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How to Enjoy Healthy Cheese

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.

Pictured Recipe: Caprese Salad

Why cheese is good for you

What you get: Although relatively high in calories and saturated fat, cheese is rich in calcium and provides some protein and phosphorus.

Pictured Recipe: Garden Pizza

How to Shop for the Best Cheese

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.

Pictured Recipe: Caramelized Onion Lasagna

How to Cook with Cheese

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.

Pictured Recipe: Bean Bolognese

Bean Bolognese

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.

Broccoli & Goat Cheese Souffle

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.

Cheddar Cornmeal Biscuits with Chives

These chive-flecked cornmeal biscuits taste best made with extra-sharp Cheddar, but any type of Cheddar will work.

Pictured Recipe: Cheesy Chicken Pasta

Cheesy Chicken Pasta

This ooey-gooey pasta dish is a crowd-pleaser for adults and kids alike-think rich and creamy macaroni-and-cheese tossed with cauliflower and chicken. Serve with a spinach salad.

Cheesy Polenta & Egg Casserole

This memorable brunch centerpiece is rich with cheesy polenta, crumbled sausage and baked eggs.

Pictured Recipe: Parmesan Spinach Cakes

Parmesan Spinach Cakes

If you like spinach-cheese pie, try these simple but elegant-looking little spinach cakes.

Roasted Eggplant & Feta Dip

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.

Pictured Recipe: Shrimp & Cheddar Grits

Shrimp & Cheddar Grits

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.

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