Cheese sure is popular. Did you know that the Pilgrims brought cheese over on the Mayflower? Or that the United States makes over 25% of the world’s cheese supply, producing roughly 9 billion pounds each year? Wisconsin, California, Idaho, New York, and Minnesota are the top cheese-producing states. Last cheese fact: A professional cheese seller is called a cheese monger. (These facts may come in handy if you ever go on Jeopardy!)
But cheese can be tricky. On one hand, it tastes good and can really spark up a food (think cheeseburgers) or a dish (think homemade macaroni and cheese). But on the other hand, its fat, saturated fat, and sodium content are enough to take some of the pleasure out of indulging, especially if you are at risk for or have heart disease or are watching your waistline. As with many higher-fat foods, the solution is to compromise. Cutting cheese completely out of your eating plan could be a solution, but certainly not a palatable one. Instead, explore some of the lower-fat options, and as one reader suggested, have a little bit of the real thing every now and then.
Some cheeses are naturally lower in fat than others:
Mozzarella is made by heating curds in water or whey until they form strings (“string cheese”). These strings are stretched and kneaded until smooth and then formed into balls. Fresh mozzarella is truly the best, but if you buy processed mozzarella for, say, topping a pizza, buy the part-skim version to save on fat and calories. One ounce of part-skim mozzarella has 72 calories and 4.5 grams of fat. It’s not a low-fat food, but it’s low enough to indulge in a little bit! My favorite way to eat fresh mozzarella is with some sliced garden tomatoes and fresh basil, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with pepper.
Like mozzarella, cottage cheese is a curd cheese that is drained, but not completely so that some of the whey remains. And like ricotta, cottage cheese can be made with whole, low-fat, or skim milk. The size of the curd can vary, from large to small. One half-cup of low-fat (1% milkfat) cottage cheese contains 80 calories and 1 gram of fat. I like cottage cheese added to a salad and drizzled with some lower-fat salad dressing. It’s also good topped with fresh fruit. Blended up, cottage cheese works well as a base for dips and sauces. I’ve even read that cottage cheese can be used in place of mayonnaise to make tuna salad, for example. How do you use cottage cheese?
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Amy Campbell: Amy Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning and a frequent contributor to Diabetes Self-Management and Diabetes & You. She has co-authored several books, including the The Joslin Guide to Diabetes and the American Diabetes Association’s 16 Myths of a “Diabetic Diet,” for which she received a Will Solimene Award of Excellence in Medical Communication and a National Health Information Award in 2000. Amy also developed menus for Fit Not Fat at Forty Plus and co-authored Eat Carbs, Lose Weight with fitness expert Denise Austin. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in nutrition from Simmons College and a master’s degree in nutrition education from Boston University. In addition to being a Registered Dietitian, she is a Certified Diabetes Educator and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Diabetes Educators. Amy was formerly a Diabetes and Nutrition Educator at Joslin Diabetes Center, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of disease management programs, including clinical guideline and educational material development, and the development, testing, and implementation of disease management applications. She is currently the Director of Clinical Education Content Development and Training at Good Measures. Amy has developed and conducted training sessions for various disease and case management programs and is a frequent presenter at disease management events.
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