Are you trying to lose weight? You might be shocked to know that eating cheese can actually help you lose weight. There’s plenty dairy products out there like yogurts and drinks that already have good fat in them in the form of healthy fats, but mixing those with a quality cheese not only burdens you with extra calories but the calories could also come from unhealthy saturated fats.
What is low-fat cheese, and what are the benefits of low-fat cheese?
“The fat in cheese is saturated fat – a type of fat known to raise our cholesterol levels,” says Sammi Haber Brondo, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, and author of The Essential Vegetable Cookbook. “Limiting this type of fat and replacing it with healthy, unsaturated sources of fat (like avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds) can be a really healthy swap. Low-fat cheeses remove a lot of the saturated fat that’s naturally in them.”
However, the less fat, the less flavor.
“The caveat though: that fat is usually replaced with some kind of binder to make the texture of the cheese still work,” says Haber Brondo. “While the binder is usually totally safe and no big deal, these cheeses also might not taste as good.”
Why do people buy low-fat cheese?
“Low-fat cheese allows people to modify their diet for better health but still enjoy delicious flavor and a favorite food,” says Isabel Maples, MEd, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“Cheese is loved by itself, paired with other foods or in recipes. People might choose low-fat cheeses to lower their intake of fat, boost their intake of protein, or simply to cut calories.”
Can eating low-fat cheese help you lose weight?
Of course, eating low-fat cheese alone won’t help you lose weight.
“Definitely, cheese can help one lose weight—but theoretically, any food can,” says Maples. “We tend to think of foods as ‘healthy’ or not, but there really are no good or bad foods—all foods can fit into a healthful diet. But while someone is losing weight, the combination of foods needs to be lower than that person normally consumes (to allow for weight loss), so substituting low-fat cheese may do the trick to lower one’s calories.”
Adds Maples, “Protein foods are digested more slowly, so can be more physically satisfying. And as people cut calories, adding a protein food like low-fat cheese can help hold off hunger without adding too many calories.”
Low-fat cheese can also help you reduce saturated fat intake.
“If you like low-fat cheese and don’t taste a difference compared to regular cheese, it’s a good way to reduce saturated fat in your diet,” says Haber Brondo.
How to eat cheese to lose weight.
“Because cheese is so concentrated (it takes 10 pounds of milk to make a pound of cheese), a little goes a long way and the calories can add up,” says Maples. “Instead, moderation in one’s portion size helps find that personal balance (having your cake and eating it, too) to meet individual weight management needs.”
A few tips:
- Pick a strong cheese. “A strong cheese can help add flavor without going overboard on calories (because you can add flavor with a smaller portion),” says Maples. “For instance, use a strong cheese vs a mild one. Example: sharp cheddar vs Colby on a sandwich or in a casserole. Or blue cheese vs American cheese on a salad.
- Go with freshly grated cheese. “Grated cheese can stretch flavor further,” says Maples. “One ounce cheese (about the size of a thumb) = 1⁄4 cup grated. That’s why grated cheese (like Parmesan or Romano) is a good choice—a little really goes a long way. (And 1 Tbsp of parmesan has just 25 calories.)”
Plus, freshly grated cheese is fluffier and may seem like you’re getting more than you actually are. Maples suggests using a Microplane or box grater.
The 5 Best Cheeses for Weight Loss (And Ones to Stay Away From)
Cheese can be a healthy addition to your weight loss plan. Learn the best cheeses for weight loss and which you should avoid.
Cheese has a negative stigma attached to it when it comes to weight loss. It’s usually one of the first foods on the banished list, but it’s time for that to change. Studies show consuming more than three servings of dairy daily can reduce the risk for obesity and metabolic syndrome. So let the good news sink in and enjoy one of the five best cheeses that won’t wreck your weight loss plan!
Feta is a staple in the Mediterranean diet, which studies show can reduce the risk of heart disease. Feta is also lower in fat compared to other cheeses, and its tangy flavor goes a long way with just a small amount topped on salads or in a wrap. Moreover, it’s high in calcium to keep your bones strong! You’ll get 14 percent of your daily recommended calcium in just one serving.
Serving: 1 ounce
Calories from fat: 6 grams
Protein: 4 grams
Low-fat Cottage Cheese (1% to 2% milk fat):
Add some fresh fruit to a bowl of cottage cheese for a protein-packed breakfast that will hold you over well into the lunch hour. Opt for 1 percent or 2 percent milk to keep the saturated fat low. For less than 200 calories, you’ll have a complete meal.
Serving: 1 cup
Calories from fat: 2.3 grams
Protein: 28 grams
The light taste of cheddar makes for a lower-calorie, versatile cheese that goes well with many meals. Whether you want to spruce up and omelet or give your sandwich a boost, you’ll get an adequate amount of protein and calcium.
Serving: 1 slice
Calories from fat: 9.28
Protein: 7 grams
Swiss cheese is an excellent source of vitamin B12, clocking in at 14 percent of your recommended daily value per serving. Known as the energy vitamin, vitamin B12 also promotes strong bones and healthy teeth.
Serving: 1 slice
Fat: 7.78 grams
A staple in Italian meals, parmesan does more than just add delicious flavor. A small sprinkle of parmesan goes a long way in terms of taste and packs the same amount of protein, calcium, and minerals as other cheeses. Perfect for sprucing up roasted vegetables or a pasta dish.
