One of the more frequently asked questions is about my cooking origin. I always respond by giving my mom a shout out for starting me young, and the home economics classes and nutrition/food science degree that followed. Though my first experience with recipe development or modification actually began with Hamburger Helper, adding ingredients to improve the base-model. So while I may have developed this healthy Hamburger Helper copycat in an afternoon, there are years of testing behind it.
You may be wondering what makes this healthy Hamburger Helper recipe actually healthy. Since the term healthy can mean something to different to every person, I’ll start by saying this recipe has more protein, fewer calories, and one more pound of broccoli than the original bacon cheeseburger Hamburger Helper. And holding true to my mission, no flavor is sacrificed in accomplishing this. In fact, I feel there’s even more flavor.
How to Make Healthy Hamburger Helper
I always like to run through potential questions about ingredients and recipe modifications in depth. I’ll provide a summary of ingredient notes in the actual recipe card at the bottom of this post, but the notes that follow are more thorough.
Low Calorie Cheese Sauce
First and foremost, you can’t make bacon cheeseburger Hamburger Helper without a serious dose of cheese. To accomplish this, you’ll need one of my secret weapons—cheddar powder. If you’re unfamiliar with this ingredient, it’s simply dehydrated cheddar cheese.
This stuff is amazing. You can use it in everything from cheeseburger soup to air fryer cheese bread. Since it’s dehydrated, you can reconstitute it with lower fat ingredients like Greek yogurt, cream cheese, or even water to form a cheese sauce with tons of cheese flavor.
As for purchasing, you may be able to find it in stores, but I buy Hoosier Hill Farms on Amazon. If you want to make this recipe ASAP and don’t have cheddar powder on hand, I’ll provide a few possible alternatives in the recipe notes section below.
For the rest of the cheese sauce in this healthy Hamburger Helper, I went with a mixture of fat free cream cheese and light butter. However, you have a ton of options for making your cheese sauce. Here are a few ideas:
- Cream cheese only
- Cream cheese and fat free Greek yogurt for more protein
- Greek yogurt only
- Unsweetened almond milk for a very low calorie cheese sauce (this would be great if you use a fattier cut of beef)
- Whole milk for added fat and flavor
You get the point. As long as you avoid making your cheese sauce runny, it will work. Have fun and keep the spirit of experimentation alive with your healthy Hamburger Helper creation.
Bacon, Broccoli, and Pasta
With only 22 grams of carbs per serving, this healthy Hamburger Helper copycat is a borderline low carb recipe. This is due to a smaller dose of pasta and the addition of a beaucoup of broccoli.
Another thing I aim to focus on with my recipes is speed. That’s why this recipe calls for a package of Barilla’s Ready Pasta that’s good to go in 60 seconds and precooked bacon. Feel free to use any pasta you’d like.
I’ve used a higher protein pasta, Banza, in recipes like my Taco Pasta Bake and Chicken Fajita Pasta Bake. Using a pasta like Banza could give your healthy Hamburger Helper an even bigger protein boost. And you could always use cauliflower rice or a mixture of pasta and cauliflower rice.
Related: 12 Kinda Healthy Banza Pasta Recipes
For the bacon, I used precooked pork bacon but any bacon will work. There are lower fat options like Al Fresco’s chicken bacon (find it at Walmart) and turkey bacon.
And last but not least, the broccoli. Similar to my sticky sweet ground beef and broccoli, the recipe calls for frozen broccoli. If you’d rather use fresh broccoli, you’ll want to cook it first. (I’d recommend steaming.)
Okie doke, that’s all ya need to know. Before you save the recipe and get in the kitchen, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram with your creation. I appreciate the feedback and sharing always helps the little blog that could.
Hamburger Helper Core Ingredients
- 1 lb Lean Ground Beef, macros with 96/4
- 2 tsp Black Pepper
- 2 tsp Paprika
- 16 oz Frozen Broccoli, steamable
- 1 bag (8.5oz) Barilla Ready Pasta, elbows
- 3 slices Cooked Bacon, diced
Lower Calorie Cheese Sauce
- 6 oz Fat Free Cream Cheese
- 3 Tbsp (42g) Light Butter, I used Land o Lakes
- 1/4 C (32g) Cheddar Powder
- In a large skillet or saucepan, cook the ground beef with the paprika and black pepper. Reduce heat to low when no pink remains.
- While the beef cooks, add the broccoli to the microwave and cook per instructions on the package (about 5-6 minutes). After the broccoli is finished, microwave the Ready Pasta and cooked bacon. Cut the cooked bacon into bite-sized pieces. Set everything aside.
- Add the cream cheese and butter to a bowl. Microwave for 20-30 seconds or until both are soft enough to mix evenly. Add the cheddar powder and stir well.
- Add the cheese sauce to the beef before adding the pasta and bacon. Stir well before gently folding in the broccoli.
- Enjoy! Salt and pepper to taste.
- Each serving has 7 Smart Points.
- To calculate the weight or measurement of your serving sizes, I recommend weighing the total finished recipe and dividing that weight by six. For more help with this, check out my guide to using a food scale for tracking macros.
- Refer to the notes section of this post for more info on potential swaps for cream cheese and light butter. The macros for the cheese sauce as-is are as follows: 471 calories, 29g of protein, 27g of carbs, 25g of fat
- The macros for Ready Pasta if you decide to swap: 420 calories, 14g of protein, 84g of carbs, 4g of fat
- Cheddar powder alternatives: Knorr cheese sauce mixes, cheese packets from boxed mac and cheese, real cheddar cheese or reduced fat cheddar cheese, or for a non-dairy option, nutritional yeast (I used a tasty mixture in my air fryer potato chips).
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Servings Serving Size: 1 Serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 270Total Fat: 9gCarbohydrates: 22gProtein: 26g
More Healthy Mac and Cheese Recipes You Might Like
- low carb chicken bacon ranch mac and cheese
- queso mac and cheese with ground beef
- garlic parmesan mac and cheese with chicken
- Ninja Foodi mac and cheese with bacon