Healthier Mac and Cheese & The Truth About Cheese

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

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. 

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

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! 

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

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! 

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

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. 

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

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! 

Healthier Mac and Cheese

Healthier Mac and Cheese

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Pour in the cooked broccoli and macaroni. Thoroughly mix together and let it sit for 5 minutes to thicken.
  4. Enjoy immediately, or keep it in the fridge for up to a week.
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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?

This healthier mac and cheese is perfect for meal prep and easy to whip together for dinner. | read more at happilythehicks.com

References:
https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/animal-product/health-benefits-of-cottage-cheese.html
http://hellogiggles.com/7-reasons-cheese-is-good-for-you/
http://www.berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/nutrition/slideshow/cheese-bad-your-health

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What do you think

  1. Jackie

    March 15th, 2017 at 6:18 am

    Love that you highlighted some of the benefits of cheese! We learned a lot of this in RD school! I’m also with you on the low fat/no fat…I opt for full fat versions of things all the time now. It’s much healthier than the lower fat versions..if they take out the fat, the replace it with other stuff. Also, that recipe looks so good!

  2. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:52 pm

    Yay!! I’m glad you’re on my side with that. I cringe when I think of low and non fat things now haha. And thanks, Jackie! This mac and cheese is seriously DELICIOUS.

  3. Harmony at Momma To Go

    March 15th, 2017 at 7:06 am

    I love cheese and Mac & cheese. I try to shred myself for I can I read that was healthier

  4. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:51 pm

    Yes!! That’s the one thing I didn’t mention about cheese- ALWAYS shred it yourself. Not only does it melt better, but it’s way tastier, AND it’s not covered in the crap companies cover it in to not stick together. Once I started shredding my own cheese, I never went back.

  5. Candy Kage

    March 15th, 2017 at 7:23 am

    Love a good mac and cheese and interesting reading about the cheese.

  6. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    Glad you enjoyed the post, Candy!

  7. Jacki Quinones

    March 15th, 2017 at 7:25 am

    Cheese is my favorite! I didn’t know it had so many benefits. I think i’ll keep it around and try out this recipe!

  8. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    It’s crazy how good it is, isn’t it? I love that I don’t have to feel guilty when I indulge in a little bit of cheese every now and then. Hope you give the recipe a try- you’ll love it!

  9. Charlotte

    March 15th, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Did I know that cheese is a complete protein? I don’t think I know that! Cheese makes me unbelievably happy. I’m so glad to read a post with a healthier mac ‘n cheese recipe, as this is a definitely staple here :) Thanks for sharing!

  10. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    I know, that’s crazy, isn’t it?! Who knew cheese was so awesome? And you should definitely give it a try- you can’t even tell it’s better for you. So so yummy!

  11. Jessica Bradshaw

    March 15th, 2017 at 1:40 pm

    I am obsessed with cheese. That is the number one reason I couldn’t be full vegan. This mac and cheese sounds fantastic! Get in my belly!!

  12. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Girl, I am right there with you… Besides the fact that I love chicken and eggs way too much haha. And you would love this recipe. You seriously can’t tell that it’s been healthified!

  13. Ann

    March 15th, 2017 at 11:02 pm

    This looks delicious, I love mac & cheese, I am definitely gonna try your recipe.

  14. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Awesome, I hope you like it, Ann!

  15. Danielle Siero

    March 16th, 2017 at 5:44 am

    Cheese makes you happy… #truth. Now I want to get buy all the cheese! I will have to try this recipe!

  16. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    AMEN! I love everything cheesy. <3 And you definitely should- it's seriously amazing.

  17. Christina Nesbitt Shoemaker

    March 16th, 2017 at 10:14 am

    I’m loving the cashew milk and cottage cheese!! What a fun twist on a classic, Becca!

  18. Rebecca @ Happily the Hicks

    March 17th, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    Thanks Christina! I was a little wary about that combo, but decided to just go for it, and I am SO glad I did. The flavors are spot on, and you wouldn’t even though it had been “healthified”. Deeelish.

  19. stephanieabills

    March 22nd, 2017 at 10:53 am

    Yesss! This is exactly what I needed right now. I am a Mac & Cheese addict and this healthy alternative just speaks to me. It looks – and sounds – amazing!

  20. Happily the Hicks

    March 23rd, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Girl you will LOVE this mac and cheese. I froze some from last week to eat for lunches this week because it’s just. that. good. Creamy, delicious and healthy!

  21. Julie Hoag

    March 22nd, 2017 at 6:29 pm

    This looks and sounds totally delicious! I love mac and cheese and cooked brocolli, I will have to try this one out!!!

  22. Happily the Hicks

    March 23rd, 2017 at 6:16 am

    You should!! This mac and cheese is seriously AMAZING. The best part is that you don’t feel gross after eating it, because it’s so much better for you than the typical mac & cheese.

I'm a sinner saved by grace who loves staying active and eating healthy. I am married to my high school sweetheart, Isaac, and I'm mama to James and an adorable puppy named Lillie.

MORe

I'M BECCA, AND I'M SO GLAD YOU'RE HERE.

healthy living blogger

EULESS TEXAS

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