Grilled Cheese, Lightened Up

by in Meal Makeovers, January 5, 2010

grilled cheese
Who doesn’t love the ooey-gooey goodness of a grilled cheese sandwich? We crave the comfort food year-round, but it’s almost mandatory to enjoy one during April’s National Grilled Cheese Month. But you don’t have to throw your healthy eating plan out the window — here’s how to enjoy the scrumptious bread-cheese combo without going overboard.

Bread & Cheese
A typical grilled cheese can tip the scales at 700 calories per serving. When made with hefty amounts of cheese and butter, your sandwich’s saturated fat content skyrockets — not very heart-healthy!

Because the ingredients for this dish are minimal, you want them to be high quality and full of flavor (diet bread and fat-free cheese just won’t do!). Choose a whole-grain bread that has 110 calories or less per slice and match it up with a small amount — only 100 calories worth — of a really flavorful cheese such as Manchego, Swiss or goat cheese. Pre-sliced, low-fat cheeses usually have about 70 to 100 calories per slice — cheddar, Jarlsberg Lite, provolone or pepper jack are all yummy choices and as long as they’re low fat or part skim, you’ll still get the flavor.

Layering in the Flavor
Instead of just relying on cheese to bulk up your sandwich, add flavorful ingredients that are lower on the calorie scale. Spread on your favorite condiments and toss in just about any veggie you can think of or even a fruits such as green apple slices or a tart jam spread. You can also add in some hunger-fighting protein to keep your sandwich satisfying without the fat (though, yes, we know that is veering off from the classic).

    Here are some winning combinations:

  • Turkey, Swiss and sundried tomatoes on whole-wheat bread
  • Low-fat cheddar, honey mustard and granny smith apple slices on multi-grain bread
  • Goat cheese, tomato and baby spinach in a whole-wheat pita
  • Part-skim mozzarella, basil and roasted red pepper on whole-wheat bread
  • Manchego, arugula and olive tapenade on an English muffin
  • Jarlsberg Lite, grilled chicken breast and BBQ sauce on potato bread
  • Low-fat cheddar, salsa and spinach on multi-grain bread

Heating It Up
When it comes to grilling your sandwich, pass on the butter or oily griddle. Use a nonstick pan or panini press along with some nonstick cooking spray. The cheese will be melty and the bread toasty without adding in additional calories and fat from gobs of butter.

[Photo by Annacia / Recipezaar]

TELL US: How do you make grilled cheese?

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  11. Ruth says:

    Grilled cheese with sliced tomato or lightly fried onions is also great.

  12. Aquamarine says:

    This article is exaggerating extremely. A typical Grilled cheese consists of 2 slices of bread (Wheat bread is usually 50 calories per slice white is usually 90) And two slices of american cheese which are 100 each. If you dont use a whole lot of butter or use I cant believe it's not butter spray which gives the same results and has no calories at all you would really only have a 300- 410 calorie sandwich. And those calorie counts are taken right off the packages. So everyone should be sure to add up the calories in their own recepie before jumping to believe this article in full.

  13. danawhite says:

    Hi Aquamarine -
    Thanks for your comment. It's very true that there can be a wide range of possible calorie counts for a dish like grilled cheese. We carefully check and analyze numerous recipes, restaurant menus and other documented calorie and fat information for the nutrition info in our articles. Since many grilled cheese recipes call for numerous slices or large chunks of cheese along with tablespoons of butter, the calories can easily top 700 calories per serving.

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