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Cheese, if You Please

6 ways to lighten up your favorite cheese dishes
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6 Tips for Cooking With Cheese continued...

2. Sometimes real cheese counts. There are situations in which a particular type of cheese is needed for a recipe, and there's no reduced-fat version available -- as with Parmesan or Brie. In these recipes, I tend to use the "real" cheese. But sometimes I use less, and I try to cut back on fat and saturated fat in other steps and ingredients of the recipe.

3. High-flavor cheese to the rescue! When you switch to a high-flavor cheese, you can use less. I follow this strategy when I can't use a reduced-fat cheese in a particular recipe. Some high-flavor cheeses that come to mind are:

  • Parmesan and Romano
  • Any smoked cheese
  • Bleu cheese, gorgonzola, or other pungent cheeses
  • Extra-sharp cheddar
  • Goat or feta cheese

4. Sprinkle, don't smother. Often, recipes for casseroles or other mixed dishes call for a blanket of cheese over the top. Yet a sprinkling is enough to do the trick. I'm talking about a cup and a half of shredded cheese to cover a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, instead of 3 cups.

5. Pair cheese with healthy partners. Since cheese is a source of saturated fat, pair it with lower-fat and higher-fiber foods. Think pears, pasta, whole grains, beans, and vegetables instead of butter, high-fat crackers and pastries, and high-fat meats like salami or sausage.

6. Fat-free cheese may not please. I've personally never tasted a fat-free cheese I've liked, so if you're looking to find one, proceed with caution. It isn't going to melt like real cheese or taste like real cheese -- it just isn't. I've learned that manufacturers sometimes go too far when taking the fat out of food ingredients. When that happens, the fat-free food has very little in common -- chemically or aesthetically -- with the original food. Fat-free margarine, anyone?

Cheese Comparisons

There are lots of types of cheese out there in supermarket-land. You can even buy cheese made from soy milk or goats' milk. And if your grocery store has a deli cheese section, you'll find all sorts of imported and domestic cheese, from feta and farmers to Gouda and Gruyere.

Here are how a few of the more common options measure up nutritionally:

(1 ounce)
Calories

Fat
(gm)

Saturated
Fat (gm)
Protein
(gm)
Cholesterol
(mg)
Calcium
(% Daily Value)
Reduced-Fat Cheeses:
Kraft 2% Sharp Cheddar
90
6
4
7
20
20%
Part-skim mozzarella
80
5
3
8
15
25%
Borden 2% American Slices
67
4
2.7
5.4
14
40%
Regular Cheeses:
Cheddar
114
9.4
6
7
30
26%
Monterey Jack
106
8.6
5.4
7
25
26%
Parmesan
111
7.3
4.7
10
19
42%
Brie
95
8
5
6
28
7%

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