Is Annie's Mac and Cheese Healthy? A Dietitian Review (2024)

If you grew up with traditional boxed mac and cheese, you probably still enjoy it even as an adult (I know I do)! In a world where we’re always looking for a healthier option, you may be asking yourself: Is Annie’s mac and cheese healthy?

I’m Jamie, a Registered Dietitian and I love reviewing popular products so you can feel confident making food choices. Let’s dive into Annie’s mac and cheese and whether or not it’s a good choice for you and your family.

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Is Annie's Mac and Cheese Healthy? A Dietitian Review (1)

About Annie’s

Annie’s is a popular food brand that’s well known for their macaroni and cheese (and they have lots of varieties!), but also have several other food products too.

Their other food products include fruit snacks, cheddar bunnies, cheddar squares, graham crackers, cookies, graham cracker bunnies, salad dressings and even frozen foods like mini pizza bagels and pizza poppers (yum!).

All of their products are either certified organic or made with organic products. Their foods also contain no artificial flavors or synthetic colors. They often use colors that come from plants like purple carrots and beets, which is pretty cool!

If choosing organic foods with no artificial flavors or synthetic food dyes is important to you, those are major pros for buying Annie’s products versus other mac and cheese brands.

With so many options available at the grocery stores, Annie’s is often touted as a healthier alternative. Let’s get into the nutrition facts next.

Annie’s Macaroni & Classic Cheddar Nutrition

While they have lots of varieties of mac and cheese products, I’m going to review their blue box of Annie’s Macaroni & Classic Cheddar. It comes with dry noodles and a packet of cheddar cheese powder that’s to be mixed with milk and butter.

While they do have a version that’s certified organic, this one is just made with organic pasta.

Annie’s Macaroni & Classic Cheddar Nutrition Facts

You can also read more on the Annie’s Homegrown website here.

Serving Size2.5 oz dry mix
Servings per ContainerAbout 2.5
Calories270
Total fat (g)4
Saturated fat (g)2
Sodium (mg)460
Total carbohydrates (g)50
Dietary fiber (g)3
Protein (g)8
Calcium (mg)70
Iron (mg)0.8

I’ll be honest, it’s a pretty standard nutrition panel for boxed macaroni and cheese (we’ll compare with the other blue box in just a second).

It’s not surprising that it contains some saturated fat because of the cheese and is considered to be high sodium with 460mg of sodium.

One serving also contains 8 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Most of the calories are coming from carbohydrates, which makes sense since it’s a macaroni product.

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What I love about Annie’s Mac & Cheese as a Dietitian

As a dietitian, here’s what I love (yes, love) about this Annie’s mac and cheese and boxed macaroni and cheese in general:

  • It’s easy and convenient. All you have to do is boil the noodles and then add milk, butter and the cheese packet. When you’re in a pinch, it doesn’t get much simpler than that!
  • It’s fairly inexpensive. Even Annie’s macaroni and cheese is under $2 at most retailers and is often on sale for even cheaper. Their certified organic version is only about $1 more if that’s important to you.
  • It’s delicious! When you need something quick and easy, it’s a no-brainer to make something like this because it’s also delicious and often a family favorite. Personally, I think Annie’s in particular is much tastier than most other macaroni and cheese options on the market. It has a richer flavor and the cheese tastes like real cheese!
  • They have several options besides their classic cheddar to meet dietary needs. They have a new high protein, high fiber mac and cheese, a vegan mac and cheese, and even a gluten-free version.

Thoughts on processed food like boxed mac and cheese

Now, an important note is that even though it’s made with organic ingredients and marketed to be a “healthy” food, this boxed mac and cheese is still a processed food.

But guess what? Processed foods aren’t all bad.

Do you want your entire diet to be made up of boxed mac and cheese (or processed foods in general)? No, of course not. But processed food can still fit in your diet.

What matters most is the overall quality of your diet, and processed foods can be a part of that, especially when they’re adding ease and convenience to your life.

Whether something is “healthy” or not really depends on you, your diet, your lifestyle and your needs! We’re all different.

The biggest consideration for this particular product is the sodium intake, but it’s pretty standard for most mac and cheeses. If you need a low sodium diet, have high blood pressure, or you have a lot of other sodium sources in your diet, it may not be the right choice for you.

The bottom line: Annie’s can definitely be a good macaroni and cheese option when you need it, and it just so happens to be delicious too!

Annie’s vs. Kraft Mac & Cheese

Now, is it healthier than Kraft?

Many people choose Annie’s because it appears to be a “healthier” option compared with classic Kraft Mac & Cheese. Let’s look at a side by side of the nutrition facts to see if that’s the case!

