When my boys were younger, Kraft Macaroni & Cheese was a regular part of their diets. When I started changing the way I fed my family, I cut way back on the product. I didn't cut it out completely, though. I bought a box or two a month, and I was OK with it being a once-in-a-while food.
Recently, I changed my mind. I became concerned specifically about the artificial colors used in Kraft Macaroni & Cheese (and other brands). Kraft's U.K. version of mac and cheese, called Cheesey Pasta, doesn't use the artificial colors that the U.S. version uses. You can see the difference in the ingredients between the two over at Allergy Kids.
Since Cheesey Pasta isn't available here in the U.S. (and I've never seen Kraft's organic version of Macaroni & Cheese on any store shelf), I decided to try out a few different brands on my family to see if I could find one they would accept as a substitute for the blue box.
Between the two stores I went to, Whole Foods and Wegmans, I bought three boxes of alternative mac and cheese: Whole Foods 365 Macaroni & Cheese, Annie’s Organic Macaroni & Cheese and Back to Nature Organic Macaroni & Cheese.
I won't write much about the Whole Foods and the Annie's versions. My family doesn't ever want to see them in our house again. I didn't find the Annie's all that bad, but my husband and boys didn't like it all. We all found the Whole Foods version really unappealing.
We all really liked the Back to Nature Organic Macaroni & Cheese. It had the same consistency as Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, but it tasted more like cheese. We all agreed we could actually taste cheddar cheese in the Back to Nature version.
My 9-year-old felt a little duped because the photo on the box of Back to Nature Organic Macaroni & Cheese was more orange than the final product. He wouldn't eat it the first couple of times I served it after our taste test out of principle (he's since given in).
Take a look at the color of the cheese powders in the photo to the right. The Kraft cheese powder is on the left; the Back to Nature cheese powder is on the right. The Kraft cheese powder is colored with Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. Those artificial colors are both derived from coal tar, a known carcinogen. They may also cause hyperactivity and other behavior problems in children. (Source: Don't Eat That)
The Back to Nature cheese powder is colored with Annatto, a color additive derived from the achiote tree. It's a non-organic ingredient that is allowed in organic products. (Source: Don't Eat That)
I certainly don't serve my family boxed macaroni and cheese as often as I used to, but when I do serve it to them, it will most likely be from Back to Nature.
Does your family have a favorite boxed mac and cheese?