A favorite comfort food recipe gets a makeover just in time for Thanksgiving.

There’s no need to avoid macaroni and cheese just because you’re trying to follow a healthy eating plan. This low fat recipe is comfort food at its best.

I recommend using a whole grain macaroni for this macaroni and cheese, because the cheese sauce seems to cover the earthy flavor of the high fiber macaroni. But if the whole grain pasta is still too rustic-tasting for you, try going half and half — half whole grain and half regular macaroni.

The secret ingredient in the topping of this healthy recipe is almonds. Chock full of fiber, protein, magnesium and Vitamin E, with absolutely zero choleseterol, almonds are on many nutritionists’ lists of superfoods. And because of their natural oils, there’s no need to add extra oil or butter to the topping.

Healthy Macaroni and Cheese

  • 1 16 oz. package whole grain or whole wheat macaroni, such as Barilla
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 red pepper, diced finely
  • 1 orange pepper, diced finely
  • 1 medium zucchini, diced finely
  • 3 Tbsp. white whole wheat flour (such as King Arthur)
  • 1 12 oz can nonfat evaporated milk
  • 1 cup low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup shredded low-fat cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped dry-roasted salted almonds
  • 2 cups seasoned croutons
  • salt and pepper to taste

Spray a 13 x 9 pan with nonstick cooking spray. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside.

Heat olive oil and butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion, peppers and zucchini. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 8-10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle flour over vegetables and stir until well combined. Add evaporated milk and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and let the mixture simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in cheeses until melted.

Pour vegetable cheese sauce over macaroni. Fold in until well combined. Transfer to prepared 13 x 9″ pan.

Put almonds and croutons in a food processor fitted with metal blade. Process until mixture is fine crumbs. Sprinkle on top of macaroni and cheese. Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes until heated through.

Serves 12.

Per serving: 243 calories, 12 g fat, 17 mg cholesterol, 447 mg sodium, 23 g carbohydrates, 3 g fiber, 12 g protein, 18% Vitamin A, 48% Vitamin C, 23% calcium, 7% iron.

For more from Latwanas, read her personal blog and follow her on twitter

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