I like to say that my favorite food group is cheese. I know cheese is not an actual food group, but it’s so delicious it ought to be. Even though it can be high in calories and saturated fat there are still ways to enjoy cheese as part of a healthy diet. Plus, all cheese is a rich source of calcium, so sampling the abundance helps to strengthen your bones. (Try these 20+ recipes for bone health.)
I was inspired to offer the following recipes and tips for healthy ways to enjoy cheese after I recently went to the Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival, a special five-course cheese dinner. Here are some pictures from the festival:
An impressive spread of artisan cheeses! Photo Credit: Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival / Adeline Druart
A monster wheel of Grafton Village Cheddar Cheese. Photo Credit: Vermont Cheesemakers’ Festival / Adeline Druart
In addition to trying lots of delicious cheese, I got to meet some cheese makers at the event. It was really awesome and so are these healthy EatingWell recipes with cheese!
Chicken Parmesan Sub – You may disagree on whether the chicken parm sandwich should be known as a “sub,” “hoagie” or “grinder,” but who doesn't love this neighborhood-deli classic? We've added some spinach and done away with all the greasy breading to make it more healthy.
Arugula Salad with Honey-Drizzled Peaches – This salad has goat cheese rolled in pecans on top of sweet peaches and peppery arugula.
Smoky Stuffed Peppers – These peppers are super-easy, beautiful and delicious. They’re stuffed with a blend of brown rice, Italian sausage and smoked cheese. You can use smoked Cheddar (Shelburne Farms in Vermont makes an amazing one), smoked mozzarella or gouda. Smoked gouda from Taylor Farms in Vermont is my favorite choice. It’s outstanding.
Baked Mac & Cheese – Here’s a good recipe to use a strong Cheddar. The recipes stays healthy with the addition of creamy low-fat cottage cheese and whole-wheat pasta, which adds extra fiber.
5 tips for enjoying cheese healthfully:
- Get strong: Obviously it’s all about moderation when it comes to eating cheese. So how do you have just a little without going overboard? Choose cheeses with a lot of flavor (often artisanal cheeses have bigger, bolder flavors). If you’re going for Cheddar, pick the sharpest one you can find. Instead of basic supermarket-brand Parmesan cheese, choose a real imported Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy. Even if it’s a little more expensive, it’s probably going to have more flavor, which means you can use less of it in a dish and still get a big impact. That’s good news for your waistline too.
- Use cheese where it counts, flavor-wise: When you make a dish with cheese in it, like a casserole, make sure you save a little (say ¼ cup) and sprinkle it over the top so you can enjoy looking at it and smelling it as you dig in. That can have a serious impact on your perception of how cheesy (and therefore delicious) a dish is.
- When a full-fat version of a cheese isn’t necessary, choose “reduced-fat,” 2% or “part-skim” varieties of cheese, which contain 25 percent less fat than their regular counterparts. Some lower-fat cheeses, like part-skim mozzarella, melt better than others, such as reduced-fat Cheddar—so experiment to find one you like.
- 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 reduced-fat or nonfat ricotta in recipes like calzones or lasagna saves about 58 calories and 8 grams of fat for every 1/4 cup. And it's every bit as rich and creamy.
On a scale of 1 to 10 how much do you love cheese? Tell us what you think below.