Celebrating 4th of July yesterday, chances are you had some old-fashioned, all-american, macaroni and cheese at your BBQ. Mac and Cheese is a common staple of holiday meals and celebrations, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Kids love the dish. You find it at school cafeterias and diners and restaurants throughout the country. The average price of a box of mac n cheese at the grocery store is a dollar and some change, making it not just a convenient lunch or dinner item for the family, but extremely affordable. It’s also very versatile. You can add your own ingredients and create a unique pasta salad, or add some meats and make a whole meal. My daughter, like most 5 years olds, likes her Mac N Cheese plain. As long as it’s cheesy, it’s good enough for her. I, on the other hand, have other concerns.
Here is a list of ingredients from a popular brand of regular mac and cheese:
Macaroni: enriched wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate, thiamin mononitrate, riboflavin and folic acid
Cheese powder: whey (milk protein), milk protein concentrate, milk, milk fat, cheese culture, salt, sodium tripolyphosphate, sodium phosphate, calcium phosphate, yellow dye #5 , yellow dye #6, citric acid, lactic acid, and enzymes.
I don’t know about you, but I see a lot wrong with this list. For starters, the chemicals and dyes alone are enough to cause alarm. Is it really necessary to add yellow dye to the cheese? Geez! Aside from this, the noodles are made of wheat flour and the cheese sauce made with lots of milk products. Wheat is one of the most difficult grains to digest and accounts for several cases of digestive issues in people. The number of Celiac disease sufferers has increased dramatically in the last decade. Dairy is another culprit in digestive issues, perhaps even more than wheat. You do not need to be allergic to gluten or milk to suffer. Mild wheat and dairy sensitivities are enough to throw your whole digestive system off track. (More times than not, people do not even realize that they are suffering from food sensitivities.) Those popular sayings “whole wheat is better” or “milk does a body good”…just not true!
About a year ago, I had my daughter tested for allergies and food sensitivities. Lucky for her, she has no issues with dairy. She’s never drank cow’s milk, but she is definitely a cheese fanatic! She has a moderate sensitivity to wheat, so her love of bread and pasta is something I have to watch over. Shopping at Trader Joes one day, I was overjoyed to find that I did not have to compromise her love of macaroni and cheese after finding this:
As you can see, the list of ingredients is much simpler: noodles and cheddar cheese. The pasta is made from rice and the cheese sauce contains annato for coloring, a much healthier alternative than synthetic dyes.
The rice pasta cooks quickly and has a lighter consistency than wheat. The Mac-N-Cheese is definitely cheesy and my daughter absolutely loves the taste.
I recently discovered that Kraft came out with a line of Organic Macaroni and Cheese a few years back. While it’s a step in the right direction, the list of ingredients still falls short. (It contains yeast extract…basically MSG.) It was still a nice surprise to find Organic Kraft at Target for 99 cents. It’s important that these types of items become more available at places where the average family shops for bargains.
We have tried several organic brands, but have not had any luck finding a Gluten-free variety that the whole family enjoys. Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Macaroni and Cheese is our #1 choice. The back of the box says it all: