Make a Healthier Macaroni and Cheese

  • author name Stephanie Swavely, RD, CSO, LDN
macaroni and cheese

From kids to grown ups, who doesn’t love mac and cheese? We prepared a lighter version of this classic comfort food to be enjoyed by all, and especially the patient undergoing cancer treatment who needs an easily digestible meal with the extra nourishment, calories and carbohydrates this dish provides.

Tips for Healthier Mac and Cheese

Many macaroni and cheese recipes call for enriched-flour macaroni, butter, whole milk, heavy cream, and even cream cheese. We substituted whole wheat macaroni, which increases fiber, iron and other nutrients; olive oil for butter; 1% milk instead of whole milk; and low fat cheddar cheese instead of whole milk cheese.

Taking these steps significantly reduces the amount of saturated fat, cholesterol and calories without losing the creamy texture.

We used a combination of three cheeses: Cheddar, for that classic mac and cheese flavor; Parmesan for a hint of nuttiness; and fontina, a soft cheese that is more flavorful than mozzarella, for added creaminess. However, you can use all cheddar cheese or any combination you like or have on hand in your refrigerator.

So for a special treat, toss the blue box and opt for making your own healthier homemade version of macaroni and cheese.


  • 4 cups cooked (equals 2 cups dried) whole wheat elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ cup minced onions
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
  • ½ cup dry white wine (½ cup of 1% milk can be substituted)
  • 2 cups 1% milk
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon black or white pepper
  • 1 cup grated sharp low-fat cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup grated fontina cheese
  • ⅛ to ¼ cup dried bread crumbs
  • parsley for garnish, optional


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.*
  2. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
  3. Heat a large saucepan (3 to 4-quart size) to medium high then add the olive oil and onions. Sauté several minutes until onions are soft and translucent.
  4. Reduce heat to medium and stir in the flour. Stir for about one minute to coat the onions. The mixture may seem dry.
  5. Slowly whisk in the wine and stir until you have a smooth sauce.
  6. Add 2 cups of milk, paprika, dry mustard, salt and pepper, and simmer over low heat, stirring constantly, until the white sauce begins to thicken, about 5 to 10 minutes.
  7. Gradually stir in the cheddar, parmesan and fontina cheeses and continue stirring until cheeses are melted and sauce is smooth.
  8. Add the macaroni and stir until coated.
  9. Pour macaroni and cheese into an 8”x 8” casserole dish coated with cooking spray, or separately into ramekins. Ramekins make a good choice if only a few people are to be served. The remainder can be frozen to be enjoyed later.
  10. Sprinkle macaroni and cheese with some bread crumbs and minced parsley, if desired.
  11. Bake for 20 minutes until cheese starts to bubble. If using ramekins, be sure to place in a baking dish to catch any cheese that may cook down the sides.

*Baking the macaroni and cheese is optional. It tastes great served right from the saucepan for a quick meal.

Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Information
Per 3/4 cup serving: 446 calories; 18.5g total fat (9.2g saturated, 1.0g polyunsaturated, 7.3g monounsaturated); 716mg sodium; 45mg cholesterol; 41.5g carbohydrate; 3.9g fiber; 4.8g sugars; 25g protein; 219mg potassium.

author name

Stephanie Swavely, RD, CSO, LDN

Stephanie Swavely, RD, CSO, LDN, is an oncology dietitian and patient navigator at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute.

Education: A graduate of West Chester University with a B.S. in Nutrition, Swavely sits on the Board of Directors of the Central Pennsylvania Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Call: 717-544-9400

About LG Health Hub

The LG Health Hub features breaking medical news and straightforward advice to help individuals of all ages make healthy choices and reach their wellness goals. The blog puts articles by trusted Lancaster General Health clinical experts, good 'n healthy recipes, videos, patient stories, and health risk assessments at your fingertips.


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