What comes to mind when you think of cheese? Is it a transcendent piece of pizza or a scrumptious enchilada with all the toppings? Whatever it may be, cheese is often associated with foods that aren’t good for you. But smile: while cheese contains fat, it is also packed full of healthy nutrients your body needs, like calcium and protein. We’ve put together a list of five great cheese choices that can be part of a healthy and balanced diet, along with a few recipes to get you started on the right track.
1 - Parmesan
What’s so great about Parmesan? It’s higher in calcium and has fewer calories than most other cheeses. With just 23 calories and a bold flavor, one tablespoon of shredded parmesan can add a powerful punch of “yum” to just about any dish. The best part? Parmesan and other hard cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Monterey Jack are aged in a way that lowers the amount of lactose, making them the perfect dairy choices for those who are lactose intolerant. We like Parmesan in this Healthy Eggplant Parmesan.
2 - Gouda
Gouda is so good-a you might not think it’s a healthy for you. But it is! This creamy cheese is a wonderful source of calcium, with less fat and fewer calories than the ever-popular Cheddar cheese. Forget boxed mac ‘n’ cheese. Try this Smoked Gouda Macaroni and Cheese instead.
3 - Ricotta
You can put Ricotta in just about anything, and you should. One quarter-cup serving of Ricotta has almost as much calcium as a cup of lowfat yogurt. In addition to being calcium-rich, Ricotta is also a good source of protein and selenium, an antioxidant found in some plant and sea foods. And of course, choose part-skim Ricotta to cut fat and calories. You can always make your own Ricotta cheese, too.
4 - Cottage Cheese
What do bodybuilders eat before bed? Cottage cheese. Cottage cheese is rich in protein, which provides amino acids that your body uses to build muscle and other tissue. We think Cottage Cheese is delicious topped with tropical fruits like pineapple and mango; but if you’re trying to answer the question, “What’s for dinner tonight?” we may have found your answer: Red Chili-Cheese Enchiladas.
5 - Feta
Feta has a unique, tangy flavor that we crave, and it can transform your “go-to” meals from boring to brilliant. We like feta because it’s a good source of protein, riboflavin, calcium, and phosphorous. We love feta because there are only 74 calories per serving (1 ounce). In Washington, we benefit from access to fresh dairy and fresh seafood. Baked Shrimp with Feta, anyone?
Now it’s your turn. What are some of the healthy ways you incorporate cheese into your diet?
(images from CookingLight and myrecipes.com)