How to Love Cheese the Healthy Way

by in Healthy Recipes, Healthy Tips, June 19, 2009

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I love cheese! Unfortunately, my husband’s family has a history of high cholesterol (and cheese can be high in cholesterol, fat and calories). Not wanting to put him at risk, I’ve had to come up with some creative ways for us to enjoy cheese without adding worry or resorting to tasteless, non-fat varieties.

Low Fat or Fat-Free?
When it comes to omelets, sandwiches or salads, choose low-fat, reduced-fat, or part-skim cheeses. They’re lower in fat, calories and cholesterol than full-fat cheeses and they taste good — unlike those yucky, fat-free versions. Honestly, fat-free cheeses are one of my biggest “healthy” pet peeves. Cheese is made from milk fat; when you pull all that out, cheese manufacturers have to swap in chemicals and preservatives.You’re left with a block of faux cheese that has a plastic flavor and texture that’s not worth the effort or calories to eat it.

Naturally Lower-Fat Cheeses
Yes, certain cheeses are naturally lower in fat and calories — Parmesan, Romano and feta especially (though you can buy low-fat feta that’s delicious, too). Soy cheeses also tend to be lower in fat; they’re a great option for people who avoid dairy products. Choosing low-fat versions in your dishes also leaves room for the occasional full-fat addition. When you splurge, go for a really flavorful cheese such as a Gorganzola, Gruyere or extra-sharp cheddar. Even a small amount of goes a long way.

Other Popular Cheese
Raw milk cheeses are all the rage right now. You can find them in specialty food shops and high-end grocery stores. I recently tasted an amazing one made with black truffles. Because they’re made with unpasteurized milk, these cheeses can contain dangerous bacteria — pregnant women and young children (both of whom are more susceptible to getting sick) should skip them.

Nutrition Facts
Stick to an ounce of cheese at a time – a single slice or ¼ cup of shredded cheese are usually an ounce. When considering portions, remember this: an ounce of cheese is equal to the size of a 9-volt battery. An ounce of low-fat cheddar cheese has 50 calories, 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of saturated fat and 6 milligrams of cholesterol. It also packs in 7 grams of protein and 12% of your daily calcium needs. For comparison, the same amount of a full-fat cheddar cheese has 113 calories, 9 grams of fat, 6 grams of saturated fat, 29 milligrams of cholesterol, 7 grams of protein and 20% of your daily calcium need.

Ways to Enjoy
To fit cheese into a healthy diet, pick and choose when you have to have it. If you eat scrambled eggs with low-fat cheddar for breakfast, then skip the cheese on your wrap or salad at lunchtime. Or if you’re planning quesadillas or pizza for dinner, save the string cheese for tomorrow’s midday snack. It’s all about balance.

Here’s one of my favorite summertime lunches: spread part-skim ricotta cheese on toasted whole-wheat bread. Top with slices of farm-fresh tomato and a sprinkle of sea salt – simple and delicious!

In the mood for more cheese? Check out our lightened-up versions of cheesecake and every cheese lover’s favorite mac and cheese.

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Comments (10)

  1. BIll Kelleher says:

    Dana,
    My wife loves cheese and also comes from a family with a history of high cholesterol. I try to get her to eat those low fat cheeses, but the taste is not there for her. It was easier when I did the food shopping, but she is out of work and has taken on this chore.I’ll suggest he low fat ricotta recipe and see if she likes that. Keep up the good work!

  2. michael says:

    How about that laughing cow light swiss…OMG so creamy..,had it on my sandwich and it was perfect!

  3. sigari says:

    Not exactly on topic, but: how can you tease us with that cheese grating box ? Where is it available, please?

  4. Gayle says:

    Amen, amen, amen. I simply can not abide fat-free versions of cheese. I'd rather eat cardboard. I usually buy the sharpest white cheddar I can find. A little of the real thing is better that a lot of the fake stuff. Also, I heard/read somewhere that the white cheeses have less fat than the yellow/orange version. Is there any truth to this? Thanks

  5. Rod says:

    I love cheese and try to stick to cheese from 2% milk when possible. Worst mistake I made was to use low fat cheese in a enchalata recipe. The low fat cheese does not melt very well.

  6. loyd says:

    What about people that allergic to both milk and Soy and they are crazy about rice milk?

  7. loyda says:

    I meat to say are not crazy about rice milk

  8. Lori says:

    Cheese is my downfall! I would rather have cheese than any kind of meat on any day of the week! So I have taken on the part-skim or lower fat chesses and it has helped me with weight reduction and to feel better eating something I love. Creative recipes that I have gotten from Healthy Eats, using lower fat cheese, have been terrific and the Veggie Sandwish Dana recommends is a staple in my house!

  9. Mitchell says:

    It insults me how criticized fat-free cheese is. I personally love it.

  10. Unfortunately, that cheese grating box is part of a stock image. We're not sure where it's from, but if we ever come across one that's similar, we'll definitely share.

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