This week on “Pimp My Health“, we’re going to show you how to pimp a dish that is the epitome of comfort food: mac & cheese. Traditionally, this meal or side-dish comes with a ton of flavor and all-around deliciousness, but if you’re not careful, it can also come with a ton of calories and fat. But with a few simple twists, not only can you reduce that unhealthiness, but you can add more nutrients with some unexpected veggies that go perfectly to complement this classic fall favorite.
1. Opt for low-fat milk and cheese. You don’t have to use skim milk, but if you go for 1% or 2% milk, you can really cut down on the fat and calories. Same thing with cheese–look for low-fat cheddar cheese or even low-fat cottage cheese, which has a nice, creamy texture. Here is one recipe where you can cut calories by 43% and fat by 66%.
2. Add some tomatoes and spinach. If you include a layer of spinach in the middle of your dish and a layer of diced, drained tomatoes on top before cooking, you will bake in a host of other vitamins and nutrients. Plus, they add a nice color to this otherwise bland-looking dish.
3. Use whole wheat pasta. With mac & cheese, you don’t always have to use elbow pasta. You can get creative and use a variety of other shapes for interest–just stick with a whole wheat version to boost fiber.
4. Add butternut squash. This is a unexpected new twist, but one that can add a wealth of creaminess and nutrition to your dish. Here is a delicious recipe to try from the Food Network that you can try:
* Cooking spray
* 1 pound elbow macaroni
* 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen pureed winter squash
* 2 cups 1 percent lowfat milk
* 4 ounces extra-sharp Cheddar, grated (about 1 1/3 cups)
* 2 ounces Monterrey jack cheese, grated (about 2/3 cup)
* 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1 teaspoon powdered mustard
* 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 2 tablespoons unseasoned bread crumbs
* 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
* 1 teaspoon olive oil
Preheat the oven to 375 and coat a 9 by 13-inch dish with cooking spray.
Add macaroni to boiling water and cook until tender but firm (5 to 8 minutes). Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
Meanwhile, place the frozen squash and milk into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally and breaking up the squash with a spoon (or you can use fresh squash). Turn the heat up to medium and cook until the mixture is almost simmering, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan and stir in the cheeses, salt, mustard and cayenne pepper. Pour cheese mixture over the macaroni and stir. Transfer into the baking dish.
Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan cheese and oil in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the top and bake for 20 minutes, then broil for 3 minutes so the top is crisp and nicely browned.