Boxed macaroni and cheese is always a hit with kiddos, but not necessarily a hit with nutritionists. Despite its longstanding position as a beloved childhood staple (much like Disney movies and Halloween candy), the box doesn’t offer a whole lot of substance.

So I’ve come up with some easy tips for upping the nutrition without destroying a beloved favorite.  In fact, I challenge your kiddo to even notice the difference. I bet they won’t.

Photo copyright Rebecca Andexler.

Photo copyright Rebecca Andexler.

Following these steps, the meal you serve will still look and taste just like their favorite boxed mac. But we’re adding a whole bunch of protein, vitamins and fiber. The secret? Cauliflower and Greek yogurt.

What’s that you say? You’re intrigued? Confused even? Just stay with me here and in a few easy steps, you’ll have a delicious new take on a kiddie favorite.

Kiddie Mac

Better-for-you boxed kiddie mac

First, choose your box. My personal preference is Annie’s Homegrown Bunny Shape Macaroni and Cheese because it offers 3g of fiber per serving. The blue box brand, or whatever your child’s favorite mac is will work, but be sure to choose one with noodles in shapes (bunnies, cartoon characters, abc’s) versus standard macaroni shapes. Boil your water and start cooking your noodles as the package directs.

Now, add 1 cup of FINELY DICED, chopped frozen cauliflower (partially thawed for easy chopping). Make sure its diced very finely so that, once it’s mixed with the noodles and cheese sauce, the textures will all be the same and it will blend right in. This is why the shaped pasta works better than standard macaroni shapes. The cauliflower just disappears. Add the diced cauliflower to your pasta cooking water during the last five minutes of cooking. Drain the water as you normally would.

Now, instead of adding the usual butter and milk as the package instructs, instead add 1 heaping scoop (about 1/4 cup) plain Greek yogurt and 1 Tablespoon lowfat milk. Stir until the yogurt is well combined with the noodles. Now add the powdered cheese and keep stirring until the mixture is evenly combined.

Take a look. Take a TASTE! Notice anything different? Not really. Now serve it to your kid and see what they say. In our house, we add a side of steamed peas and a serving of fruit and everyone is happy.

Photo copyright Rebecca Andexler.

Photo copyright Rebecca Andexler.

What’s your secret for boosting the nutrition in everyone’s favorite “kiddie” foods? 

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