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Healthy Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Mushrooms

Mac and cheese is the quintessential American comfort food! However, it’s quite heavy in terms of calories. But thankfully there is a way to make this dish more wholesome and calorie friendly which I want to show you in today’s post. So, without any further ado, let’s dive right into this easy healthy mac and cheese recipe with broccoli and mushrooms.

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healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms

Mac and Cheese – The American Comfort Food

Mac and cheese is a true American classic! In fact, the first recipe comes from a cookbook published in 1824.

In “The Virgina Housewife”, President Thomas Jefferson’s daughter first published this cheese pasta recipe, which had its origins in Italy. And today this recipe has become an indispensable part of American cuisine.

But how to make this yummy cheese pasta? In fact, the recipe is very simple. First, you’ll make a roux which you cook with lots of milk and even more cheese to make a creamy sauce. And this sauce is then served with nothing else than plenty of macaroni.

How to Make a Healthy Mac and Cheese

If you’re now wondering how the hell you’re supposed to make this a healthy and balanced dish, I’ve got some good news for you. Because with just a few small changes, it actually works really well.

Since we want to make real cheese pasta and not a substitute of nuts or cream, we’re staying relatively close to the original recipe in terms of ingredients. However, we’re choosing a few more calorie-friendly alternatives when it comes to butter, cheese and even milk.

So, instead of cheddar, parmesan, and the like, I use a blend of cream cheese and a fat-reduced cheese. My favorite among the light cheese brands is the protein cheese from Eatlean, which you can buy online. But any other shredded fat-reduced cheese, which you can buy everywhere from different brands, will also do the job.

Instead of butter, I like to use a light butter substitute. And lastly you can replace the regular milk with a low-calorie plant-based milk, like unsweetened almond milk, which has a fraction of the calories.

With these few small changes, we’ve already made our mac and cheese much calorie friendlier. But to make it also more wholesome, I like to add a bit more fiber.

Therefore, we simply use whole grain short cut pasta instead of classic macaroni. And to incorporate some more vitamins you can serve our healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms.

ingredients for healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms

Ingredients

The quantities, as they are given in this recipe for my healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms, are equal to two servings. However, feel free to double, triple, or halve them, depending on how many people you’re cooking for.

If you like to have a larger portion or one with more or less calories, carbs, proteins, or fats, feel free to adjust the amounts to your individual needs.

I always base portion sizes on my personal dietary needs (presumably those of the average woman). However, you or perhaps one of your fellow eaters may need more (or less) than I do.

  • 200 grams or 7 ounces of broccoli
  • 200 grams or 7 ounces of mushrooms
  • one teaspoon of olive oil
  • 140 grams or 5 ounces of whole grain (short cut) pasta
  • 20 grams or one and a half tablespoons of light butter
  • 15 grams or two tablespoons of flour (spelt or all-purpose flour)
  • 250 milliliters of unsweetened almond milk (or another (non-dairy) milk of choice)
  • 40 grams each of (fat reduced) cream cheese (about ¼ cup or 1.5 ounces) and fat-reduced shredded cheese (1.5 ounces or about a 1/3 cup)
  • Salt and pepper

Variations & Substitutions

Instead of the Eatlean cheese, you can use another fat-reduced cheese for this healthy mac and cheese recipe. Since we’ll be grating or cutting the cheese into small pieces any other shredded light cheese would work here as well.

But if you don’t have that on hand either, you could also use a regular gouda or cheddar for this healthy mac and cheese recipe.

Furthermore, instead of light butter, you could use reduced calorie margarine or just regular butter. Obviously, you’ll end up with a little more calorie. But compared to the classic recipes, we still use a lot less of it.

Finally, you can also replace the broccoli and mushrooms with another vegetable of your choice. Or you can skip them altogether and just serve your healthy mac and cheese alongside a nice salad.

healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms

Healthy Mac and Cheese with Broccoli and Mushrooms – Here’s How to Make It

Before we get started with the low-calorie cheese sauce for our healthy mac and cheese, let’s first take care of the vegetables.

