By Carolyn Brown, MS, RD
I once went for almost two years without eating cheese. It wasn’t until I had a life-altering bite of Gouda that I realized those two years had been pretty flavorless. Whether you’ve tried the vegan thing or not, chances are you can agree with me on one thing: it is cruel and unusual punishment that a serving size of cheese is the size of three dice.
Cheese can be one of those just-can’t-stop foods for a lot of people. I live with a cheese-a-holic, and she happens to be my sister. She’s also the exception to the “too much cheese will make you fat and have high cholesterol” rule. Obnoxious considering I didn’t inherit those genes. Regardless, I’m still a fan of getting cheesy. Here’s what you need to know:
- Regular, Full-Fat Cheese: Harder cheeses like Cheddar, Gouda and Gruyère tend to be slightly higher in calories (~115 calories/1 oz) than softer cheeses like Brie or Goat cheese (~95-100 calories/1 oz). But before you stick to soft, know that harder cheeses also have a bit more calcium, not to mention unless you’re eating far more servings than you should, those 20 calories aren’t going to make a huge difference.
- Fat-Free Cheese: Fat-free cheese isn’t necessarily healthier for you. As you could probably deduce from the fact it doesn’t melt correctly, fat-free cheese tends to be uber processed. Yes, cheese has saturated fat, but all types of fat are important, as David recently explained in his Chew The Fat post. And as he said: “too much of any kind” is no good.
- Low-Fat Cheese: While I think occasional real, high-quality cheese (ideally organic or grass-fed) is the best option, you need to keep your portions in check. So if you are a full-fledged cheese-obsessee, reduced-fat cheeses are worth considering. It comes down to quality and balance: if you’re having an omelet, both egg yolks and cheese have saturated fat, so go for one or the other.
- The Best Cheese: There is one cheese that I think is better than the rest. Cottage cheese is the most hated of all cheeses for its rather cellulite-ish appearance, but it’s super high in protein and the least likely to give you any lumps or bumps. I highly recommend you give it a shot.
- The Worst Cheese: As much as I’m proud to be an American, I’m not proud of American cheese. “Cheese-like product” or “processed cheese food” are NOT food. Read the ingredients. Should they be in cheese? Hint: Modified food starch, corn syrup and food coloring should not. Other worst cheeses: those that come from a can or spray bottle, and most soy and veggie cheeses.
- Soy and Veggie Cheeses: It might come as a surprise, but these are typically super-processed and not “healthy” by any means. Unfortunately, vegetables aren’t supposed to taste like cheese.
The bottom line is simple: eat what you love… and have another three-dice serving tomorrow. Gouda luck out there, cheese muensters.
What’s your favorite kind of cheese? How do you keep your portions in control? Share your thoughts below or in the WebMD Diet Community.