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You Ask, I Answer: Choosing Cheese

Posted Jan 13 2010 10:00pm

bocconcini-lgCan you recommend some cheeses that might be healthier than others to add? I love cheese on salads.

– Terri Korolev
San Francisco, CA

The key is to use cheeses that provide plenty of flavor but not a lot of saturated fat or sodium.

Remember — the saturated fats in full-fat dairy are more atherogenic than those in other foods (like coconuts and cocoa beans).

The absolute best choices are grated hard cheeses like romano and parmigiano-reggiano (also known as parmesan).

In the case of romano, two tablespoons only add:

  • 40 calories
  • 2 grams saturated fat
  • 170 milligrams sodium

That same amount of parmesan cheese, meanwhile, clocks in at:

  • 44 calories
  • 2 grams saturated fat
  • 152 milligrams sodium

Another good addition to salads is bocconcini — fresh mozarella balls packaged in liquid (pictured alongside this post).  Two pieces of bocconcini provide:

  • 140 calories
  • 4 grams saturated fat
  • 40 milligrams sodium
  • 20 % of a day’s worth of calcium

An ounce of whole milk ricotta also delivers strong flavors with a very decent nutritional profile:

  • 49 calories
  • 2.4 grams saturated fat
  • 24 milligrams sodium

If you prefer cheeses higher in saturated fat and/or sodium (i.e: blue cheese, feta, Swiss, etc.), you can still include them.  The key is to plan out the rest of your meals accordingly.

For example, if you crave a feta cheese-arugula-pear salad for dinner, make your breakfast, lunch, and snacks that day are low in saturated fat and sodium.

Vegans — you too can enjoy cheeses in your salads — and I don’t just mean shredded-cheddar imitations made from rice or soy.

Dr. Cow makes delicious nut-based cheeses.  Most of them include acidophilus, which helps mimic the texture and flavor of aged cheeses.  I personally enjoy the aged cashew and crystal algae “cheese”!

Similarly, there are a variety of vegan alternatives to grated parmesan cheese.

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