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Macaroni and cheese is generally popular among the young tykes, but as an adult, I just can't shy away from it either. It's creamy and delicious! But  mac and cheese is not known for its outstanding nutrition. High fat ingredients such as cheese, whole milk and butter make it a high calorie dish. However, a few modifications and additions and voilà! Mac and cheese can turn into a healthy entrée or side dish.

Instead of butter, use trans-fat-free margarine and instead of whole milk, use non-fat milk. Try a mixture of low-fat cheeses and use whole grain pasta rather than enriched. Get creative and dress up your macaroni and cheese by adding vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, spinach or artichokes. Whole wheat panko bread crumbs or crackers can add a nice crunch. And if you're missing the meat, try chicken or tuna. The comfort of a macaroni and cheese meal can still be included in a healthy diet.

Spinach Artichoke Mac and Cheese (Printable PDF)

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 (6 oz.) bag fresh baby spinach

1 Tablespoon trans-fat-free margarine

1 ½ Tablespoons flour

1 ½ cups non-fat milk

¼ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon white pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

¼ cup grated Parmesan Cheese

¾ cup reduced-fat Colby and Monterey Jack cheese

1 (7.5 oz.) can artichoke hearts, drained and halved

8 oz. whole grain medium shells

¼ cup panko bread crumbs

Cook macaroni shells according to package directions, omitting salt. Spray a large skillet with non-stick cooking spray; add garlic and spinach. Cook until spinach is wilted; remove from skillet and set aside. In the same skillet, add margarine. When melted, sprinkle with flour; whisk to combine. Add milk and continuously whisk until it just begins to thicken. Add salt, pepper, cayenne, and cheeses. Stir to melt. Add artichokes and cooked pasta. Fold in spinach and top with bread crumbs.

Yield: 4 servings


Nutritional analysis per serving: 320 Calories, 7 grams fat, 15 milligrams cholesterol, 690 milligrams sodium, 52 grams carbohydrate, 7 grams dietary fiber, 17 grams protein