This is one that my brother has been asking me to do for a long time. I must admit that I have dragged my feet because I didn't want to have to eat boxed Mac and Cheese. Mind you, I ate a ton of this as a kid and there were two choices back then -- Kraft and the Store Brand. The two were so similar it didn't matter.
Not so now. There are dozens of varieties of Mac and Cheese on the market and it's pretty easy to make a healthier choice.
Annie's Whole Wheat Shells and White Cheddar. This is a little different but doesn't have that in your face orange cheddar cheese flavor of the other two tasted. It's great though and really much better for you with 5 grams of fiber per serving. While it might not be for your kids the addition of a little fresh ground black pepper to this one made a much tastier dish.
Annie's Macaroni and Cheese. A great boxed Mac and Cheese. Organic and all natural, this one has a much more real cheese flavor (hmmm... maybe because it's made with real cheddar cheese).
Neither of these is terribly low in sodium. The box says that it makes 2.5 servings and there's over 500 mg of sodium in each. The Annie's products call for using 1/4 cup of low-fat milk only (I used 2%). This makes the sauce rich and creamy with a lot less fat.
Sorry, but the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese loses. Made with package directions, it uses 2 tablespoons of margarine in addition to the milk. The package illustration shows stick margarine, which would likely have trans-fats in it (even though the Nutrition Facts on the package don't reflect this).
I chose to use a light spread (Promise) and the result was good at first. With the first two bites you know that this is the Kraft. It just has "that taste." After a while, though, it fades and you realize that "that taste" is an artificial representation of what someone thinks cheese should taste like. The ingredients listing has a long inventory of what goes into the "cheese sauce mix" and nowhere does it say "cheese." This doesn't really make sense.
Made by package directions this has only one gram of fiber (ONE GRAM! That's all!) There's an extra 130 calories most of which are in fat (saturated or trans-fats).