I’m making macaroni and cheese for lunch. On deciding this, I felt my usual twinge of guilt that attacks whenever I cook something out of a bag or a box. And the guilt isn’t just for health reasons–there’s the environmental aspect, too. It’s like my inner supermom, the one who cooks everything from scratch and uses only local ingredients (mostly from her garden), looks at me and just shakes her head. And then my inner environmentalist, the one who lives off the grid and eats only wild gathered stuff like bugs and kudzu leaves, stares in shock at the wasteful packaging before turning away in disgust. It’s not pretty.
But a girl’s gotta give herself a break. I mean really–what do I expect myself to do when I’m pregnant, it’s 2 pm and I haven’t made lunch yet because I forgot (!? how does that happen? how does a pregnant woman forget lunch?!?) , and my three year old announces she wants mac & cheese right now?
You’d do the same thing, inner supermom and environmentalist. You know you would.
But to appease my multiple personalities, I’ve developed a healthier version of this toddler favorite. Now you, too can strike a compromise between your lazy mom self, your environmentalist self, and your inner supermom.
1. Use whole wheat organic pasta. I’ll admit, I don’t always do this. If I have a box of mac & cheese and I’m feeling lazy, I use it. But when my inner supermom gets really snarky, this is a good way to appease her. If I do buy a box of mac & cheese, I try to get the whole-wheat organic kind.
2. Use real cheese. Of course that goes without saying, since cheese that comes looking like powder obviously has something wrong with it. Again, I don’t always do this. But I try. Local, organic cheese from free-range cows (or goats!) is even better, of course, but you can’t have everything. If I end up using the fake cheese from the box, I try to at least add some real cheese. Not sure if that actually makes it healthier, but it does taste better.
3. Add peas. Ta-da! Your carbohydrate meal is now a complete protein. Of course if you really want to do it “right” then you can add fresh peas from your garden, but if you’re having that kind of supermom day, why are you making mac & cheese? I usually use frozen organic peas, because I always have them on hand.
4. Add broccoli. Now your “lazy” meal has dark green vegetables in it! Nice job, mama. Again, I usually use frozen organic broccoli
5. Add any other vegetables you want. I usually stop with peas and broccoli, but occasionally I’ll toss in some spinach or kale as well. Carrots or bell peppers would probably be good too.
And that’s it! My easy version of a semi-healthy toddler meal. I made this today in about 20 minutes–while also typing up this post. Now that I think about it, that’s some pretty impressive multitasking. Maybe today is about to turn into a supermom kind of day.