Take Your Pick: Macaroni and Cheese

What’s the first thought that comes to mind when someone mentions “macaroni and cheese?” Is it a warm thought of grandma’s home made creamy casserole topped with buttered breadcrumbs? Nooooo. Do you shutter when thinking of the dried out, pasty ball of noodle, served with an ice cream scoop at school lunches? Nooooo. Most likely, you are picturing an all-too-orange bowl of straight macaroni noodles, which originated in a little blue and orange box. Ding! Ding! Ding! Correct!

What is so appealing about these boxed pasta mixes? To be honest…I really can’t answer that. Besides it’s saltiness, what sparks the senses of young children that they want to eat it day in and day out? Even worse…some many young kids DO eat a product such as this every day, sometimes for more than one meal. You’re probably saying, “What’s so bad about macaroni and cheese? Why is she even bringing this up? There’s so much worse out there.”

I bring it up because we are living in a processed world. Child obesity and childhood diabetes are both on the rise. Here we are, as parents, thinking we are giving our children something good. In all reality, we’re only contributing to eating behaviors that are reliant on processed foods. I’m not exactly talking about the occasional box of mac and cheese…I’m mainly targeting those who are eating it every day, sometimes twice or thrice.

Me personally, I like to recognize the ingredients in the foods I eat. I KNOW what SHOULD be in a dish of macaroni and cheese. If I were to make it from scratch, would I include yellow 5 and yellow 6? Um…no. Macaroni and cheese SHOULD consist of: Macaroni, butter, onion, salt, pepper, flour, milk and cheese. That’s all it takes to make a perfect plate of gooey goodness.

When changing the diet of young ones to a lifestyle that is more healthy, it’s important to take baby steps. The last thing we want to do is make them feel “punished” by giving them healthier options. Isn’t it sad how we’re now in a societal position that we have to reverse the “unhealthy norm?” Since our children are already engrained with the idea of the blue and orange box, let’s compare a few products so that we can make the best decision and not shock the kids. I have four similar items to compare: Kraft Macaroni and Cheese, Annie’s Homegrown Macaroni and Cheese, Back to Nature Macaroni and Cheese and Annie’s Certified Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar.


  • Kraft: Enriched macaroni product (wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate [iron], Thiamin mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid); Cheese sauce mix (whey, milkfat, milk protein concentrate, salt, sodium tripolyphoshate, contains less than 2% of citric acid, lactic acid, sodium phoshate, calcium phosphate, yellow 5, yellow 6, enzymes, cheese culture) **recipe recommends adding margarine and 2% milk in preparation
  • Annie’s Homegrown: Organic wheat macaroni, cheddar cheese (cultured pasteurized milk, salt, non-animal enzymes), whey, buttermilk, salt, cream, natural flavor, natural sodium phosphate, annatto extract for natural color – **recipe recommends adding organic  lowfat milk in preparation but also suggests organic unsalted butter and/or organic lowfat yogurt
  • Back to Nature: Enriched Macaroni product (unbleached wheat flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate [iron], thiamin mononitrate [vitamin B1], riboflavin [vitamin B2], folic acid); cheese sauce mix (whey, cheddar cheese [pasteurized cultured milk, salt, non-animal enzymes), salt, buttermilk, sugar, potassium chloride, sour cream (cultured cream, skim milk), cornstarch, contains less than 2% of butter (cream, salt), natural flavor, non-animal enzyme modified butteroil, citric acid, dried butter, annatto and turmeric for color) **recipe recommends adding unsalted butter and 1% lowfat milk in preparation
  • Annie’s Homegrown Certified Organic Shells & Real Aged Cheddar: Organic wheat shell pasta, Organic Valley organic cheddar cheese (organic cultured pasteurized milk, salt, non-animal enzymes), organic whey, salt, natural sodium phosphate, organic annatto extract for color. **recipe recommends adding (optional) unsalted butter and lowfat milk

Nutrition label (Please note, all nutrition facts are for 1 cup prepared. There are 2.5 – 3 servings per box…so if you/your child eats a full box, roughly triple these amounts.)

  •  Kraft: Calories: 400, Fat: 19 g, Cholesterol: 15 mg, Sodium: 710 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 49 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 10 g
  • Annie’s Homegrown: Calories: 280, Fat: 4 g, Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 540 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 48 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 11 g (Please note, Annie’s Homegrown didn’t have butter in preparation)
  • Back to Nature: Calories: 330, Fat: 10 g, Cholesterol: 30 mg, Sodium: 680 mg, Total Carbohydrate: 50 g, Fiber: 1 g, Protein: 10 g
  • Annie’s Homegrown Certified Organic: Calories: 270, Fat: 4 g, Cholesterol: 10 mg, Sodium: 580 mg, Total Carbohydrates: 48 g, Fiber: 2 g, Protein: 11 g (Please note, butter was optional in preparation so these facts do not include butter.)

Cost (all prices taken from Amazon.com)

  • Kraft: $1.19 per 7.25 oz. box; $.40 per serving
  • Annie’s Homegrown: $1.84 per 6 oz. box; $.74 per serving
  • Back to Nature: $1.54 per 6.5 oz. box; $.62 per serving
  • Annie’s Homegrown Certified Organic: $1.79 per 6 oz. box; $.72 per serving


  • Kraft: You know what this tastes like- salty, highly orange,  American cheese taste, but I think the recipe has changed since I was a kid. It tastes more like cardboard than I remember
  • Annie’s Homegrown: More natural lighter orange color, salty, American cheese flavor
  • Back to Nature: Very similar to Annie’s Homegrown, saltier (also comes in bug shapes)
  • Annie’s Homegrown Certified Organic: Pale orange color, good cheese flavor, shells hold the sauce better than the macaroni noodles

Each one of these brands made me want to melt in an extra slice of American cheese. That alone tells me that I prefer home made macaroni and cheese, all the way. Although, when I picked up a box, mainly when there is a sale, it used to be Annie’s Homegrown. Now that we’ve tasted the Annie’s Certified Organic, my son and I both agree it has the best flavor (and we didn’t even add extra cheese!) I also had him compare the box ingredients to those of the Kraft. He said he’s “never eating Kraft again…what’s tripolyphosphate?”

