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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Comments (76)

  1. sfrazier says:

    haha – i just got finished eating a grilled cheese – wish I would've had this article before I ate it…it was the full fat version:( all of these sandwiches sound so good

  2. Kim says:

    Along with using healthier cheeses and whole grain breads, what we do is bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet @ 425° for about 4 minutes on each side (slightly longer if you like it toastier than that). I don't always, but sometimes I will spritz the outside of the bread with a dash of Parkay spray before baking- it is a bit tastier that way. Either way, it still hits the spot when we're craving that comfort food (especially with a cup of my husband's homemade tomato-basil soup), but with way less crap than the grilled cheeses we used to consume!

  3. cheeselover says:

    I pack a grilled cheese sandwich to school almost everyday. I use 1 slice of cheese and add bell pepper, tomato, onions, and/or spinach. I use a sandwich press (the kind that makes a diagonal mark on your sandwich) so there's no grease/butter used. It tastes and smells amazing!

  4. Julie says:

    Our new obsession is one you mentioned: "Low-fat cheddar, honey mustard and granny smith apple slices on multi-grain bread." We did ours off of a recipe in Clean Eating magazine. My husband, who is a purist when it comes to anything involving cheese, absolutely loves the new version.

  5. wisconsin girl says:

    I like to switch it up with some pizza sauce, part skim mozzarella, and mushrooms on whole-wheat bread…. tastes like a pizza hot pocket!

  6. forever says:

    i love to use a sandwich maker….i use a thin slice of bread (usually wonderbread or some multigrain bread from t&t) that's worth slightly more than a 100 calories. I put a slightly heaping tablespoon of skim cheese (not processed ones :() and a slice of ham. The good thing is that you get a lot out of one tablespoon of cheese because it melts and the slice of bread isn't that big at all (just your regular slice of bread). I like it plain and simple – cheese and ham!!

  7. Ragdolly says:

    I toast my bread in the toaster, top with cheese and melt in the microwave. We use what ever cheese we have on hand, sometimes a couple different ones, sometimes a slice of ham, sometimes sliced tomatoes. No fry pan or griddle required.

  8. tiffany Barnes says:

    cheddar with turkey bacon and pears on whole wheat

  9. karen says:

    I never thought of putting fruit on my sandwich and will try this.

  10. 2 slice of Natures Own double fiber wheat, 1 slice Jarlsburg Light Swiss, 2 oz low sodium turkey breast, 2 slice tomato, 1 tbsp new style coney island mustard… AMAZINGGGGGGGGGG
    210 calories and incredibly filling

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