How to Love Cheese the Healthy Way
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Recipes to try: