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Best Boxed Macaroni and Cheese Review

It is hard to beat good homemade macaroni and cheese, but the best boxed macaroni and cheese can be a real family-pleaser and time saver.

best boxed macaroni and cheese
Macaroni and Cheese–A Kid Favorite!

These days, there are countless macaroni and cheese products.  Frozen, refrigerated, or boxed varieties can be microwaved, baked, or prepared on a stovetop. There is a lot to choose from! 

This post features information about the best boxed macaroni and cheese brands. 

Clearly, I have not tried every macaroni and cheese product available, so I am keeping it simple by narrowing down my top picks into two categories of boxed macaroni and cheese:  best traditional and best whole wheat. 

I investigated several popular brands like Kraft’s traditional macaroni and cheese and Velveeta shells and cheese.  Taste, texture, calorie, fat and sodium content, and artificial additives and preservatives were all considered when choosing my top picks.

Best Boxed Macaroni and Cheese (Traditional):  Trader Joe’s Macaroni and Cheese-Wisconsin Cheddar

This brand does not require adding butter or margarine, so the fat and calorie content is half of most traditional brands.  Don’t worry, you don’t have to sacrifice taste! 

This pasta has a delicious, tangy, cheddar cheesy flavor.  Kids will appreciate the fun, classic tube shaped pasta.  Parents can feel good about serving this product as it contains no preservatives and the orange-yellow color comes from annatto seed, not artificial food coloring. 

Unfortunately, this mac is only available in Trader Joe’s stores.  

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 3 servings per box

  • Calories- 270
  • Total Fat- 4g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 500 mg
  • Carb- 47 g
  • Fiber- 2 g
  • Sugars- 3 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Best Boxed Macaroni and Cheese (Whole Wheat):  Annie’s Homegrown Organic Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar

Similar to my traditional favorite, this brand does not require adding butter or margarine.   This white cheddar variety has a sharp taste, and the shells have a firmer bite than most shells and cheese varieties. 

Annie’s is made with certified organic whole wheat pasta and certified organic white cheddar cheese.  It is an excellent source of fiber, and is made with 100% whole grain, containing 48 grams per serving! 

See Whole Grains: Wheat, White Wheat, What? for more information about whole grains.   You can find Annie’s Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar at grocery and natural food stores nationwide.

Nutrition Facts: (2.5 oz/1 cup prepared with 2% milk) about 2.5 servings per box

  • Calories- 260
  • Total Fat- 5g
  • Saturated Fat- 2g
  • Trans Fat- 0g
  • Sodium- 580mg
  • Carb- 44 g
  • Fiber- 5 g
  • Sugars- 7 g
  • Protein- 10 g

Adding vegetables like tomatoes, peas, and broccoli to mac and cheese is an easy way to boost the nutritional value of any meal. Incorporating vegetables is an effective approach for introducing new or unaccepted foods to younger children that already love mac and cheese. 

Get creative!  

What are your favorite boxed macaroni and cheese dinners?

Disclaimer: Just The Right Byte provided an objective and independent review of these products; no affiliations or support was obtained from any grocer or food marketer.

Contributing Author:  Katherine Fowler, MS, RD, LDN

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  1. What is it about Mac n’ Cheese that is soooo alluring? I know I still have fond memories of it from when I was a kid. Ha! I really wish we could get a Trader Joe’s up in Utah!

    Recently, I’ve just started making quinoa and then stirring in milk, butter, and some real cheese. I feel like it has a better nutrition profile–a whole “grain”, some more protein, something other than wheat, and real cheese…easy peasy and my son loves it!

    http://www.truelu.com/2011/07/quin-n-cheese.html

  2. 1 lb Fusilli or Macaroni Pasta1 gal Water salted and boiling2 Tbs Butter2 Tbs Flour4 c Milk4 c Vermont Cheddar Cheese grated c Parmesan Cheese grated c Bread Crumbstt Salt Pepper. Today I am going to be preparing for you home made Macaroni and Cheese definitely a family favorite of ours.

  3. I just made the rice cooker mac & cheese from weelicious.com the other night & it’s really yummy–& super easy! It’s just got noodles, broth, cheese, & milk (she adds salt, but I skipped it), so all natural ingredients I always have at home. I use whole wheat noodles, lower sodium vegetable broth, 1% milk, & low-fat cheese, so it’s not all that bad for you, as far as this dish goes. Next time, I want to add some pureed cauliflower too, a la the sneaky chef, to add a little more nutrition. 🙂

    1. OK, as a busy working mom, I am always intrigued by anything that can be made in the crockpot–I will check this out! Thanks for the tip!

  4. Both good choices. I’m wondering — do you have any good, healthy recipes for homemade Mac and Cheese?

    1. Great question, Amy!  I do have two recipes for “lighter” homemade macaroni and cheese to share taken from www.myrecipes.com.
      They can be found under: Creamy stove top macaroni and cheese; three cheese macaroni and cheese.