When it comes to an easy homerun dinner for the family, the kid-friendly flavors of mac and cheese rarely disappoint. But depending on the brand you choose, the actual mac and cheese nutrition content can be a lot less satisfying. At Nurture Life, we believe that kids deserve better than empty calories and artificial flavors—and what better kids meal to reimagine than this universal childhood favorite?
Label by label, we’ll show you why our Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash is the best choice for a delicious, nutritious, ready-to-enjoy meal. Our four-cheese mac and cheese recipe maintains that creamy goodness and familiar flavor your kids love, only in age-appropriate, nutrient-dense servings that even pediatric registered dietitians feel good feeding their kids.
Let the mac vs. mac showdown begin!
1. Nurture Life vs. Kraft Original Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
To be fair, we’ll start by giving some credit to Kraft. We applaud any effort that the food industry takes to join us in providing better meals for kids, and this brand has made recent strides by removing artificial flavors, preservatives and colors. These are definitely worthwhile steps toward improving the quality of Kraft mac and cheese ingredients…but the “good stuff” pretty much stops there.
While a serving of Kraft’s mac and cheese comes in at around 25% of the weight of our Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash, it dishes out over 85% of the calories! At the same time, Kraft’s comparatively tiny serving size packs in more sodium and more sugar than ours.
Don’t get us wrong; a larger portion doesn’t necessarily make a meal better or more nutritious. (Eating four times the Kraft mac and cheese would not make it any healthier. In fact, that amount would exceed the recommended daily sodium intake—even for adults!) The reason we highlight our meal’s portion size is that it’s been thoughtfully balanced based on the nutrients kids need. The added heft of our Mac & Cheese comes not from empty calories or extra cheese but from smoothly pureed organic butternut squash, providing an important serving of vitamins A and C as well as dietary fiber.
What to consider: Although Nurture Life’s Mac & Cheese does have higher cholesterol and total fat, it’s a complete meal, offering the same amount of protein as Kraft with much more fiber and veggies. You won’t have to supplement our Mac & Cheese with additional sides or snacks to keep your little one feeling satisfied and full.
2. Nurture Life vs. Annie’s Deluxe Rich & Creamy Shells & Classic Cheddar Microwavable Mac & Cheese Cup
Annie’s has built a reputation as a healthier alternative to Kraft, and there are slightly fewer sugars in roughly the same number of calories in Annie’s mac & cheese. A cursory glance at the label above may even make it seem like Annie’s and Nurture Life’s meals are roughly equivalent—but again, we shouldn’t overlook the serving size!
Like Kraft, Nurture Life’s Mac & Cheese is well over three times the size of Annie’s microwavable cup. Our meal has more calories and fat but is significantly larger, has the same amount of protein, and offers six times the dietary fiber. (Annie’s meal does have wheat pasta, but it’s not 100% whole wheat like ours. The additional lack of veggies results in the comparatively negligible amount of dietary fiber.)
It’s also worth noting the relatively high sodium content of Annie’s mac and cheese; it has even more than Kraft! For toddlers ages 1–3, the daily recommendation for sodium is less than 1,500 milligrams per day, putting this one little cup at roughly 40% of a toddler’s recommended intake.
What to consider: Annie’s is certainly not the worst option out there, but when you look closer at the nutrition labels, you’ll see that it’s just barely worthy of its reputation as better than Kraft mac and cheese nutrition. Because Annie’s mac and cheese has no veggies, it lacks any notable amount of the essential nutrients that Nurture Life’s meal serves, including vitamin D, vitamin C and iron.
3. Nurture Life vs. Amy’s Macaroni & Cheese
Unlike the stovetop box from Kraft or the microwavable cup from Annie’s, Amy’s mac and cheese comes frozen and can be heated in a microwave, toaster oven or conventional oven. It’s also the only meal here with a comparable serving size to Nurture Life’s Mac & Cheese.
While Amy’s meal does have more protein than ours, it also has significantly more calories, fat and carbohydrates per serving. These nutrients alone aren’t necessarily bad, but they aren’t particularly well balanced either—the lack of vegetables means less fiber to keep your kids full and fewer vitamins and minerals to promote healthy growth and development.
To make Amy’s macaroni and cheese a more complete meal, you’d ideally serve it with an extra side of veggies or two. You might also want to be mindful of your kid’s other meals and snacks that day, since Amy’s mac and cheese ranks highest in salt and added sugar.
What to consider: It’s worth a deeper look at each mac and cheese nutrition label. Although Amy’s mac and cheese has way more calcium (310 mg) than the comparable meals from Kraft (~130 mg) or Annie’s (80 mg), it’s only a bit more than Nurture Life (205 mg). At the same time, our Mac & Cheese serves up roughly three times the iron of Amy’s! Calcium is vital for the development of healthy bones and teeth, while iron helps carry oxygen to cells throughout the body.
Our Mac & Cheese Nutrition Leads the Pack
We’ve run the numbers, and the mac and cheese nutrition facts speak for themselves! Nurture Life’s Mac & Cheese with Butternut Squash has the highest fiber of any meal on this list, and it’s the only one with any veggies at all (which feels kind of crazy considering we all know how important veggies are!). In fact, if you look at our nutrition facts panel, you’ll see that organic butternut squash is the very first ingredient on the list—followed by fiber-rich organic whole wheat pasta.
Our kids meal is freshly made, microwavable and ready to eat in minutes, but it’s much more balanced and nutrient-dense—including more essential minerals like calcium and iron.
As with all our ready-to-enjoy meals, you won’t have to compromise on your nutritional standards just to find something your kids will accept. Our baby, toddler and kids meals have been developed by pediatric chefs, balanced by registered dietitians and taste-tested by our own kids—who, trust us, range the entire spectrum from taste bud adventurers to stubbornly picky eaters. We make the best meals because it’s what our kids deserve!
If you have any questions about the ingredients or care that goes into our Mac & Cheese and other kids meals, please reach out to our child nutrition experts at firstname.lastname@example.org.