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12 Recipes to Lighten Up Your Mac 'n' Cheese

Butternut Mac and Cheese

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Using butternut squash in the sauce adds heaps of fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C to a traditionally not-so-healthy dish. Plus, the veggie's color means that your mac 'n' cheese stays true to its orange-hued roots. The mild squash flavor doesn't compete, only complements the cheese for a creamy sweetness that makes you wonder how you ever ate that stuff from a box. Give this Butternut Mac 'n' Cheese a shot for a ridiculously satisfying dish that clocks in at only 300 calories per serving.

Quinoa Spinach Mac 'n' Cheese

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This Quinoa Spinach Mac 'n' Cheese is the perfect example of how moderation and a few key recipe tweaks can make all the difference. While the recipe does call for a bit of decadent cheese and butter, it also swaps traditional pasta for protein-packed quinoa and throws in spinach for some color and an extra nutritional boost. (If you're already hooked on the grain, try these 10 New Ways to Eat Quinoa.)

Skinny Pizza Mac 'n' Cheese

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What happens when you combine two comfort food favorites to make one healthy and delicious dish? This Skinny Pizza Mac 'n' Cheese is created. Roasting roma tomatoes and tukey pepperoni gives these familiar ingredients a boost of flavor. To keep it skinny, Greek yogurt gives the sauce its creaminess and whole wheat macaroni bumps up the fiber. (Psst: Fiber is The Weight-Loss Nutrient You're Still Not Eating Enough Of.)

Gluten-Free No-Mac 'n' Cheese

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Trade pasta for cauliflower to create the ultimate Gluten-Free No-Mac 'n' Cheese. The coconut-milk based sauce latches on to the crunchy veggie for a cheesy indulgence in every bite. Trust us, you won't miss the pasta at all.

Spicy Southwest Mac 'n' Cheese

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This favorful Spicy Southwest Mac 'n' Cheese uses jalapeño, pinto beans, and cayenne to give each bite lots of pop without upping the calories or fat. Plus, since it uses corn pasta and a cashew cheese sauce, this tasty dish is 100 percent vegan!

White Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese

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Whole wheat rotini serves two purposes in this White Cheddar Mac 'n' Cheese: It adds filling, guiltless fiber and clings to the white cheddar sauce for an extra creamy mouthful. The recipe sneaks in some butternut squash to up the vitamin count and toasted walnuts bring a surprising nutty flavor that also adds an extra dose of protein to your bowl. (For more: 6 Healthy Recipes Starring Your Fall Favorites.)

"Healthified" Broccoli Mac 'n' Cheese

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Even the biggest mac 'n' cheese foodies will go crazy over this change-up combo. This "Healthified" Broccoli Mac 'n'Cheese steers clear of heavy cream, and instead utilizes cauliflower with milk to create a creamy sauce. But the calorie cutting doesn't stop there. In addition to putting broccoli alongside the pasta, you add rich, nutty Parmesan cheese into the mix. The result? A dish that tastes too good to be healthy.

Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash Mac 'n' Cheese

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Sure, this Twice Baked Spaghetti Squash Mac 'n' Cheese doesn't skimp on milk or cheese, but nixing the gluten and swapping it for sweet spaghetti squash counts for a lot! The twice-baking process makes sure each bite has both a gooey and crunchy component. (If spaghetti squash isn't your thing, check out these 10 Healthy Pasta Alternatives.)

Stovetop Avocado Mac 'n' Cheese

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One of our favorite green fruits (yes, avocado is a fruit!) makes its entrance into the world of mac and cheese. The Stovetop Avocado Mac 'n' Cheese marries naturally creamy avocado with macaroni and cheese for a next-level recipe. Using pepper jack cheese, cilantro, and lime juice, it's a total flavor explosion; but amidst all that yumminess are the healthy perks such as heart-healthy fats, fiber, and vitamins galore. (Check out these other 6 Fresh Ways to Eat Avocado!)

Kale Mac 'n' Cheese

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Salads aren't the only way you can get your daily serving of greens. This Kale Mac 'n' Cheese boasts tons of the good-for-you leaves atop whole wheat pasta for a serious fiber punch. For some so-worth-it splurge, a goat cheese and gruyere combo gives it an adult upgrade.

Carrot Mac 'n' Cheese Pasta

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In this gluten-free, dairy-free Carrot Mac 'n' Cheese Pasta, the whole wheat noodles become a vehicle for a sweet and spicy, veggie-heavy sauce that will make your tastebuds sing. While initially whipped up as a sneaky way to add veggies to kids' diets, this low-cal twist will be a crowd-pleaser among adults too.

Sweet Potato Mac 'n' Cheeze

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The sauce for this Sweet Potato Mac 'n' Cheeze is so easy to make—dump all ingredients into a blender and voilà! The sweetness of the sweet potato is countered with kick from spices like onion and chili powder. Just toss with your pasta of choice and dinner is on the table in less than 30 minutes.

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