problems.
Are There Any Healthy Types of Mac and Cheese?
If you crave some mac and cheese but are aware that it is an unhealthy meal, there are ways you can prepare it healthier way. The first thing you need to do is to ditch packaged products with refined grains and processed cheese powder or sauce. These are a big no-no, and if you want a healthier version of this food, you will have to prepare it yourself from scratch.
Making this food on your own allows you to control the ingredients that go into it. This way, you will be able to make a more balanced meal that will be healthier and will grant you higher nutrient value on the plate. Here are some examples of how to do it.
Replace Cheese With Yogurt
Cheese contains plenty of sodium which can mess with your health if consumed excessively. It can cause hypertension and increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases. A great alternative to cheese is Greek yogurt, as it is low in calories and sodium and excellent for your health.
Use Healthier Variations of Milk
Dairy products such as milk are rich in fats and calories that can cause similar issues to your health as cheese. Luckily, there are some delicious alternatives to regular milk. You can go with Coconut milk, which is a great vegan alternative but also an excellent choice for a weight-loss diet. Moreover, it tastes really good and goes well with mac and cheese.
Add Some Vegetables
Vegetables are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals; thus, adding them to a serving of mac and cheese can make a big nutritive difference. This is important since the number of calories from fats will go down while healthy calories from veggies will go up.
Consider Whole Wheat Options
Whole wheat macaroni is much healthier than any other available option. Wheat is more nutritious when compared to plain flour and other variations and is much better for heart health, so consider switching to this option.
Add Some Lean Protein to Your Mac and Cheese
Proteins are one of the core ingredients of any healthy diet plan. They largely contribute to building muscles and losing fat. This is why you should strongly consider adding some lean proteins to your mac and cheese. Lean proteins are not just healthy, but they are also good for weight loss.
Adding spices to your mac and cheese will not only improve the flavor but will also make the meal healthier. It would be best if you considered adding oregano, turmeric, ginger, or garlic powder, as these spices can aid in getting rid of harmful bacteria from your body. Your mac and cheese will be much healthier and much more delicious.
Other Preparation Variations
Aside from the methods we have just listed, there are other ways to make the preparation of mac and cheese healthier. For example, you can adjust how much of ingredients you will add to a serving. If the recipe recommends adding four tablespoons of margarine, you can reduce the amount to align with your nutritional goals.
The most important thing is to get creative and experiment. You can adjust every single ingredient you are adding and create different variations of the dish that will be healthier and have higher nutritive value.
Mac and cheese is generally high in calories and not very rich in useful and healthy nutrients. All of these depend on the brand, ingredients, and serving sizes, and as long as you enjoy it in moderation, you should be fine.
However, there are ways to make this dish healthier and add it to your diet seamlessly. You should carefully choose the set of ingredients and pick healthier alternatives that will ultimately make the dish much healthier and will not compromise on the flavor of the food.
Steve is a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience and he holds a Master’s in Sports Science. Prior to Boston Rock Gym, Steve worked for two years as a personal trainer.