I have a love-hate relationship with cheese. I love it so much I could survive on it alone. Nothing can ever make me happier than a wheel (yes, a whole wheel) of aged Gouda; or a wedge of raspberry Bellavitano; or some warm Brie topped with fig compost. BUT – if you’re trying to drop kilos, or even maintain a healthy lifestyle, then you probably should go ahead and ask cheese for some space (which is really, really hard).
If you enjoy cheese, don’t completely eliminate it from your diet. It is a nutrient-rich food that can have high levels of protein, leaving you feeling full and satisfied. No matter what type of cheese you prefer, you will get at least 6 grams of quality protein in a 1-ounce serving. Beyond making a significant contribution to your daily protein requirement, the protein in cheese supports weight loss. It slows the movement of food out of your stomach so you feel full longer, and it keeps blood sugar balanced. Protein also stimulates satiety by affecting hormones that regulate your appetite.
However, cheese is incredibly high in calories and fat, so you will need to limit the amount you eat. Cheese is high in saturated fat, so it is important to choose low-fat or fat-free brands to avoid the unhealthy fat. Instead, limit portions to 1 ounce and buy low-fat or fat-free brands to keep the calories and fat within your daily goals. Most types of full-fat cheese have 72-125 calories in a 1-ounce serving. 1 ounce is generally 1-2 cubes; this is an incredibly small serving for someone like me who goes through cheese groups as if they’re a bag of M&Ms. Fat-free brands, although not as delicious, contain no fat, which subsequently reduces the calories by at least half and sometimes more than that, depending on the type of cheese. Semi-soft cheeses, such as brie, have fewer calories than hard cheese. Cheese can also be quite high in sodium, ranging from 16 milligrams to more than 500 milligrams.
Use full-fat cheese strategically and when you can actually experience the flavor it. Skip cheese on sandwiches and tacos, where the taste may not be as noticeable because of other overpowering ingredients. Hard cheeses, such as Parmesan, Romano and Asiago, have a strong, salty flavor – so you only need a small amount to boost flavor of otherwise boring, low-calorie food. You can use grated Parmesan to flavor low-calorie vegetables or air-pooped popcorn with just 22 calories per tablespoon. Switch to low-fat cheese when recipes call for ricotta, mozzarella or cottage cheese. Opt for low-fat cream cheese for baking and to top on your bagels or crackers. Look for triangles (laughing cow) of low-fat, flavored cream cheese containing just 35 calories each. There are always healthier options and alternatives – choose wisely and intentionally!