No More Boxed Macaroni

Written By: Sofia Layarda, MPH

Title: Master of Public Health

Alumni: University of California, Berkeley

Last Updated on:

Healthy Macaroni

So, when you are desperate to get dinner ready, is it possible to prepare a meal that is reasonably healthy and does not come out of a box? This time, we put ourselves to the test. We prepared two macaroni dinners – one from scratch, the other one straight out of the box (complete with the orange powder that turns into sauce). We found that both methods actually took about the same amount of time and effort, so the only difference is the nutritional value of the prepared dishes.

Kraft Dinner Macaroni & Cheese

Homemade Macaroni & Cheese

The table below sums it up:

Kraft Dinner, Macaroni
& Cheese
(1 x 225g box, Original version)

Macaroni & Cheese

(whole wheat macaroni, plain tomato sauce, grated cheese)

Serving Size:
1/3 of cooked pasta and sauce 1/3 of cooked pasta and sauce
362 kcal 318 kcal
10 g 13 g
7 g 5 g
54 g 55 g
1 g 9 g
Vitamin C:
0 43% Daily Value
591 mg (25% of daily limit for an adult) 110 mg (mostly from cheese)
13% Daily Value 20% Daily Value
66% Daily Value 80% Daily Value
13% Daily Value 0% Daily Value
Preparation time:
20 minutes 25 minutes
Price per serving:
$0.48 $1.60
(using organic canned tomatoes)$1.00 (using regular canned tomatoes)

How Did the Two Stack Up?

The two meals were fairly similar in total calories, protein, carbohydrate and fat content. The areas where they differ are fiber (our version had way more) and sodium (our version had way less). In addition, tomato sauce is rich in lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that your body can absorb easily from processed tomatoes compared to raw tomatoes. And whole grains, while being a great source of fiber, are also a good source of many antioxidants, some vitamins (B and E), and magnesium.

The Bottom Line

Whenever possible, choose the nutrient-dense option in your foods, which means packing as many nutrients as possible into every bite.

Our Simple Tomato Sauce Recipe:

  • 1/4 medium onion, chopped
  • 1/2 tomato, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1-5.5 fl. oz can tomato paste, no salt added
  • 1-14 fl. oz can organic crushed tomatoes, no salt added
  • 2 tsp olive oil


Heat oil in pan and add chopped onion, garlic and tomato. Sauté until tender, about 2 minutes. Pour in tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, and stir until heated through. Serve with cooked pasta and top with a tablespoon of shredded Parmesan cheese.


cheese, home cooking, macaroni, no more packaged foods, recipes


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