Kraft vs. Annie’s Mac and Cheese: which is healthier?

If you’re a boxed Macaroni and Cheese fan, you may have asked yourself this question when browsing options at the grocery store – Kraft vs. Annie’s Mac and Cheese, which is healthier?! Though Kraft has changed its formulation over the years to become free from artificial flavors and colors, it continues to hold the reputation of being less healthy than its newer competitors. In this review, I compare the nutrition facts, ingredients, and cost of Kraft and Annie’s Mac and Cheese to figure out which brand is the better-for-you alternative.

About Kraft and Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese

Kraft and Annie’s Mac and Cheese are shelf-stable macaroni and cheese kits. While Kraft has existed for decades, Annie’s is newer on the market and is often associated with being a healthier alternative to traditional Kraft macaroni and cheese. Over the years, Kraft has changed it’s ingredients to be free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives, but it’s reputation of being a less healthy alternative remains.

Kraft vs. Annie’s Mac and Cheese: Ingredient Comparison

Kraft Macaroni and Cheese (original)Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese (classic cheddar)
IngredientsEnriched macaroni (wheat flour, durum flour, niacin, ferrous sulfate (iron), thiamin monohydrate (B1), roboflavin (B2), folic acid), cheese sauce mix (whey, milkfat, salt, milk protein concentrate, sodium triphosphate, tapioca flour, citric acid, calcium phosphate, sodium phosphate, lactic acid, paprika, annatto, cheese culture, enzymes)Organic pasta (organic wheat flour), whey, cultured cream (cream, bacterial cultures, salt, non-animal microbial enzymes), salt, corn starch, natural flacour, silicon dioxide, skim milk, annatto extract, sodium phosphate, citric acid, lactic acid.

Pasta: Annie’s Mac and Cheese differs from Kraft because it uses organic pasta, whereas Kraft uses conventional pasta. In both instances, the pasta contained in these kits is white pasta, so the macronutrient content of the noodles themselves is similar. However, Kraft uses enriched pasta, making it higher in iron and B vitamins than Annie’s.

The remaining ingredients in both products are in the cheese powder. Both Kraft and Annie’s contain:

Whey: a type of protein found in milk.

Bacterial cultures: used in cheese making.

Salt: added for flavoring.

Milk/cream: used as part of the cheese sauce.

Citric acid: used in cheese making.

Sodium-phosphate: emulsifier, thickening agent, and stabilizing agent.

Enzymes: used in cheese-making.

Annatto: added as a natural source of color.

Kraft Mac and Cheese contains the following ingredients (which Annie’s does not):

Calcium phosphate: an anti-caking agent used to improve the texture of foods.

Lactic Acid: used in cheese making.

Tapioca flour: used to thicken the cheese sauce.

Paprika: added as a natural source of color.

Annie’s Mac and Cheese contains the following ingredients (which Kraft does not):

Natural flavor: flavoring agent. See What are Natural Flavours and Should You Avoid Them? for everything you need to know.

Corn starch: used to thicken the cheese sauce.

Silicon Dioxide: an anti-caking agent.

Kraft vs. Annie's Mac and Cheese: Which is healthier?

Kraft vs. Annie’s Mac and Cheese: Nutrition Facts Comparison

Per 85g servingKraft Macaroni and Cheese (Original) Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese (Classic Cheddar)
Fat (g)2.54.5
Saturated fat (g)12.5
Carbohydrates (g)6060
Fiber (g)14
Sugar (g)8.58
Protein (g)1110
Cholesterol (mg)610
Sodium (mg)668560
Potassium (mg)340400
Calcium (mg)14675
Iron (mg)31

Calories: Kraft and Annie’s contain similar calorie content per 85g, with 303 calories and 320 calories, respectively.

Fat: Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese is higher in fat, with 4.5g per serving vs. 2.5g in Kraft. This difference is due to their use of cream instead of milk in the cheese sauce.

Saturated fat: Annie’s is higher in saturated fat vs. Kraft, with 2.5g compared to 1g per serving, coming from cream.

Carbohydrates: Kraft and Annie’s contain 60g of carbohydrates per serving, coming from white pasta.

Fiber: Annie’s is higher in fiber, with 4g per serving vs. 1g in Kraft.

Sugar: Kraft and Annie’s Mac and Cheese contain similar sugar content, with 8.5g and 8g, respectively.

Protein: Kraft and Annie’s contain similar protein content, with 11g and 10g, respectively.

Cholesterol: Annie’s is higher in cholesterol, with 10mg per serving compared to 6mg. Note: this is a negligible amount of cholesterol when considering your total day of eating.

Sodium: Kraft is higher in sodium, with 668mg vs. 560mg in Annie’s.

Potassium: Annie’s is higher in potassium, with 400mg vs. 340mg in Kraft.

Calcium: Kraft is higher in calcium, with 146mg vs. 75mg in Annie’s,

Iron: Kraft is higher in iron, with 3mg vs. 1mg in Annie’s.

Kraft vs. Annie’s Mac and Cheese: Cost

Annie’s can be purchased for $2.97 (CAD) or $1.62 (USD) per 170g box, whereas Kraft is for $1.57 (CAD) or $1.23 (USD). Annie’s is generally more expensive across the board, but there is a more significant price difference between Annie’s and Kraft in Canada compared to the U.S.

Kraft vs. Annie's Mac and Cheese: which is healthier?

Kraft vs. Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese: Which is healthier?

Based on ingredients:

Both Kraft and Annie’s Mac and Cheese contain similar ingredients, except for the organic pasta in Annie’s. Both brands are free from artificial colors and artificial flavors. Both brands also contain anti-caking agents, stabilizers, and thickeners. Unless you prioritize organic ingredients in your home, there isn’t a significant enough difference between the ingredients alone for me to recommend one product over the other.

Based on nutrient content:

In terms of nutrition content overall, both products are fairly similar. Annie’s stands out over Kraft due to the fiber content, with 4g compared to only 1g in Kraft per serving. On the other hand, Kraft contains higher levels of iron and B vitamins due to the use of enriched pasta. Depending on your health priorities (increasing fiber, iron, etc.), one brand may be more suitable for your needs than the other.

When considering cost:

We can also consider the cost of each brand. When shopping in the U.S., there is a $0.34 difference in the price between both products, with Annie’s being slightly more expensive. I would recommend Annie’s Mac and Cheese in this case, as it contains more fiber than Kraft. In Canada, however, there is a $1.35 cost difference between the two products, with Annie’s costing over double that of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. With this in mind, Annie’s does not stand out significantly enough to make it worth the additional cost.

Whichever you choose, be sure to include a source of protein and vegetables to create a balanced meal.

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List of Permitted Anti-Caking Agents, Health Canada, 2022.

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