Mac and cheese is a classic comfort food that is loved by many. The convenient microwave cups provide a quick and easy meal that can be ready in minutes. However, many people wonder just how many calories are actually in these microwave cups of mac and cheese. In this article, we will break down the calorie count and other nutrition information for different brands and flavors of microwave mac and cheese.
Calories in Microwave Mac and Cheese Cups
The number of calories in a microwave cup of mac and cheese can vary widely depending on the brand, flavor, and serving size. Here is an overview of the calorie range for some popular brands:
- Kraft Easy Mac: 210 – 380 calories per cup
- Annie’s Mac and Cheese: 270 – 400 calories per container
- Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner: 280 – 400 calories per cup
- Banquet Macaroni and Cheese: 270 calories per container
- Velveeta Shells and Cheese: 300 calories per container
As you can see, calories can range from around 210 calories per cup on the lower end up to 400 calories per container. The calorie count can vary so much due to differences in serving sizes as well as the types of ingredients used.
Factors Affecting Calorie Count
There are a few key factors that determine how many calories are in a microwave cup of mac and cheese:
- Serving size – Some cups contain 1 cup of mac and cheese while other larger cups may have 1.5 or 2 cups.
- Fullness of preparation – Directions can suggest adding butter or milk which increases calories.
- Ingredients – Types of pasta, cheese, and seasonings impact calorie density.
- Special flavors – Varieties with bacon, lobster, or unique flavors often have more calories.
Understanding portion sizes and ingredients can help explain why some microwave mac and cheese cups provide a lighter option than others.
Calorie Count by Brand and Flavor
Looking more closely at different brands and flavors shows how much calories can vary in popular microwaveable mac and cheese options:
Kraft Easy Mac
- Original: 210 calories per cup
- White Cheddar: 220 calories per cup
- Cheddar Cheese: 240 calories per cup
- Grilled Cheese: 260 calories per cup
- Four Cheese: 280 calories per cup
Kraft Easy Mac offers convenient single-serve microwave cups ranging from 210 to 280 calories per cup depending on flavors. The original is the lightest while more complex cheese blends are higher in calories.
Annie’s Mac and Cheese
- Classic Cheddar: 270 calories per container
- White Cheddar: 280 calories per container
- Classic Cheddar Bunnies: 290 calories per container
- Organic Cheddar: 350 calories per container
- Organic Shells and White Cheddar: 400 calories per container
Annie’s mac and cheese in the microwave cups delivers 270 to 400 calories depending on the variety. The classic and white cheddar are lower in calories while the organic and shell pasta options are higher.
Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Dinner
- Original: 280 calories per cup
- Three Cheese: 290 calories per cup
- Cheesy Baked: 310 calories per cup
- Bacon Cheddar: 340 calories per cup
- Buffalo Style: 360 calories per cup
- Bacon Jalapeno: 370 calories per cup
- Cheese Pizza: 400 calories per cup
Kraft’s macaroni and cheese microwave cups provide 280-400 calories depending on flavor. Original is lowest while pizzas, bacon, buffalo and jalapeno flavors add more calories.
Banquet Macaroni and Cheese
- Classic: 270 calories per container
- Cheesy Italian: 280 calories per container
- Chicken Nuggets: 300 calories per container
- Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli: 330 calories per container
Banquet’s classic mac and cheese has 270 calories. Italian style, chicken nuggets, and chicken and broccoli variations range 300-330 calories per cup.
Velveeta Shells and Cheese
- Original: 300 calories per container
- Cheesy Bacon: 330 calories per container
- Cheesy Chicken: 350 calories per container
Velveeta Shells and Cheese microwave cups provide 300 calories for original. Cheesy bacon and chicken flavors add about 30-50 more calories.
Microwave Mac and Cheese Nutrition Facts
Beyond just calories, the nutrition label can show how a microwave mac and cheese cup stacks up for dietary factors like fat, carbs, protein, and sodium.
Here is an overview of the nutrition facts for a typical microwave cup of mac and cheese:
|Per 1 cup
Key things to notice are the high amount of fat at 10g total and 6g saturated fat per serving. Sodium is also very high at 730mg per cup. Protein provides 7g per serving.
Microwave mac and cheese is not a significant source of important vitamins and minerals. A typical cup may contain:
- Vitamin A: 15% Daily Value
- Calcium: 10% DV
- Iron: 6% DV
- Vitamin C: 0% DV
Adding vegetables like broccoli or peas can help increase the micronutrient content in a mac and cheese microwave cup. Otherwise, expect mac and cheese to provide vitamins A and C with a modest amount of calcium and iron.
Ways to Make Microwave Mac Healthier
While microwave mac and cheese can be high in calories, fat, and sodium, there are ways to boost the nutrition when making it:
- Use reduced fat/sodium cheese and milk
- Add steamed vegetables like peas, broccoli, spinach
- Include cooked lean chicken breast or shrimp
- Use whole grain pasta varieties
- Season with garlic powder, pepper, paprika instead of salt
- Top with sliced tomatoes, avocado, or green onions
Making these simple adjustments to your microwave mac and cheese can reduce the calories while also increasing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and protein. This balances out the nutritional profile.
Microwave Mac Alternatives
Besides adjusting homemade mac and cheese, some alternatives provide a healthier spin on microwave mac and cheese:
Lean Cuisine Mac and Cheese
- 220-260 calories per container
- 5-7g fat
- 570-680mg sodium
Lean Cuisine mac and cheese is pre-portioned to 220-260 calories with lower fat and sodium than many competitors.
Amy’s Light and Lean Mac and Cheese
- 240 calories per container
- 6g fat
- 460mg sodium
Amy’s light macaroni and cheese keeps calories to just 240 per serving with less fat and sodium than regular varieties.
Cauliflower Mac and Cheese
- 150 calories per cup
- 5g fat
- 400mg sodium
Turning cauliflower into “mac” and cheese slashes calories and carbs while adding nutrients from vegetables.
Zucchini Noodles Mac and Cheese
- 200 calories per cup
- 3g fat
- 350mg sodium
Spiralizing zucchini into noodles provides a low-carb, lighter alternative to enjoy mac and cheese flavor.
Tips for Lightening Up Mac and Cheese
Here are some helpful tips to lighten up microwave mac and cheese:
- Choose single-serve cups instead of large family sizes to control portions.
- Add veggies like broccoli, cauliflower, peas, spinach to boost nutrition.
- Use reduced-fat milk and cheese to cut calories and saturated fat.
- Flavor with spices instead of salt to reduce sodium intake.
- Try whole grain or alternative pastas for more fiber and nutrients.
- Serve with a side salad or fruit to balance the meal.
- Opt for lower-calorie brands like Lean Cuisine or Amy’s.
- Sub in cauliflower or zucchini to lower carbs and calories.
Microwave cups of mac and cheese can range from around 200-400 calories depending on the brand, flavors, and serving size. While mac and cheese is high in calories, fat, and sodium, there are ways to boost nutrition by adding veggies, using healthier ingredients, and substituting alternatives like cauliflower or zucchini. Portion control and balance are key for enjoying convenience mac and cheese as part of an overall healthy diet.