Macaroni and Cheese Nutrition Facts

Yes, it is possible to choose or make a lighter, healthier mac and cheese.

Macaroni and Cheese Nutrition Facts
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Love macaroni and cheese? You're not alone. It's a favorite in households across the country. But is this kid-friendly food nutritious? Unfortunately, it is high in calories, high in fat and very high in sodium. But some brands are better than others. And there are ways to lower calories in macaroni and cheese and make it healthier.

Kraft Mac and Cheese Nutrition Facts

A single cup of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese -- without the milk and butter needed to prepare the dish -- contains:

  • calories: 250
  • fat: 3 grams
  • cholesterol: 10 mg.
  • sodium: 570 mg.
  • carbohydrates: 47 grams
  • fiber: 2 grams
  • sugars: 6 grams
  • protein: 9 grams
  • calcium: 10%

Instructions on the Kraft box indicate that should add four tablespoons of butter or margarine and one-quarter cup of milk to blend your mac and cheese. To get the total number of calories in macaroni and cheese add the following.

  • If you make your mac and cheese with four tablespoons of butter and one-quarter cup of whole milk add 445 calories and 48 grams of fat and 30 grams of saturated fat
  • If you make your mac and cheese with four tablespoons of margarine and one-quarter cup of whole milk add 444 calories and 48 grams of fat and 10 grams of saturated fat
  • If you make your mac and cheese with four tablespoons of butter and one-quarter cup of 2 percent milk add 437 calories and 47 grams of fat and 30 grams of saturated fat
  • If you make your mac and cheese with four tablespoons of butter and one-quarter cup of skim milk add 428 calories and 46 grams of fat and 29 grams of saturated fat

    Nutrition Facts for Other Store-Bought Brands of Mac and Cheese

    What about other brands of macaroni and cheese? These are the calorie and nutrition facts for other popular brands according to USDA data.

    • A single serving of Stouffer's Macaroni and Cheese (one fifth of the the family size container) provides 350 calories, 17 grams of fat, 7 grams of saturated fat, 34 grams of carbohydrate, 15 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 2 grams of sugar and 920 grams of sodium.
    • A single serving of Lean Cuisine Macaroni and Cheese provides 300 calories, 6 grams of fat, 48 grams of carbohydrate, 13 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 5 grams of sugar and 560 milligrams of sodium.
    • A single serving of Amy's Organic Foods Macaroni and Cheese (frozen) provides 400 calories, 16 grams of fat, 10 grams of saturated fat, 16 grams of protein, 47 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of sugar and 640 milligrams of sodium.
    • A single serving of Velveeta Shells and Cheese provides 360 calories, 12 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 49 grams of carbohydrate, 13 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, 4 grams of sugar and 870 milligrams of sodium. 

    Nutrition Facts for Homemade Mac and Cheese

    Can you lower calories and fat if you make your own macaroni and cheese at home? The calories and nutrition will vary based on your ingredients, but one cup of a  typical homemade macaroni and cheese recipe would provide 492 calories, 22 grams of fat, 13 grams of saturated fat, 19 grams of protein, 54 grams of carbohydrate, 3 grams of fiber, and 909 milligrams of sodium.

    Which Brand Is Best?

    So which brand is best? All of them are high in calories, sodium, and fat. And most of them provide artificial ingredients.

    Of all those listed, the Lean Cuisine Macaroni and Cheese will do the least damage to your waistline. That said, it is also possible to make your own mac and cheese using lighter ingredients. Another option is to replace the macaroni with a healthier, lower calorie food such as cauliflower or broccoli.

    Is Macaroni and Cheese Healthy?

    There are a few things you should consider before adding macaroni and cheese to your meal plan. This food is very high in calories and is not likely to help you to maintain your weight or lose weight unless you really watch your portion size.

    Most recipes and pre-packaged varieties use enriched pasta, not whole wheat pasta.

    So you're not getting a lot of dietary fiber when you consume the food. Fiber provides several health benefits and helps dieters curb hunger.

    In addition, macaroni and cheese is very high in sodium. Even the kind you make at home provides almost half of the recommended daily intake of sodium. So when you add just a single serving of this food to your daily diet, you're likely to consume too much sodium for the day.

    Lastly, macaroni and cheese is a food that we often overeat. The popular blue box is supposed to provide 2.5 servings. But many people eat the entire box as a meal. If you consume an entire box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (prepared with margarine and 2 percent milk), you'll consume 875 calories, 32.5 grams of fat, 11 grams of saturated fat and 25 grams of protein. You'll also consume over 1800 milligrams of sodium.

    Healthier Ways to Prepare Macaroni & Cheese 

    Even though the homemade version of macaroni and cheese isn't the healthiest meal, you'll get the benefit of better nutrition if you make your own. Why? Because many of the manufactured brands use powdered cheese and other artificial ingredients that don't provide the benefits that real ingredients provide.

    So how do you lighten up your favorite recipe? One way to adjust any macaroni and cheese recipe for better health is to use whole grain pasta. It won't lower the calorie count, but you'll get a dose of fiber that's good for your diet. And whether you make your own at home or buy the boxed variety, using skim or 2 percent milk will decrease both fat and calories. You can also try a different approach with recipes for Healthy Supersized Macaroni and Cheese or Healthy Slow Cooker Macaroni and Cheese.

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