Cheese Can be a Great Protein Source
The protein in cheese is high quality. It contains all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein source. According to the National Dairy Council, cheese is the chief dairy food source of protein in our diets. Different cheeses contain different amounts of nutrients and protein. One serving of cheese generally carries between 2 and 30 g of protein.
Watch Out for Fats
The downside of cheese is that it can contain large amounts of saturated fat. A mere 1 oz. of cheese may carry 6 g of artery clogging fat--half of the average person's daily recommended limit. This does not mean you should avoid eating cheese, but you should choose lower fat varieties, such as skim or reduced fat cheeses, and enjoy smaller amounts of the dense varieties on an occasional basis.
Order Cheese Items Carefully When Dining Out
Cheese as part of an entree or other food item at a restaurant adds protein, calcium, phosphorous and taste. It also can add an excessive amount of calories and fat grams. Since most restaurants use full-fat cheese, do not rely solely on cheese as your protein source when dining out. Choose healthy protein sources such as fish, beans or lean poultry, enjoying cheese in small amounts. Request less cheese or cheese "on the side," so that you can control your portion sizes.
Stock Up on Low-fat Cheeses at Home
Purchasing your own cheese for your home and family carries many benefits. You can control the type of cheese and portion sizes with the added bonus of knowing exactly what you are consuming. When it comes to aged cheeses, such as Parmesan and Romano, a very small amount adds a great deal of flavor to any dish (which is great, seeing as they tend to be higher in fat as well). Small portions do not provide substantial protein, however, so be sure to supplement it with additional protein sources, such as fish or legumes. Cottage cheese, string cheese and skim-variety or reduced fat cheeses can be enjoyed in greater portion sizes, so enjoy these on a regular basis.
Enjoy Cheesey Snacks
Our modern day busy lifestyles often lead to eating on the run, noshing on convenience foods (which are often unhealthy) or, worst of all, skipping meals completely. If any of these apply to you, consider cheese as part of protein-laden snacks. Snacking on healthy foods that include protein can maintain energy and blood sugar and prevent excess hunger, irritability and overeating. Healthy cheese-based snacks include string cheese with veggie slices, low-fat cottage cheese with fruit, low-fat cream cheese on whole grain crackers or whole wheat pita filled with veggies and low-fat cheese. Cheese can also play an important role for children's nutrition, so have fun creating low-fat cheese snacks and finger foods for the whole family!