Today I’m comin’ at you with your new favorite mac and cheese recipe. Not only is it absolutely delicious, but it’s also a lot lighter and healthier for you than the traditional cheesy bowl of goodness. Win win, right?
But, before we dive into the recipe, today I thought it would be fun to talk about the truth about cheese. Is it really bad for you, or is it okay to enjoy? Well today you’re gonna find out!
The Truth About Cheese
Here in the US, cheese is a staple in most of our recipes. We love our cheese, especially when it’s slathered on a slice of pizza, melted over a tasty burger, or sprinkled on top of our pasta. In the healthy food world, cheese gets a bad rap. It’s high in calories and saturated fat, BUT did you know that there is so much more to cheese than that? It isn’t just bad for you, and I’m here to shed some light on the good things cheese has to offer.
Cheese Keeps Us Full
Cheese is actually a complete protein (which you can read more about here), and is easily absorbed into our bodies. Also, it contains fat (which our bodies actually need), that keeps us full throughout the day. Enjoy a small chunk of cheese with a handful of grapes in the afternoon for a tasty snack that will hold you over till dinner and sate some of your cravings for unhealthy foods later on.
Also, don’t be afraid of the high fat content in cheese! Did you know that gram for gram, fat is the most efficient form of energy in our diets? It also helps keep our hair and skin healthy, our cells strong, and provides our bodies with energy later on. I am a big proponent of eating whole foods, which also includes enjoying some cheese every now and then.
Back in the day I was all into the low-fat/non-fat foods, but I’ve come to see that enjoying the real stuff is not only more satisfying, but ultimately better for me. I try to avoid filling my body with all that sugar, artificial additives and processed junk that it doesn’t need. The key is not elimination, but rather moderation, friends!
Cheese is Good for Your Teeth!
Since cheese is dairy, it contains calcium, which we all know is great for your teeth and bones. When you nibble on some cheese after a meal, it has been shown to help prevent cavities by reducing the acidity in your mouth. Cheese also stimulates the production of saliva, which can help reduce dental problems as well.
Cheese is Packed with Minerals and Vitamins
Did you know that cheese has more to it than just calcium? It’s also high in Vitamin D (which our bodies use to help absorb the calcium we consume), folic acid, zinc, phosphorous and a plethora of vitamins, including A, B2, B12 and K2. Another amazing fact about cheese is that it contains conjugated linoleic acid, which is an anti-cancer agent and metabolism booster.
Cheese Makes You Happy
Other than the amazing flavor cheese gives to dishes, it also contains this amazing amino acid called tyrosine. When that amino acid is broken down in our bodies, it makes us feel content. And that, along with the fat encouraging our brains to produce dopamine, we are happy ducks when munching on some cheese. And let’s be honest with ourselves… when is the last time some non-fat plasticy cheese made us feel that way!
So… Now what?
As you can see, cheese is not the evil enemy western society has made it out to be. It’s actually quite good for you, and as with all good things, as long as you consume it in moderation, you will be fine! Stay away from the low fat and non fat varieties, and instead enjoy the actual real stuff. You will not only feel more satisfied, but it will keep you full longer, and you’ll be happier.
Here are some things to do the next time you buy cheese:
- Go to the cheese counter rather than the pre-packaged area. They have higher quality cheese, and you can control how much you buy of it!
- Cheeses like Cheddar and Swiss are naturally higher in calories and fat. If you are looking for lighter options, grab something like soft goat cheese, feta or mozzarella.
- Try something new! You’ll never know if you’ll like a different type of cheese till you give it a try. Ask for samples at the cheese counter, and treat yo’self.
- Stay away from anything resembling plastic (I’m looking at YOU, American cheese and Velveeta!). The real stuff is way better, trust me.
Healthier Mac and Cheese
And, in a true cheese-lover fashion, today I’m sharing a healthier variation on one of my favorite comfort foods, mac and cheese. I used a variety of cheeses in this, partly to give a delicious flavor profile, and partly because I wanted to incorporate some lighter cheeses in this recipe.
I love blending up cottage cheese when I cook with it (like in these egg bites), because it gets rid of the weird texture- I’m not a fan- and I’m still enjoying the amazing benefits of cottage cheese. Did you know that cottage cheese is loaded with vitamins & minerals like calcium and magnesium, has a good amount of healthy fats and it’s been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer? It’s a go-to form of protein for athletes and people wanting to lose weight, and it’s my new favorite way to keep recipes light while still enjoying the amazingness of cheese.
In this recipe, I also added in some broccoli (because #eatyourgreens), and I used brown rice pasta. This mac and cheese is a good source of protein, contains healthy carbs, AND is absolutely delicious. It just doesn’t get much better than that!
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup flour
- Salt & pepper
- 1 3/4 cup cashew milk
- 1 cup shredded cheese (I like Colby Jack or Cheddar)
- 1 cup cottage cheese, blended smooth
- 1 cup chopped broccoli, cooked
- 3 cups cooked brown rice macaroni
- In a large saucepan and mixing with a whisk, melt the butter. Add the salt, pepper and flour and mix constantly until the mixture is bubbling and thick.
- Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Keep it boiling for one minute, then remove from the heat. Stir in the shredded cheese and cottage cheese until it's melted.
- Pour in the cooked broccoli and macaroni. Thoroughly mix together and let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken.
- Enjoy immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
Now it’s your turn to talk! Answer one of these questions in the comments below:
Do you love cheese?
What is your favorite mac and cheese recipe?