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5 great-tasting Cheddars you don’t have to feel bad about eating

By Carolyn Malcoun, June 30, 2010 - 10:54am

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If I had to pick the one food that’s my biggest weakness, without question it would be cheese. Every day I include cheese in my breakfast—over-hard egg (like over-easy but with a hard yolk) on whole-grain toast with a little super-sharp Cheddar—and if we have pasta or Mexican for dinner, I’m most likely going to sprinkle a little on top. And I love cheese and crackers for a simple snack. (Find out how to buy the healthiest crackers to snack on.)

Cheese is rich in calcium, a bone-strengthening mineral that most of us don’t get enough of, so I know I shouldn’t exclude it from my diet. Get 20 Healthy Cheesy Recipes for Strong Bones here.

But since many cheeses are high in saturated fat and calories, I often choose reduced-fat Cheddar because I’m watching my weight. (What other “bad” foods should you be eating?) A cup of reduced-fat Cheddar saves about 90 calories, 14 grams of fat and 8 grams of saturated fat, over regular Cheddar.

I can understand if you’re turning up your nose at the mention of reduced-fat cheese, given that some of these products are flavorless and have the texture of, say, rubber. Many of EatingWell’s recipes—including super-easy Loaded Twice-Baked Potatoes and potluck-perfect 7-Layer Salad—regularly call for reduced-fat cheeses. So we decided to put several supermarket brands of reduced-fat Cheddar to the test in the EatingWell Test Kitchen. The term “reduced-fat” means the product has at least 25 percent less fat than the full-fat version—but must that translate to reduced flavor as well?

What were our favorites?

  • Cracker Barrel 2% Milk Natural Cheese, Extra Sharp Cheddar
    This cheese was the top pick by five of our six panelists. It also had the highest marks in appearance, taste and texture. Per 1-ounce serving: 90 calories; 6 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat).
  • Cabot 50% Light
    One taster felt it was “sharper and cheesier” than the others, while another was fond of the flavor but wasn’t as keen about its texture. Per 1-ounce serving: 70 calories; 4.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat).
  • Kraft 2% Milk Natural Reduced Fat Mild Cheddar Cheese
    This was a favorite of one tester who was pleased with the chewy, gooey texture. The sharpness appealed to our food editor, Jessie Price, who thought this one would be a winner melted on nachos. But one of our testers disliked its texture and believed the only place for it was atop a bland saltine. Per 1-ounce serving: 90 calories; 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat).

Other cheeses EatingWell liked:

  • Crystal Farms Reduced Fat Cheddar Cheese Per 1-ounce serving: 90 calories; 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat).
  • Tillamook Reduced Fat Medium Cheddar Cheese Per 1-ounce serving: 90 calories; 6 g fat (4 g saturated fat).

What are your favorite reduced-fat cheeses? Tell us what you think below.

TAGS: Carolyn Malcoun, Healthy Cooking Blog, Product reviews, Taste test, Weight loss

Carolyn Malcoun
A graduate of New England Culinary Institute and University of Wisconsin with a degree in journalism, Carolyn pairs her long-standing love for food with writing as EatingWell's senior food editor. Carolyn’s culinary interest is rooted in her childhood; she grew up making thousands of Christmas cookies every year with her mom and picking leaves off bunches of parsley to make tabbouleh with her dad. Away from the kitchen, Carolyn enjoys seeking out rare craft beers and exploring the outdoors with her husband, 2-year-old daughter and dog.

Carolyn asks: What are your favorite reduced-fat cheeses?

Tell us what you think:

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