Ditch Unhealthy Chemicals in Boxed Mac and Cheese with this Homemade Recipe

You probably already know that macaroni and cheese shouldn’t be considered a healthy diet staple, but new research suggests another reason to steer clear of this popular comfort food.

After a series of tests to various packaged mac and cheese products, it was confirmed that traces of chemicals called phthalates were found in the cheese powder in this boxed dish. Phthalates are industrial chemicals used to make plastics softer and more flexible and can be found in everyday products such as cosmetics, cars, electronics and more. Turns out they’re inadvertently getting into your mac and cheese mix during the production process.

The population that should cautiously avoid exposure to these chemicals the most is pregnant women and young children, as the chemicals disrupt healthy development.

The best thing to do to avoid chemicals and other unhealthy ingredients in your diet is to avoid processed foods as much as possible. Luckily, registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and health coach, Grace Derocha, came up with a tasty twist on traditional macaroni and cheese with this Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese.

The recipe uses healthy substitutes like riced cauliflower or zoodles to add nutritional benefits and lower carbohydrates, without losing flavor. One cup of cooked macaroni noodles has about 200 calories, while vegetables like cauliflower and zucchini have less than 50 calories.

An important aspect about A Healthier Michigan’s macaroni and cheese recipe is that it is not missing the creamy texture. Fresh ingredients’ including cheddar cheese, cottage cheese and Greek yogurt are used to replace the chemical-filled powder cheese.

This tasty dish is guaranteed to be a family favorite and will have kids asking for more!

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Header Photo Credit: The Marmot, via Flickr

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Mac and cheese in a pan, on a table


  • 1 lb of your favorite macaroni
  • 4 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, divided
  • 8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese
  • 8 oz. plain low-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 head of cauliflower (about 2 cups), finely chopped or riced in food processor
  • 3-4 yellow summer squash, shredded
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Baked Cauliflower Mac and Cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F
2. Cook the macaroni per the directions, under cooking it just slightly.
3. While the macaroni cooks, mix the rest of the ingredients together in a large bowl, reserving 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese.
4. Drain the macaroni and add it to the bowl. Mix until well combined.
5. Pour the macaroni into a pre-greased 9x12 baking dish.
6. Sprinkle the remaining grated cheddar cheese over the top.
7. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
8. Turn on the broiler and broil for 6-9 more minutes until the top turns brown and crispy. Enjoy!

Recipe Photo Credit: Sando Elia, A Healthier Michigan

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