The Truth About Cheese

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The Truth About Cheese

Cheese gets a bad rap. Probably because it’s so delicious, and nothing that delicious can actually be good for you. Right?

Whenever someone proclaims she’s a big cheese lover, we think that addiction will go straight to her waistline—but that’s not necessarily the case. Cheese can totally be a part of a well-balanced, healthy diet. “I am a huge fan of cheese,” says Keri Gans, M.S., R.D., author of The Small Change Diet. “Looking at the total diet, there can certainly be room for one or two servings a day.” And whether you like mozzarella, feta, goat cheese, or cheddar, you don’t have to forego the varieties you like best in favor or one that’s lower in fat or calories. In fact, Gans enjoys all of them in moderation. Here are her tips for eating cheese effectively—without going overboard and gaining:

1. Choose cheese as a snack.

Gans says her absolute favorite way to incorporate cheese into a healthy diet is to nosh on it between meals. “It makes the perfect snack, along with a piece of fruit,” she says. “It’s a great source of calcium and protein—and it’s portable, too.” Stock up on pre-portioned options, such as The Laughing Cow wedges or mini Babybel cheeses, and pair them with fruit, whole wheat crackers, or a piece of toast with egg whites and sliced tomato.

2. Watch your saturated fat intake.

Most health-conscious people are aware of calories, but when it comes to having a serving of cheese Gans says it’s more important to check out the source of those calories. “With cheese, I’m most worried about a person’s saturated fat intake,” she says. According to the American Heart Association, only 5 to 6 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, roughly 12 or 13 grams per day. Which means, if you’re getting a lot of saturated fat elsewhere, you may have to limit your cheese consumption.

3. A little goes a long way. 

Because it’s so tasty, it’s a good idea to rely on strategies that will prevent you from overeating, says Gans. Choose pre-portioned cheeses, cut one ounce off a block at home, or measure out one tablespoon before you start munching. “The main thing is portion control,” says Gans. “Two tablespoons of feta on a salad can go a long way. And one tablespoon of parmesan on a pasta dish is all you need.” If you simply sprinkle or nosh without checking the portion first, you’ll likely eat too much—and you won’t necessarily enjoy it more.

4. Pick and choose.

Just as with portion control, it’s important that you don’t take the “you can totally eat cheese!” line of thinking too far and put cheese on everything, says Gans. This is where people get into trouble—and why cheese has that bad rap in the first place. “If you want it on the burger, then you can’t have it on the omelet,” says Gans. “Especially on the same day.” When in doubt, make sure you’re not topping a dish or adding cheese to a snack more than once or twice a day. If you do that, you’re likely in good shape.

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  • Phyllis Koepsell

    We love cheese! Since we’ve been reducing, however, we pretty much stick to Laughing Cow Light, with occassional reduced fat feta/feta on a salad or a sprinkle of parmesan. Portion size (and control) is important.

  • Danielle Tje

    My favorite snack: 2 slices cheese, the older the better. 3 Minutes in the microwave on a plate. Take it Ou. Poor the fat in the bin, use tissues to soak op the fat that’s left. Take ithe cheese of the plate. Let it cool. Mmmm cheese cookie low fat!!

    • thomas

      Sounds like something an anorexic would do

  • GK85

    Seriously, nothing wrong with cheese. I eat it on a daily basis. I accossionally eat camembert or brie as well on a night snack. Still lost about 40 kg over last 4-5 years. It’s all about calorie in calorie out. Well manly it is. Eating at a deficit will make you lose weight, simple as that. Even if your intake contains cheese, or pizza or McDonalds for all i care. Intake must be lower then what your burn. Compare to a car and the gas in it. Simple mathematics

  • Pinup04

    I am a vegan. I used to be vegetarian. Cheese is fat. Since dumping dairy and going vegan I dropped 30 lbs. I added some cheese now and then back this year and started to gain again. Just 4 slices of pizza once a month made 5-8 lbs! Ugh! I gotta dump dairy again. So long Papa Johns Veggie pizza! Back to cheese less pizza.