Serving: 1 Tbsp
Calories from fat: 12
Protein: 1.89 grams
What are the healthiest types of cheese?
Brie is high in saturated fat, but gouda is packed with healthy probiotics. Westend61/Getty Images
- Some of the healthiest cheeses are feta and goat cheese, which are better for lactose intolerance.
- Cottage cheese and ricotta have more than 11 grams of muscle-building protein in a single serving.
- Swiss cheese is naturally lower in sodium, so it is a good option for people with hypertension.
Eating cheese can be part of a healthy diet. But some cheeses, like jarred queso, are high in sodium and preservatives— plus, they contain very few beneficial nutrients like protein.
There are plenty of healthier cheeses out there that can provide you with essential vitamins and minerals for a balanced, equally delicious, diet.
Note: “Given that most cheeses are high in saturated fat and this can raise the bad cholesterol in our bodies, we generally recommend limiting cheese to around an ounce a day,” says Liz Weinandy, MPH, RDN at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
1. Part-skim mozzarella cheese
Part-skim mozzarella is lower in saturated fat than many other cheeses. Brett Taylor/Getty Images
Weinandy says part-skim mozzarella cheese has a lower amount of saturated fat and sodium compared to many other kinds of cheese, with about 2.9 grams of saturated fat and 175 milligrams of sodium in a one-ounce serving. By comparison brie, another soft cheese has 4.9 grams of saturated fat — almost double.
Additionally, mozzarella is soft, mild in flavor and versatile, says Kathy Siegel, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant and author of Eating Clean Vegetarian Cookbook.
A one-ounce serving of part-skim mozzarella cheese contains:
- Calories: 72
- Protein: 6.9 grams
- Sodium: 175 milligrams
- Carbs: 0.8 grams
- Saturated fat: 2.9 grams
- Calcium: 222 milligrams
Tip: Melt some part-skim mozzarella on sliced tomatoes and basil to boost your calcium intake for the day.
2. Feta cheese
Feta cheese is a great salad-addition. Robyn Mackenzie/ Shutterstock
Feta cheese is traditionally made from goat or sheep milk, says Weinandy. This is beneficial for people who are lactose intolerant because feta lacks casein — the major protein in cow’s milk that lactose intolerants can’t easily digest.
Additionally, Siegel says feta is rich in the mineral phosphorus which is great for healthy, strong bones and teeth. A one-ounce serving of feta contains 95.5 mg of phosphorous, which is about 15% of your daily dietary value.
A one-ounce serving of feta cheese contains:
- Calories: 75.1
- Protein: 4.0 grams
- Sodium: 323 milligrams
- Carbs: 1.1 grams
- Saturated fat: 3.77 grams
- Calcium: 140 milligrams
Tip: Instead of drowning your salad in a cream-based dressing that’s loaded with saturated fat, throw some crumbled feta cheese on for that creamy kick, and then use a vinaigrette for extra flavor without the unhealthy fat.
3. Low fat cottage cheese
Cottage cheese is a good high-protein option for vegetarians. Arx0nt/ Getty Images
Although cottage cheese isn’t as high in calcium as some other cheeses, it’s a great source of protein, says Weinandy. This can be beneficial for vegetarians who aren’t getting protein from other sources, such as meat.
Opting for a low-fat version is preferable if you’re watching your weight and following a heart-healthy diet, says Weinandy.
Also, you can easily blend up cottage cheese and add it to other foods for a protein boost. Weinandy says cottage cheese can be blended into smoothies, pancakes, or muffins.
A 100 gram serving (about ½ cup) of low fat cottage cheese contains:
- Calories: 80
- Protein: 11.5 grams
- Sodium: 407 milligrams
- Carbs: 5.3 grams
- Saturated fat: 0.44 grams
- Calcium: 80 milligrams
Tip: Add some fresh berries to a bowl of cottage cheese for a low-cal, low-carb breakfast that’s packed with antioxidants.
4. Goat cheese
Goat cheese has less lactose than other kinds of cheese. bitt24/Shutterstock
Goat cheese is a soft cheese with a mild and neutral flavor that can pair well with either sweet or savory foods, says Siegel. Additionally, she says goat milk has less lactose than cow’s milk, so it’s better tolerated by people with lactose intolerance.
A one-ounce serving of goat cheese contains
- Calories: 80.1
- Protein: 4 grams
- Sodium: 75 milligrams
- Carbs: 4 grams
- Saturated fat: 3.5 grams
- Calcium: 19.9 milligrams
Tip: Instead of cream cheese on your bagel, use goat cheese, which contains 30% less saturated fat in a one-ounce serving. (A one-ounce serving of cream cheese has 5 grams of saturated fat.)
5. Ricotta cheese
If you prefer savory breakfasts, try tomato and ricotta toast. Anshu Ajitsaria/Getty Images
Ricotta cheese is made from whey protein, which contains amino acids that are beneficial for muscle health and growth.
“Ricotta is produced by heating milk until the curds and whey separate, and then reheating the whey again to create a creamy, grainy cheese,” says Siegel.
A 100 gram serving of ricotta cheese contains:
- Calories: 97
- Protein: 11.29 grams
- Sodium: 242 milligrams
- Carbs: 4.84 grams
- Saturated fat: 3.23 grams
- Calcium: 161 milligrams
Tip: Top a slice of whole-grain toast with ricotta cheese, a drizzle of honey, and sliced figs for a snack or quick breakfast.