Mac n’ Cheese Upgrades

Sometimes you just have to give in and give the kids what they want. Little Man LOVES his mac ‘n cheese, and I don’t blame him. It’s rich, creamy, and satisfying. The problem is- it’s also not very nutrient dense, so let me help you upgrade your mac ‘n cheese to something your kids love and you love to feed them!

donatella arpaia recipe for mac and cheese food network recipe hsn

  • 1. When making your own, start with quality and make a healthy choice: get the high fiber or whole grain pasta.
  • 2. Look for natural cheeses and mix it up with different kinds- don’t just stick to American cheese!
  • 3. Figure out what your kids tolerate and add their favorite veggies in really small pieces. Peas, carrots, and broccoli work well and are the Little Man’s favorites.
  • 4. Add a side of raw veggies- my Little Man loves cut up cucumbers and carrots!
  • 5. Add steamed or grilled chicken for extra protein- I like to buy rotisserie chicken from the store, remove the skin and chop up white breast meat. This saves time and goes along way. You can even save the bones to make chicken stock down the road…
  • 6. For a fun twist, add Canadian bacon, (American) bacon, prosciutto, or crumbled sausage. Use chicken or turkey for lean meat.

7. If you need to make a sauce in a hurry, grab a couple slices of cheese, add a little butter or milk, and melt it over the stovetop on low/medium heat. I do this all the time!

8. When your kid is really having a melt-down and you need to make the whole meal in a hurry- microwave the pasta in a bowl with some water & put the veggies in a zip lock bag for about 30 seconds. It’s so fast & easy.

9. Add garlic bread crumbs and bake it in the oven for extra taste & a delicious crunch.

10. Check out my Italian Baked Mac & Cheese recipe. This is great for when the whole family is craving gourmet “kid food!”


1. Peas, Onion & Canadian bacon: Defrost frozen peas, sautée finely chopped onions or shallots, and lightly grill some Canadian bacon. Toss together to serve.

2. Meatball Mac & Cheese: Defrost my frozen meatballs, smash them on cutting board and crumble on top with smoked mozzarella.

3. Broccoli, Carrot, & Cheddar Mac: Steam small broccoli florets and carrot coins, stir into mac and cheese, and top with shredded cheddar. Bake in the oven until golden brown.

4. Chicken Sausage, Spinach and Mushroom Mac: Throughly cook your chicken sausage according to package and chop into coins. Sautée spinach on the stove top until wilted. Salt & pepper, and add garlic infused EVOO if your kid will tolerate it! Sautée mushrooms in butter until golden brown. Stir into mac ‘n cheese to serve.

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