July 17, 2008

Mac and Cheese Grows (And Shapes!) Up

After years of being labeled an unhealthy kids' food, mac and cheese is receiving a glamorous, adult-friendly makeover from two fairly new companies -- Road's End Organics and Fiber Gourmet.

Road's End Organics offers a delectable vegan and organic whole wheat elbow macaroni "Mac and Chreese" (yes, that is 'cheese' with an extra 'r') that is also free of soy and nuts.

The sauce gets most of its flavor from nutritional yeast, a popular vegan alternative to cheese.

The best part? Each serving (half the box) adds up to:

340 calories
0 grams of saturated fat
400 milligrams of sodium
8 grams of fiber

14 grams of protein

25% of the Vitamin B12 Daily Value (I mention this since we are referring to a vegan product)

This passed not only my taste test with flying colors, but also those of traditional Mac 'n Cheese eaters (some of which asked me, "Are you SURE this isn't real cheese?")

That is quite a feat, considering I used unsweetened soymilk as a base for the "cheese" sauce. If you are not of the vegan persuasion, you can certainly use cow's milk if you so choose -- preferably skim or 2%.

Fiber Gourmet meanwhile, is keeping the dairy in mac and cheese but adding fiber in plentiful amounts.

One serving (1 cup) of their new kosher-friendly, free-of-artificial-colors Mac and Cheese product contains a whooping 18 grams of fiber!

A few things worth noting:

First of all, the fiber comes from -- yay! -- actual food (modified wheat starch and wheat gluten, to be exact) rather than synthetic dust.

Secondly, the folks at Fiber Gourmet have done an amazing job of creating a high-fiber pasta with top-notch taste and texture.

There isn't the slightest hint of graininess, nor does the pasta quickly congeal into a great big ball of mush like those awful low-carb soy pastas that were the rage for all of eight seconds in 2003. Are we SURE that wasn't really fussilli shaped cardboard?

Because the fiber content is so high, I would recommend having half a cup in one sitting (as a tasty side dish that delivers a reasonable 330 milligrams of sodium, more than respectable 9 grams of fiber, and only 90 calories!), especially if your current diet is not very high in fiber (in which case, too much too soon causes an intestinal revolt).

Also, keep in mind that children's fiber needs are different from adults. For children ages 3 to 16, fiber needs are determined by taking the child's age and adding 5 to it.

Hence, the 18 grams of fiber in each serving is too much for a 9 year old.

With pre-teens, for instance, I would suggest mixing half a cup of Fiber Gourmet's mac and cheese with another half cup of a "regular" variety.

In any case, this is a wonderful way to boost fiber intake in a tasty, low-calorie way.

Mac and cheese. It's not just for kids anymore.


Anonymous said...

I've tried the high fiber mac & cheese, and I can agree it doesn't taste anything like mush. But I'm not sold on the overall experience being better than my preferred mac & cheese plus another high fiber option. I think your solution of mixing the high fiber mac & cheese with the "regular" is a great idea, especially for parents.

Anonymous said...

Vegan mac & cheese? Sounds absolutely disgusting. And that is an excessive amount of fiber. Packing loads of fiber into EVERYTHING is getting out of control. We do not NEED that much. I will stick with my homemade version made with REAL sharp cheddar cheese and - gasp - white elbow macaroni that is not high in fiber!! (oh the horror).

Andy Bellatti said...


I love how you make up your mind about how something tastes based on how it sounds. Did it ever cross you mind that the best way to determine how something tastes i by actually eating it?

Moving on.

Fiber consumption is at approximately half of what it should be in this country, so I think making this easier for people (by having high fiber values from FOOD, rather than synthetic products) is helpful.

I think loading bars and drinks up with protein is much more ridiculous, since most people are getting 200 - 300% of their needs every day.

And, if you read the post carefully, you will see that I am not recommending that someone have 2 servings of a mac and cheese product that contains 18 grams of fiber per serving. I specifically mention having smaller portions.