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It is hard to beat good homemade macaroni and cheese, but store bought mac n’ cheese can be a real family-pleaser and time saver.

Macaroni and Cheese--A Kid Favorite!

These days, there are countless macaroni and cheese products.   Frozen, refrigerated, or boxed varieties can be microwaved, baked, or prepared on a stovetop.  There is a lot to choose from!  This Consumer Corner post features information about my favorite mac and cheese brands.  Clearly, I have not tried every macaroni and cheese product available, so I am keeping it simple by narrowing down my top picks into two categories of boxed macaroni and cheese:  best traditional and best whole wheat.  I investigated several popular brands like Kraft’s traditional macaroni and cheese and Velveeta shells and cheese.  Taste, texture, calorie, fat and sodium content, and artificial additives and preservatives were all considered when choosing my top picks.

Best Traditional:  Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese-Wisconsin Cheddar

This brand does not require adding butter or margarine, so the fat and calorie content is half of most traditional brands.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to sacrifice taste!  This pasta has a delicious, tangy, cheddar cheesy flavor.  Kids will appreciate the fun, classic tube shaped pasta.  Parents can feel good about serving this product as it contains no preservatives and the orange-yellow color comes from annatto seed, not artificial food coloring.  Unfortunately, this mac is only available in Trader Joe’s stores.  Click here to find a location near you.

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 3 servings per box

  • Calories- 270
  • Total Fat- 4g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 500 mg
  • Carb- 47 g
  • Fiber- 2 g
  • Sugars- 3 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Best Whole Wheat:  Annie’s Homegrown Organic Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar

Similar to my traditional favorite, this brand does not require adding butter or margarine.   This white cheddar variety has a sharp taste, and the shells have a firmer bite than most shells and cheese varieties.  This Annie’s product is made with certified organic whole wheat pasta and certified organic white cheddar cheese.  It is an excellent source of fiber, and is made with 100% whole grain, containing 48 grams per serving!  See Whole Wheat, White Wheat, What?  for more information about whole grains.   You can find Annie’s Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar at grocery and natural food stores nationwide.

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 2.5 servings per box

  • Calories- 260
  • Total Fat- 5g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 580mg
  • Carb- 44 g
  • Fiber- 5 g
  • Sugars- 7 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Adding vegetables like tomatoes, peas, and broccoli to mac and cheese is an easy way to boost the nutritional value of any meal.   Incorporating vegetables is an effective approach for introducing new or unaccepted foods to younger children that already love mac and cheese.  Get creative!  For inspiration, check out these recipes from Annie’s that feature adding vegetables to many of their pasta products.

What are your preferred macaroni and cheeses?

Disclaimer: Just The Right Byte provided an objective and independent review of these products; no affiliations or support was obtained from any grocer or food marketer.

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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