This broccoli and cauliflower mac and cheese is nutritious take on the classic comfort food without sacrificing any flavor.
As a registered dietitian, clients constantly tell me they struggle to enjoy their favorite comfort foods while still reaching their weight goals. But I’m here to show you how comfort foods can still fit into a balanced and nutritious diet.
I have partnered with National Dairy Council to share with you a delicious comfort mac and cheese recipe that can boost mood, is nutritious, and tastes amazing. Plus, it can be part of your routine to reset, relax and unwind at the end of the day.
How to Make Mac and Cheese Healthy
This nutritious twist on mac and cheese is a perfect example of how small changes can transform the nutrient profile of a dish without sacrificing flavor. Plus, the nutrition and richness of the dairy ingredients can help support your mood by being part of your reset and unwind routine.
Cauliflower and broccoli are added to decrease the total calories while also adding volume, texture, and fiber. This lower calorie mac and cheese is a simple recipe delivering nutrients from dairy like protein, calcium and vitamin B12, and it’s an easy way to add vegetables that is both adult and kid-approved.
The Connection Between Dairy and Mood
Did you know that dairy foods including cheese and milk contain the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine? These amino acids are precursors to serotonin and dopamine – which play a valuable role in your pleasure and reward system.
Plus, carbohydrates, which are naturally occurring in dairy foods like milk and yogurt, can support tryptophan’s conversion into the mood-supporting serotonin. No wonder this comfort mac and cheese can boost your mood!
How to Make Lower Calorie Mac and Cheese
Start by cooking the macaroni shells according to the package. Combine the milk, cornstarch, salt, and pepper and whisk until smooth. Stir constantly until it boils and thickens.
Next you’re going to add the cheddar and mozzarella until they’re almost melted.
Mix in the pasta, broccoli, and cauliflower, then put in a baking dish. Top it off with bread crumbs and parmesan cheese, then bake for 20-25 minutes.
Cut into squares for individual servings, or store the leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
- 9×13” baking dish
- 2-quart saucepan
- 8- oz macaroni shells (you can use whole wheat for extra fiber)
- 2 cups cauliflower florets cut into small pieces
- 2 cups broccoli florets cut into small pieces
- Nonstick cooking spray
- 1 1/2 cups 1% milk (use lactose-free dairy milk if desired)
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup parmesan to top
- Cook macaroni shells according to the package. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Spray a 9×13” baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.
- In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the milk, cornstarch, salt, and pepper. Whisk until smooth.
- Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture boils and thickens, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in the cheddar and mozzarella and mix until almost melted.
- Add the cooked pasta, broccoli, and cauliflower to the cheese mixture and mix well.
- Spoon into the prepared baking dish and evenly sprinkle with the panko breadcrumbs and parmesan.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden on top.
- Divide into six 4” squares and serve warm.
- Cut into squares for individual servings or store the leftovers in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or the freezer for 6 months.
This broccoli and cauliflower mac and cheese is creamy, cheesy, comforting. Plus, it delivers high-quality protein and essential nutrients from dairy and fiber from the veggies.
It’s your turn to get cooking and make this lower calorie comfort mac and cheese for you and your family!
For more information about the health benefits of dairy, visit US Dairy.