    • freda

      hey – i don’t actually think it is the cheese that made you gain! but the carbs from the pizza base……. maybe think about that

    • JoanieB

      The weight gain probably had more to do with the bread than the cheese. Eat the cheese skip the bread. Especially papa johns.

  • Bruce

    Pizza was a food group. I would think nothing about consuming a 1lb. block of cheese (in addition to the cheese on the pizza) a week. Then the doc checked my cholesterol and the pizza and cheese were greatly reduced. Now the cheese being bought is special cheese (no supermarket variety) and pizza is a 1-2 monthly privilege. That and I dropped 15 pounds in the process.

  • Adrienna Turner

    I love cheese and try to keep it to portion size. I see only a 1 oz I suppose but sometimes we get greedy with a few crackers. I wanted to know also if there are certain cheeses we are not to eat and why. I hope to see that soon as well. I also do cheese with corn tortilla or multigrain ones, melted lightly in microwave.

    • Barbara J Helm

      What about Brie how much per day ? Unless this is a no no

  • Helen

    I’ve been snacking on cheese while I’m on a high protein weight loss program. I’ve lost 25kg so far and love being able to snack on one of my favourite foods – something I’ve denied myself for years believing it to be bad for me. It’s all about when and how much. Enjoy!

  • Granger

    Its time for health writers to get current on the research. The American Heart Institutes guidelines on saturated fat are wrong. And in a low carb diet the research shows that saturated fat is not an issue. Even Time magazine wrote this up

    • Cody

      Absolutely! Still so much “bad information” out there.

    • Andrea

      Time magazine is not a peer-reviewed scientific journal. R.D.s are equipped with current information based on scientific evidence. One study, or a even a few studies ,showing that sat fat is not as bad as we thought are not enough to change dietary recommendations. Time magazine doesn’t care how many studies have been done. They can report on one small study if they so choose. Watch for a statement from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. They are the authority here, not a Time magazine writer.

      • Granger

        There really aren’t any good scientific studies showing any problem with saturated fat. The scientifically designed studies have shown that saturated fat creates no problems in terms of either inflammation or lipid profile. The true dietary culprit is carbohydrate. For a review of the scientific studies read Phinney and Voleck Low Carbohydrate Living. The evidence has become so strong that not just Time but also Wall Street Journal and NY Times have reported on the massive discrepancies between the recommendations and the evidence. Frankly, I think big Pharma is perfectly happy to go on selling Statins rather than have any change to the misinformation that’s being peddled.

  • Shirley

    I,m on a low carb diet and I am losing 2-3 lbs weekly. I eat lots of cheese because it has no carbs and carbs are the enemy. I,m on 20 carbs daily and obviously doing very well. In 6 wks I’ve lost 17 lbs and I feel great! I plan to monitor my carbs forever and I don’t count calories.

  • lv83

    I live in France so it would be totally sacrilegious to give it up! A little taste of cheese after lunch or dinner is a nice way to finish off a meal and can often put you off dessert because of the taste that lingers!

  • Sylvia Solutions

    See below comment

  • Mamie

    I’ll put cheese on whatever I want, but if I want it to top more than 1 thing, I use the appropriate fraction of a serving. Eventually my taste buds got used to this and I’ve been able to savor the cheese that much more.

  • Jackie Demko

    i call myself a cheese freak. I had a doctor tell me I have a reaction to eat much like an alcoholic and really need to try to avoid and limit it greatly – not going to happen. I hope to try this way. Swiss or mozzarella was ok I think.

  • Des

    I love, love, love cheese! – so much so that it is a trigger food for me. I can’t eat just one or two portions – I will eat the whole container! The only way for me to avoid a total cheese binge is to keep it out of the house entirely. I will splurge when we go out – but even then I have to work hard to beat down the cravings for the rest of the day.

    My other strategy is to keep fat-free cottage cheese in the fridge. The lack of fat and flavor is psychologically unsatisfying, but I can feel okay eating a full cup of it to keep cravings at bay. It is just cheesy enough to get me through a weak moment, and it is very filling without triggering the same cravings as full-flavor cheese.