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My son’s favorite meal is macaroni and cheese. The cheesier it is the more he likes it. I like it myself, but the cheesier it is, the more fattening it is, too. Here are some suggestions to make that family favorite a little healthier for the kids.

Add variety to the cheese. Macaroni and cheese is nothing unless it is dripping cheese from both ends of the noodle. But, the cheese your mother chose doesn’t have to be the same cheese that you choose. Opt for Velveeta® Light cheese spread. The light version has a third of the fat and melts much better than regular cheese. This cheese works well if you prepare your macaroni and cheese in a saucepan on the stovetop. If you are the kind of person that bakes your macaroni and cheese like a casserole, you can substitute fat-free sharp cheddar for the full fat version and add skim milk to make it creamy.

How about turning that side dish into the main meal? Macaroni and cheese can become the main course if you add some protein. Turn your side dish into a casserole dinner with lean ground beef. This transforms your dish into cheesy beef and macaroni. The beef will help to fill your kids up faster and will give them the protein that their body needs. Add a teaspoon of chili powder to give it a southwestern flavor. For a weekend lunch, add chunks of ham to their macaroni and cheese for a quick meal. The meat breaks up the monotony of just having the same dish all of the time. Chunks of boneless chicken breasts will also work as well as the ham if your child prefers chicken. Hotdogs also work with macaroni and cheese but because of the nitrites they contain, don’t use them as often as you use the ham and chicken.

Change your pasta. There are lots of healthy options to the generic macaroni pasta noodle. Now, grocers provide a whole wheat or multigrain pasta that is derived from wheat flour instead of white. The pasta is brown in color but when you mix in the cheese, no one should know the difference. If brown pasta doesn’t do it for you, Barilla® makes pasta called Barilla Plus® that has additional nutrients to make it more nutritious for the eater. The pasta remains the natural yellowish color. Dreamfields® has macaroni noodles that contain only five grams of digestible carbohydrates. That means nothing to your children, but to you it means that they won’t get fat from consuming that particular brand.

Add some color to their macaroni and cheese. Chop a tomato and mix it into the macaroni and cheese prior to serving it. The red makes a bold statement in the sea of yellow. Tomatoes provide antioxidants which are awesome for your body. If your children prefer spicy foods, mix in a few crushed red peppers or diced red and green peppers to their macaroni and cheese for a bolder flavor. If you don’t have any peppers or tomatoes on hand, add a cup of salsa in the macaroni and cheese in a pinch.

What about breakfast? Your kids would like to eat macaroni and cheese for breakfast. Add a few slices of turkey bacon or reduced fat bacon to the meal. Crumble the bacon on top of the macaroni and cheese and serve. If bacon is not appreciated by your child, add sausage crumbles. It’s unconventional, but it’ll taste great.

Thanks for reading.

Michael Camire

For more great recipes for WORKING MOMS - click here.

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