When it comes to food, it’s no secret that I like to eat healthy. As a result, I’m always looking for ways to make every single recipe I’ve ever encountered about 10x healthier. So today, I’m going to be teaching you how to make macaroni and cheese instantly healthier.
Unless you’re lactose intolerant or just flat out weird, just chances are you like macaroni and cheese as much as the rest of us. But if you’re a bit of a health freak like me (and hey, no shame in that), you probably know that this classic childhood favourite meal is not the best for your body. Butter, cheese, white pasta, white flour…it could be a lot better. Luckily for you, and for me, it’s so easy to make this pasta dish not only better, but healthier. Here’s how.
STEP 1 – Use whole wheat flour, and whole wheat pasta
This is an easy fix and absolutely essential to not only making pasta healthier, but anything that involves grain products. I personally like the taste of whole wheat grains better than white grains anyway, and once you make the switch, you will never look back. Not only are they 10x better tasting, they’re also 10x healthier for you. So when you’re making the saucy sauce, use whole wheat flour. When you’re boiling the pasta past, use whole wheat. That’s just common sense. Right?
STEP 2 – Replace butter with olive oil
As someone who uses olive oil in two out of every three meals, I might be a bit biased here. But olive oil is another easy health fix, that also tastes significantly better than the fatty butter. Olive oil is rich in healthy fats and has a countless number of health benefits. If you’re not a fan of olive oil, consider using canola oil, avocado oil or even avocados themselves to do the trick, as they can all perform the exact same function. When making macaroni and cheese, I also completely skip the milk, as I feel milk and olive oil don’t really work together and that the cheese is already enough dairy. If I’m looking for more liquid in the dish, I simply add water.
STEP 3 – Throw in the vegetables
I never make mac n’ cheese without vegetables. The best two will always be potatoes and broccoli, as they go SO well with cheese and whole wheat grains. But you can also toss in radishes, zucchini, spinach, mushrooms, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, beans, eggplant, bok choy, chickpeas or even avocados (I know this is a fruit but it should be a vegetable). Except for those like spinach, beans/chickpeas or avocado, I would cook the vegetables separately, in a pan with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and oregano. Those are the six essential ingredients I like to use when cooking vegetables, but parsley and basil also work well on things like potatoes and radishes, and you might find that you like to season things differently, so definitely explore. If going for something like chickpeas, avocado or spinach that cook pretty much as soon as they hit the pan, I like to mix them in with the sauce, which usually incorporates the same ingredients/spices (olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic, thyme and oregano already inside). So not only do you now have vegetables added to your extraordinarily healthy mac n’ cheese, but you now have tons of healthy spices added to the mix as well. Just go easy on the salt if you’re not a big exerciser, as chances are you’re probably already salting the pasta water.
If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, well first, who are you and what are you doing with your life? Secondly, throwing in some chicken or another lean protein of your choice will also do wonders to improving the health benefits of your mac n’ cheese. If it’s a post run meal, sometimes I like to throw in that chicken for the extra protein.
STEP 4 – Go easy on the cheese
One of the biggest problems with macaroni and cheese is that people go a bit crazy with the cheese and give themselves instant cholesterol strokes. The rule of thumb seems to be to use about the same amount of cheese as you are using for pasta. But that is absolutely outrageous. If you’ve already added things like potatoes, broccoli, avocado and chicken, you’re already hitting all of the nutritional benefits cheese is going to give you. Not only that, but you’ve added so much more weight to the food now. Adding excessive amounts of cheese will only make you full within a few bites. I personally like to add about a tablespoon of cheese for about a half cup of pasta. You don’t have to go to the extremes that I do, but cutting your usual total in half will not be missed whatsoever. Trust me. In fact, you’ll probably find you even like it more without the guilt of the fatty cheese being slathered all over the healthy ingredients you’ve done so well to incorporate. So for about a half cup of pasta, try going about a ¼ cup of cheese. Honestly, that’s already more than enough.
So those are the steps to making your macaroni and cheese dish significantly healthier. But how exactly do you make mac n’ cheese? Easy. Here’s my recipe.
1 cup 100% whole grain macaroni
2 1/2 cups water
3 tbsp salt
1 potato (chopped)
4-5 broccoli florets
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp garlic powder
4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp water
3 tbsp whole wheat flour
1 tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp oregano
¼ tsp thyme
1 tbsp cheese
- Get the vegetables going first as they will take the longest. Olive oil in the pan, followed next by the spices (salt, pepper, garlic, thyme, oregano). Then toss in the vegetables and mix together. I like to go for a red or white potato and frozen broccoli, as it cooks smoother. If you want to steam your broccoli instead you can throw it in with the pasta, as it’s quicker in the boiler.
- Boil the water on high, making sure to salt the water for extra flavour. Once it’s boiling, reduce heat to medium and throw in the whole wheat macaroni/pasta (whole wheat rotini and fusilli work nicely too). Cook for 5-10 minutes, usually depending on instructions on the box. If making your own pasta from scratch, usually 6-8 minutes is a good time frame.
- Next comes the sauce. In a stovetop pan on low heat, add the olive oil and water first, then mix in the flour and spices until it all comes together. Using olive oil, sometimes it can separate from the rest of your sauce if not enough or too much flour is added in. You can always add more flour if it’s too runny, or more water if it’s clumping together. One teaspoon at a time is always a safe amount to add either way if it is not stirring like a sauce normally would. The cheese comes last once the olive oil to flour ratio is sorted, gradually adding in to make sure the mixture is still right.
- Once the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, add them into the sauce. Once the pasta has cooked, drain in a colander and then add to the sauce as well, mixing everything together. But you want to make sure the sauce is spot on before adding in the vegetables and pasta. And then voila! You have your healthy macaroni and cheese!
So there it is! How to make healthy mac n’ cheese. If this inspired you, be sure to give it a clap below, and let me know what else you want me to make healthier for you! Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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