Protect Your Bones: Vegan Mac & Cheese

Christiane Northrup, MD recently released an updated version of her book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. She also writes about the fourth edition of this book in her Huffington Post column. This latest edition has an updated section on caring for our bones, including fending off osteoporosis.

She quotes a 2003 Harvard study on diet and hip fractures that concluded “Neither milk nor a high-calcium diet appears to reduce (fracture) risk” and a 2007 Harvard study that also found “no association between total calcium intake and hip fracture risk.” She points to both Asia and Africa where dairy consumption is low and their fracture rate even lower.

If calcium isn’t the answer to bone strength then what’s a person to do? Dr. Northrup suggests that calcium is important, but only one part of the building blocks of strong bones. The good news is those other parts are know becoming more apparent. Her article states that “The key to preventing osteoporosis…is eating a low-acid diet.” What makes your diet more acidic? Animal products. What makes your diet the more preferred alkaline? Fruits and veggies.

For those of you groaning about this news, you’ll be relieved to know that Dr. Northrup is not recommending a rigid diet in response. She says you can achieve a more alkaline balance in your diet by eating  “at least five servings of fruits and vegetables for every one serving of red meat, chicken or fish.” She also suggests eating “vegan—no meat or dairy—one day a week.” I knew there was something I liked about her besides the great name!

One of the things I like to do is to show you how easy it is to be vegan. Many people, upon hearing the news that I’m vegan, ask me what in the world I eat. I think they expect I eat mostly nuts and twigs. (Seriously, I’ve heard people say that). They’re usually surprised when I say that we eat pizza, meatloaf and mac and cheese. Oh, and we also eat rocky road brownies, raspberry chocolate cheesecake, and a number of other sweets (in moderation). And these dishes are not that difficult to make either. The trick is finding a trusted recipe and a good health food store or department in your grocery store where you can buy some of the ingredients. Sometimes we question the price of our ingredients, but I try to remind myself of 2 things: 1) we’re not buying a lot of processed foods or any meat or expensive cheeses/dairy and 2) our health is important and hopefully our diet is warding off other illnesses and diseases which would be very costly.

I like the idea that you can try out being vegan just one day a week to help balance out your overall diet. Or some people eat vegan on weekdays. It’s important that you find something that works best for you. Here’s one of our family’s all-time favorite vegan recipes. It’s high on the comfort food index and very tasty too. That said, I have other versions of this recipe that we love equally as well and I’ll be sharing these with you down the road.

Vegan Mac & Cheese Casserole (Version #1)

(Adapted from a recipe by VegCooking)

3.5 cups (dry) macaroni, Cook according to package directions (We use Ronzoni Smart Taste because it has 7 g of fiber per serving)
½ cup Vegan Margarine
1 small onion, chopped
½ cup Flour, (whole wheat)
3 cups Boiling water
2 tablespoons Bragg Liquid Amino or soy sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder
⅛ teaspoon turmeric
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 cup nutritional yeast flakes
1.5 cups meat crumbles (One idea is to use Boca Ground Veggie Crumbles)
2 cups steamed broccoli

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Heat your oven to 350.

Next, in a large pot, add 5 quarts of water and bring to a boil. Add 14.5 oz (1 full box of Ronzoni Smart Taste macaroni) and cook for 6 – 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain well. Pour the cooked macaroni into a 9 X 13 baking pan.

Steam 2 cups of broccoli with florets cut into small pieces. Be careful not to overcook the broccoli because they will cook a little more in the oven as well.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt margarine over low heat. Add chopped onions and saute until translucent . Beat in flour with a wire whisk and continue to beat over a medium heat until mixture is smooth and bubbly.

Whip in boiling water, Bragg, salt, garlic powder, and turmeric, beating well.

Cook the sauce until it thickens and bubbles; then whip in the oil and nutritional yeast flakes.

Pour a generous amount of sauce on top of the macaroni noodles and stir. Add veggie meat crumbles and broccoli. Stir all ingredients so they’re equally distributed throughout the pan.

Top with a little more of the cheese sauce (we usually have a little bit of leftover cheese sauce which we use for baked potatoes or as a topping for veggies dishes like broccoli). Then sprinkle the top with paprika, and bake for 15 minutes. You can choose to put under a broiler for a few minutes until the top is crisp.

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