Healthy Mac and Cheese: Comfort Food Redefined

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM; Carrie Lam, MD


Dieting with healthy mac and cheeseMacaroni and cheese is a classic American favorite, loved by both children and adults, and served at practically every occasion and festivity we attend. It’s a quick and tasty meal, but if you are watching your weight and diet, you might be hesitant to devour a plateful of this yummy stuff. There are consequences to consider before eating the traditional, carb-loaded, cheesy diet. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Eating healthy doesn’t mean having to give up your favorites. With a few changes in ingredients, you can make a healthy mac and cheese that everyone can still enjoy at the family barbecue and reap the health benefits at the same time.

Steps to a Healthier Mac and Cheese

To make a healthy mac and cheese, just follow these tips to make your dish healthier, while retaining its unique cheesy flavor and texture.

  • Use low-fat ingredients. The easiest way to cut calories in your healthy mac and cheese is to replace the milk and butter with low-fat versions. Try skim milk and olive oil. However, some fat can have an important role in your diet, especially if you have advanced Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) and are in the catabolic state. In this case using the more fatty, organic whole milk and butter helps to maintain weight and further prevent weight loss.
  • Change the cheese. Hard cheeses are typically healthier, with fewer preservatives, more protein, and few calories. Consider parmesan over cheddar or mozzarella. You will get a bold salty flavor.
  • Swap the bacon for healthier options. If you add smoked cumin or paprika you won’t even notice the bacon is missing.
  • Add fresh or dried herbs. These spice up the flavor and let you limit the amount of cheese and butter necessary.
  • Be creative with your creamy sauce. Try adding butternut squash for a subtle sweetness. You won’t sacrifice the creaminess, and you’ll be adding a lot of nutrition.
  • Use whole wheat pasta. It’s a great way to get more whole grains in your diet. For those that are gluten sensitive, use gluten-free pasta.
  • Rethink your topper. Most topping recipes call for a butter-crumb topping. However, for a healthy mac and cheese alternative, replace the fat and calorie count with a sprinkling of breadcrumbs, spices, herbs, and cheese.
  • Go organic all the way. Not only will your meal have fewer hormones, pesticides, and toxins, most organic food tastes better due to the stringent laws regulating the natural growth process for both plants and animals. Fruits and veggies are often juicier, bigger, and sweeter, and meats are more tender and flavorful. For the price, you will taste and feel the difference in your body. If you have AFS or other conditions, removing as many toxins as possible from your body is a huge step toward recovery. Eating organic food is one way to eliminate these toxic substances.
  • Consider adding veggies. Mac and cheese can still taste great with broccoli, cauliflower, or your favorite veggies mixed in to add nutrients and fiber and cut down on calories.

This healthy mac and cheese recipe includes a lot of these suggestions, and the added ingredients pack a variety of health benefits that your body will thank you for.

How This Recipe Benefits Your Body

Butternut Squash

The benefits of this veggie are definitely worth incorporating it into an AFS diet. Most importantly is its ability to reduce inflammation, boost immunity, and aid in weight loss. In addition, butternut squash prevents high blood pressure, keeps bones strong, strengthens skin and nails, and promotes a healthy digestive tract.

  • 500 mg of potassium
  • 7 grams of fiber
  • 350% Vitamin A (RDA)
  • 17% magnesium
  • Contains iron, folate, and zinc
  • High in antioxidants
  • Low fat

Chicken Stock

The infamous chicken soup used by our grandparents and great-grandparents as a “cure-all” has scientific research to back it up. It is exceptional for those suffering from adrenal fatigue as it contains gelatin that helps moderate food allergies and intolerances. Chicken stock also contains minerals and trace minerals in forms that the body can absorb easily. In addition, it contains:

  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Phosphorus
  • Silicon
  • Sulfur
  • Collagen
  • Amino acids

Milk and Cheese

Dairy is nutrient rich and is a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin D among other essentials including phosphorus, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, and vitamins. It is best purchased in organic form to reduce contact with any growth hormones and over-exposure to antibiotics. If you have chosen to go dairy-free due to intolerances, there are many milk and cheese alternatives on the market.

Cayenne Pepper

This spice supports the body’s natural detox system and is great for those who have AFS as it helps clear the body of toxins and bad bacteria it has accumulated. It stimulates circulation, eliminates acidity, and regulates blood sugar. Just one teaspoon of this superfood gives you:

  • 44% vitamin A
  • 8% vitamin E
  • 7% vitamin C
  • 6% vitamin B6
  • 5% vitamin K
  • 5% manganese
  • 3% potassium

Black Pepper

This common household spice has more health benefits than most people are aware of. Consumption of pepper in your diet can improve digestion, help with weight loss, provide respiratory relief, and improve cognitive function. It also has antibacterial and antioxidant properties.

Olive Oil

One of the best choices in oils, olive oil is a healthy source of monounsaturated fats, contains large amounts of antioxidants, and has very strong anti-inflammatory properties.

Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:

Healthy mac and cheese recipe

  • 1 small organic butternut squash cut into 1-inch cubes yielding approximately 3 cups
  • 1 cup organic chicken stock
  • 1 1/2 cups nonfat organic milk
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 pound whole wheat macaroni
  • 4 ounces extra-sharp, organic and low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 4 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1/2 cup part-skim organic ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil, rice-bran oil, or grapeseed oil
  • 2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan cheese
  • Olive-oil cooking spray

For best results use a 9-inch baking pan, 4 inches deep.

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Combine squash, chicken stock, and milk in a medium saucepan and bring the contents to a boil over a medium-high heat.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer approximately 20 minutes until squash is soft.
  4. Remove from heat and mash.
  5. Stir in pepper, nutmeg, and cayenne.
  6. Meanwhile, in another pot boil water and add a bit of salt.
  7. Add noodles, cook, and drain according to package instructions.
  8. Transfer the noodles to a large bowl and add in squash mixture, cheddar, 2 tablespoons parmesan (reserving the other half for topping), and ricotta cheese. Stir to mix.
  9. Coat the pan with cooking spray and transfer the noodle mixture into it.
  10. In a small bowl, combine bread crumbs, olive oil, and remaining 2 tablespoons parmesan; sprinkle this mixture evenly over the noodles. Do not be afraid to use oils liberally if you have AFS.
  11. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes.
  12. Remove the foil and continue baking an additional 30 to 40 minutes or until lightly browned and crisp on top.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

The Importance of a Healthy Diet for AFS

Healthy mac and cheese to improve your overall healthAll of these ingredients play a role in a healthy diet, and this is a vital tool for recovering from adrenal fatigue.

By incorporating recipes like this healthy mac and cheese dish into your lifestyle, your body will be receiving the nutrients it needs and avoiding the toxins it does not. Many sufferers of Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome are very sensitive to the food they consume, and they must exert extreme caution not to cause more stress to the body than it can handle.

Prior to beginning any new health regimes or diets, it is always important to speak to your health care practitioner or nutritionist to ensure your safety and wellbeing.

However, if you find that this recipe is a good fit for you, you can enjoy a guilt-free, healthy mac and cheese that is great for your body.

 
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.


Dr. Lam’s Key Question

By changing a few ingredients, you can make a healthy mac and cheese meal very fortifying and delicious. With this recipe, you do not have to substitute taste for nutrients. You can have them both!


Healthy mac and cheese