Cravings Made Healthy: Mac & Cheese

Janie’s Kitchen tweaks a few ingredients to create a creamy, gooey mac-and-cheese without a Lipitor chaser.

Cravings Made Healthy: Mac & Cheese

I am the mac-and-cheese fanatic. If it’s on the menu, I always order it. If it’s not and I think its an omission, I’ll request it. I might not always finish it, but will always indulge my inner child when a fix is available. Most of us crave mac-and-cheese but don’t eat as much as we’d like due to the high fat content. The béchamel sauce, which serves as the base for real macaroni and cheese, is one of the three mother sauces of French cuisine. Also referred to as a roux, it is comprised of butter and flour, which is then cooked in whole milk (note: we haven’t even talked about the cheese yet!). We all know that butter is high in fat, and not ideal for you in large concentrations to begin with, and flour (except the whole wheat kind) is likewise not nutritionally ideal. Adding this combination an already decadent treat is pushing it, especially if you’re pregnant. So how do we make healthy macaroni and cheese and still have it taste naughty and delicious?


My solution was substituting a secret ingredient that will change your views on mac-and-cheese forever: cottage cheese. Yes, you read it correctly – cottage cheese. Low-fat cottage cheese is your saving grace, especially when pregnant. Women need to consume 75 to 100 grams of protein per day when pregnant to properly care for growing mama and baby. One serving of low fat cottage cheese has 25 grams of protein, and nearly half of the four servings of calcium recommended daily.

Seriously, one 16-oz container of low fat cottage cheese puréed in a Cuisinart until creamy will provide a delicious béchamel substitute. The mac-and-cheese recipe below is my go-to anytime I have a craving. When complete, it serves four people the way mac was meant to be enjoyed -- in big spoonfuls -- or seven people on a diet. One serving of my mac-and-cheese has 42 of the 75-100g of protein and 100 percent of the 1200mg of the daily calcium recommended for expecting mothers. If you use whole wheat pasta, this recipe will also provide almost 100 percent of the whole grains needed daily. Talk about a gold medal winning mac-and-cheese!

Recipe courtesy of Janie's Kitchen.


  • 1 (16oz.) Container of Low-Fat Cottage Cheese
  • 1 Cup of Grated Extra Sharp White Cheddar Cheese
  • 1 Cup of Grated Reggiano Parmesan Cheese
  • 1 Tablespoon of Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of Black Pepper
  • 1 Package of Whole Wheat Pasta
  • 1 Tablespoon of Salt (for the pasta water)


1. Place cottage cheese in a blender or mixer and pulse until the curds turn creamy.

2. Grate the cheeses and in batches add to the cottage cheese mixture.

3. Add apple cider vinegar and black pepper.

4. Meanwhile bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling add salt and follow the pasta instructions on the package.

5. Before draining the pasta save 1 cup of the starchy pasta water.

6. Drain pasta and place back in the large pot.

7. Add ½ cup of the pasta water back into the pasta and 1 large scoop of the cheese mixture and stir. Add another scoop of the cheese mixture and more pasta water if needed. The starchy water allows the pasta and cheese to melt together to create creaminess without butter or milk.

8. Stir in the last cheese mixture and place pasta in a serving bowl.

9. Optional: Add breadcrumbs on top of pasta and place in the oven on broil until the crumbs turn golden brown.

10. Serve warm.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

    You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

    Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

    As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

    Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

    Keep reading Show less

    The important safety tip parents need to know about sleep + car seats

    Why you might want to plan for more pit stops on your next road trip.

    When we become parents we don't just have to learn how to take care of a baby, we also have to learn how, when and why to use all the different kinds of baby gear.

    Keep reading Show less