There are so many varieties of cheese in the world that you could eat a different kind every day for almost four years without repeating one. All cheese is a rich source of calcium, so sampling the abundance helps to strengthen your bones.
What you get: Although relatively high in calories and saturated fat, cheese is rich in calcium and provides some protein and phosphorus.
Shopping Tips: Because cheese has high levels of saturated fat, which is linked with elevated LDL cholesterol levels, it’s a good idea to choose “reduced-fat,” 2% or “part-skim” varieties. Products labeled “reduced-fat” contain 25 percent less fat than their regular counterparts. Some lower-fat cheeses, such as part-skim mozzarella, melt better than others, such as reduced-fat Cheddar, so experiment to find one you like.
When only a full-fat cheese will do, choose one with a sharp, strong flavor and use it judiciously -- a little goes a long way. While there’s not much of a caloric difference between hard and soft cheeses, harder cheeses generally have sharper flavors, so you can use less and still get a lot of flavor.
Cooking Tip: If you want to reduce the amount of cheese in baked dishes to cut down on fat, skip the cheese in fillings and instead use it just as a topping. This will give the biggest flavor impact. Use a combination of reduced-fat cream cheese and pureed nonfat cottage cheese instead of sour cream to reduce calories and saturated fat in dips. Skip full-fat ricotta cheese; using part-skim ricotta in recipes like calzones or lasagna saves about 50 calories and 6 grams of fat for every 1/2 cup. And it's every bit as rich and creamy.
Fiber-rich beans stand in for the beef and pork in this surprisingly rich-tasting vegetarian take on pasta Bolognese. Without the meat, the dish has only a third of the fat and 80 percent less saturated fat. To make the perfect meal, serve with a peppery arugula salad and warm, crusty Italian bread.
This elegant broccoli and goat cheese soufflé will wow your family and friends. Soufflés are surprisingly easy to make—the only trick is getting them on the table before they deflate. Serve with: A tomato-and-fennel salad and, for dessert, fresh strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
This roasted eggplant and feta dip gets a kick from a fresh chile pepper and cayenne pepper. There are countless variations on this classic meze (appetizer) in Greece. Out-of-season eggplant or eggplant that has been heavily watered often has an abundance of seeds, which make the vegetable bitter. Be sure to taste the dip before you serve it; if it's a touch bitter, you can remedy that with a little sugar. Serve with toasted pita crisps or as a sandwich spread.
The South's version of creamy polenta, grits are easy to make on a weeknight—especially when topped with quickly broiled shrimp and scallions. Use the sharpest Cheddar you can find for these cheesy grits. Serve with: Sautéed greens and a tall glass of iced tea.