To do so, wash the broccoli thoroughly, break it into individual florets and chop them up coarsely. You can also clean the mushrooms, cut them in half and then into thin slices. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the vegetables over medium heat for about five to ten minutes before removing them from the stove and setting them aside until the sauce is ready.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta al dente according to package directions.

broccoli and mushrooms in a medium sized frying pan

Low Calorie Mac and Cheese Sauce

Meanwhile we can whip up that yummy cheese sauce. Therefore, first add the butter to the pot and let it melt slowly over low to medium heat.

As soon as it’s melted, add the flour, and stir will, to make a roux. Then pour over the milk and mix until all the lumps are gone.

Now add the cream cheese and the grated cheese and let the sauce simmer over low to medium heat for two to three minutes. Keep stirring to prevent anything from burning or boiling over.

Now season the sauce with salt and add the cooked pasta and vegetables. If the sauce is a little too thick, you can add a little pasta water to smooth it out a bit.

cheese sauce in a cast iron pot

How Healthy Are These Healthy Mac and Cheese?

As you can see, these healthy mac and cheese are really easy to prepare. And to sum it up, these mac and cheese with broccoli are actually pretty wholesome.

Thanks to the low-calorie alternatives such as light butter and cheese, we save a lot of calories. In additions, there are enough proteins and fiber in this dish. And at the same time the amount carbs and fats are quite moderate, especially considering that we’re talking about mac and cheese.

In a nutshell, these mac and cheese are a balanced and wholesome alternative to the classic American recipe.

Therefore, I hope you like this simple recipe for my healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and that you give it a try soon.

If you have any further questions or suggestions, feel free to drop them in the comments, or send me a massage via email at contact@julesbalancedrecipes.com or Instagram (@julesbalancedrecipes).

And in case, you’ve tried this healthy mac and cheese recipe, I’d appreciate your comment and rating on this recipe. It’s easy to do via the comments section below this post and it would mean the world to me.

Have fun trying it out and bon appétit,
Jules

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healthy mac and cheese with broccoli and mushrooms

Healthy Mac and Cheese

Julia Schmitt
The classic from the USA as a calorie and macro-friendly dish: Delicious Mac and Cheese with a lower calorie cheese sauce, served with broccoli and mushrooms.
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 2 servings
Calories 448 kcal

Equipment

  • 2 medium-sized saucepans or pots
  • 1 medium-sized frying pan
  • 1 whisk

Ingredients
  

  • 200 g broccoli (~7 oz)
  • 200 g mushrooms (~7 oz)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 140 g short cut whole grain pasta (~5 oz)
  • 1,5 tbsp lower calorie butter some kind of butter substitute which has less fat and calories than regular butter – alternatively regular butter
  • 2 tbsp flour spelt or all-purpose flour
  • 250 ml unsweetened almond milk (1 cup) alternatively another (unsweetened, non dairy) milk of choice
  • 40 g fat reduced cream cheese (~1.5 oz or ¼ cup)
  • 40 g fat reduced cheese (~1.5 oz or ⅓ cup shredded cheese)
  • salt, pepper

Instructions
 

Vegetables

  • Wash the broccoli and finely chop the florets. Clean the mushrooms, cut them in half and then finely slice them. Heat up a pan and sauté the vegetables with the oil over medium-high heat for about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove the the pan from the stove and set aside until the pasta and sauce is ready.
    broccoli and mushrooms in a medium sized frying pan

Cheese Sauce

  • Meanwhile cook the pasta according tot the package directions. Grate the cheese or cut it into small pieces. Put the butter in the second saucepan or pot and let it melt over low to medium heat. Then add the flour and stir well to make a roux. Pour in the milk and whisk well.
    cheese sauce in a cast iron pot
  • Increase the heat a bit so that the sauce slowly starts to simmer. Next, add the cream cheese and cheese and let the sauce continue to simmer over low to medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes while stirring occasionally. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
    If the sauce is too thick, add a bit of the pasta water (1/8 to ¼ cup)
    cheese sauce in a cast iron pot

Serve

  • Add the pasta and sautéed vegetables to the sauce, mix it well and divide the mac and cheese between two bowls and serve it with some freshly grated cheese if desired.
    mac and cheese with brokkoli in a cast iron pot

Notes

Nutritional values per serving:
  • calories: 448 kcal
  • fat: 12 g
  • carbohydrates: 57 g
  • protein: 25 g
Keyword healthy mac and cheese with broccoli, mac and cheese low calories

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