What do you choose?

14 Responses to Take Your Pick: Macaroni and Cheese
  1. Corrin
    January 5, 2012 | 1:59 PM

    Kraft. 100%. It’s a treat.

    • Toni
      January 5, 2012 | 2:03 PM

      And you’re warning me about canned tomatoes?

      Ew. That’s all.


  2. Lisa @ Oh Boy Oh Boy Oh Boy
    January 5, 2012 | 2:15 PM

    Kids? HA! I’m the REAL Kraft lover here. I do add a bunch of salt and pepper. And I will take a good homemade anyday, just don’t have the drive to make it myself. I am still jonesing for the recipe for the mac n cheese they served at the world of whirlpool event!

    • Toni
      January 5, 2012 | 9:44 PM

      Oh, I wasn’t able to make it that day…what was special about that particular recipe?

  3. Meagan
    January 5, 2012 | 3:49 PM

    I love Annie’s Shells and Aged Cheddar if I’m trying to do the “good mom” thing and be healthy. But I’m with Corrin – Kraft is such a guilty pleasure. *g*

    • Toni
      January 5, 2012 | 9:46 PM

      I was actually rather surprised with the shells and cheese…other certified organic brand pasta dishes have left me in distaste. But this one? Surprisingly flavorful!

  4. Nellie
    January 5, 2012 | 6:37 PM

    Toni, we are honored to be considered in your list! You actually picked two different flavors of Annie’s, which is probably why they tasted different (the aged cheddar has a bit more of a mature flavor, so props to your son on his fine taste). We are always looking to grow our selection of organic macaroni & cheese, so hopefully you’ll get to try them all at some point.

    • Toni
      January 5, 2012 | 9:53 PM

      Thanks for visiting and commenting! My son and I both were pleasantly surprised with the organic shells and cheese. It’s now our favorite of the boxed pasta mixes. Though, we shouldn’t have been surprised as we enjoy many other Annie’s Homegrown products. Looking forward to trying new flavors!

  5. Maria @BOREDmommy
    January 12, 2012 | 5:39 PM

    I prefer homemade all the way!!

    • Toni
      January 14, 2012 | 7:38 PM

      Absolutely!! I could eat my weight in homemade mac and cheese…oh man…

  6. Keri
    February 17, 2012 | 11:31 PM

    i love reading your product comparisons, as i am still fairly new to buying and eating organic food. my first organic shopping trip lasted hours!! i felt lost, not knowing what to get, what was good, what my kids would eat. we have tried many things these past couple of weeks, and i have to say that Annie’s Homegrown has taken over our cabinets! we haven’t tried the mac n cheese, i’ve been making homemade, but if i did try one, i would go with Annie’s organic!

    • Toni
      February 18, 2012 | 1:38 PM

      I’m so glad you are enjoying the product comparisons. Years ago, when I first started introducing myself to buying organic food, I had the same feelings you have. At the time, my grocery budget didn’t have a lot of wiggle room either, so I was mainly fearful of buying a more expensive organic item and throwing it in the trash because my family wouldn’t eat it. I will admit, I had my fair share of unliked items…and still do from time to time (like cereal…that’s a HARD one.) Just start slow, a few items at a time and eventually you will find that it takes LESS time at the grocery store to shop organic than it does conventional! I pretty much skip the ENTIRE middle section, including those awful aisles of frozen processed meals. Congrats to you for making the organic change…you’ll never regret it. :)

  7. nicole
    April 2, 2014 | 11:27 AM

    We do homemade mac n cheese 99% of the time, 85% homemade everything else. My sister in law is one of those who fees her boys Kraft day in and day out at least once per day. The little cups as a snack (yeah, I don’t know why) as a side with dinner, as lunch on weekends. Ugh. She made a box at Grandmas house when we were all there and gave some to my kids, they wouldn’t eat it.. lol. They took 2 bites and refused the rest. She said “What’s wrong with them, all kids love mac n cheese” I said “Nothing is wrong with them. They aren’t fed packaged meals. They like actual food not over processed junk from a box. When you’re used to actual ‘real’ mac n cheese, everything else is a gross impostor.” The nerve. What’s wrong with HER is the better question. ..
    Well, that turned ugly.. haha. Sorry bout that.

  8. VincentJip
    March 8, 2017 | 6:50 AM

    Имеется такая услуга – добровольное медицинское обслуживание .
    Она предполагает, что вы платите небольшую сумму за то, что ходит на прием в течение года БЕСПЛАТНО.
    Однако опросы показали, что лишь 6% жителей Питера знают о такой программе.
    Почему так происходит?
    Да потому что частным клиникам выгоднее брать плату за каждое посещение.
    А если честный врач посоветует добровольное медицинское обслуживание клиенту – это сулит ему увольнением.
    Информация о ДМО уже вызвала множество скандалов, после того как информацию об услуге распространил один врач.
    Его уволили , после того, как он посоветовал ДМО своему пациенту.
    Самое невероятное, что информация по ДМО находились в открытом доступе, просто находили на эту информацию единицы.
    Как отстоять свои права?
    О правилах предоставления услуги и обязанностях частных клиник можно узнать, просто вбив в Яндекс фразу: “добровольное медицинское обслуживание”.
    Именно обслуживание, а не страхование.


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