Annie’s Macaroni & Classic CheddarKraft Original Mac and Cheese Dinner
Serving Size2.5 oz dry mix2.5 oz. dry mix
Servings per ContainerAbout 2.5About 3
Calories270250
Total fat (g)42
Saturated fat (g)21
Sodium (mg)460560
Total carbohydrates (g)5049
Dietary fiber (g)32
Protein (g)89
Added sugars00
Calcium (mg)70110
Iron (mg)0.82.5

The Annie’s version and the Kraft version are very, very similar when it comes down to the nutrition facts.

Annie’s has 1 additional gram of fiber per serving, 1 less gram of fiber per serving, less iron per serving, and 1 gram more saturated fat. Personally, none of those points are enough for me to choose one over the other as they’re both extremely similar nutritionally.

Let’s get into the ingredients, next!

Kraft Mac & Cheese Ingredient List

Enriched Macaroni (Wheat Flour, Durum Flour, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate [Iron], Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cheese Sauce Mix (Whey, Milkfat, Salt, Milk Protein Concentrate, Sodium Triphosphate, Contains Less Than 2% Of Tapioca Flour, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid, Sodium Phosphate, Calcium Phosphate, With Paprika, Turmeric, And Annatto Added For Color, Enzymes, Cheese Culture).

Annie’s Macaroni & Classic Cheddar Ingredient List

Organic Pasta (Organic Wheat Flour), Whey, Cultured Cream, Butter (Pasteurized Cream, Salt), Dried Cheddar Cheese (Cultured Pasteurized Milk, Salt, Non-Animal Enzymes), Salt, Corn Starch, Natural Flavor, Silicon Dioxide (For Anticaking), Nonfat Milk, Annatto Extract (For Color), Sodium Phosphate, Citric Acid, Lactic Acid.

Annie’s version uses organic pasta and is made with no artificial flavors, synthetic colors or preservatives. They also use cheese from cows not treated with rBST (a growth hormone sometimes used in cows). Annie’s also has a slightly shorter ingredients list.

The classic Kraft mac & cheese also uses no artificial flavors, no artificial preservative and no artificial dyes or artificial colors. I couldn’t find any information about whether or not they use cheese from cows that are treated with rBST, but it’s not claimed on the packaging.

Both use regular wheat pasta and do not contain any whole grains.

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Are organic ingredients healthier?

While Annie’s uses a lot of organic ingredient it’s important to note: organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthier.

Conventional foods are proven to be safe for us to eat, so if organic foods are out of your budget or not accessible, it’s nothing to stress over.

While I do appreciate their high standards for ingredients and it may be a big selling point for some, the organic piece isn’t a huge reason I love Annie’s.

The bottom line? If you want a product that uses organic ingredients, has a slightly more simple ingredients list and is confirmed to not use milk from cows that aren’t treated with rBST, Annie’s is the clear winner here.

If neither is super important to you and you prefer something else, other mac and cheese products are also perfectly fine and safe to eat.

You can try some Annie’s on Amazon here.

Is Annie’s Mac and Cheese Healthy?

Whether or not something is “healthy” really depends on you and your nutrition needs. This macaroni and cheese is no different!

For most healthy adults and kids, Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese is a great option when you’re in need of a quick and convenient meal or side dish.

If you have dietary restrictions and need a low sodium diet or you have many other sources of high sodium foods in your diet, the sodium content of Annie’s macaroni and cheese is definitely something to be aware of.

To make it more nutritionally balanced, I recommend adding a source of protein like chicken, ground turkey or even peas and then a fruit or veggie on the side for additional fiber.

Personally I love their mac and cheese because I enjoy the convenience, it’s always a hit in my house and personally I think it’s the tastiest option on the market.

Whether or you like to make your own homemade mac and cheese or grab a quick convenient box of Annie’s, what your entire diet and lifestyle looks like is what matters most.

Need easy healthy recipes?

If you’re searching this topic, I bet you love easy healthy recipes. Here’s some I think you’ll like!

Ground Turkey Alfredo Pasta with Broccoli

The Best 10 Adult Lunchables (Easy + Healthy!)

Easy Deconstructed Lasagna (Lazy Lasagna)

Easy Dump and Bake Meatball Casserole

Italian Grinder Salad (Quick and Easy!)

Sauteéd Brussel Sprout Pasta Salad Bowl

More you’ll love to read about:

Reviewing popular products and reviewing diets is something I love to do. Here’s some more topics you might enjoy:

25 Best High Fiber Cereal Foods from a Dietitian

15 Best High Fiber Bread Choices from a Dietitian

Olipop vs. Poppi – A Dietitian’s Prebiotic Soda Review

AG1 Athletic Greens Review from a Dietitian

Fairlife vs Premier Protein: Which Shakes are Best?

Is Celsius Bad for You? The Truth from a Dietitian

Collagen vs. Protein Powder: Which is Best for You?

Is Annie's Mac and Cheese Healthy? A Dietitian Review (2024)

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