Say Cheese!

Do you enjoy cheese? Who doesn’t! Whether you’re adding feta to your salad or omelet, Cheddar to your wraps, mozzarella to your pizza, or ricotta to your pasta, cheese can be a healthy and delicious addition to almost any meal. And with so many different varieties of cheese to choose from, each one with its own distinct texture and flavor, the options are limitless. You can enjoy cheese on all Phases of the South Beach Diet as long as you choose reduced-fat or fat-free varieties. For hard cheeses, look for those that have 6 grams of fat or less per 1-ounce serving. Whole-milk varieties of cheese are typically high in saturated fat and calories and should be avoided until Phase 3. Here’s more on the benefits of cheese.

A Powerful Source of Protein
Like many dairy products, cheese is an excellent source of calcium and protein, both essential for bone growth and cell renewal. Cheese also contains other important nutrients like phosphorous, zinc, riboflavin, and vitamin B12. Studies show that certain ingredients in dairy may help protect you from heart disease and cancer as well as prediabetes.

A Great Addition to Your Meal Plan
In addition to enjoying cheese in recipes, include it in your midmorning or midafternoon snack, with veggie sticks or cucumber rounds on Phase 1 or paired with whole-wheat crackers or fresh fruit on Phase 2. Just don’t overdo it because cheese is calorie dense. There are soft, semisoft, and hard cheeses, as well as fresh or aged varieties. Here’s a rundown of some cheeses that are available in reduced-fat and/or fat-free versions and tips on how to incorporate them into your meals:

  • Blue cheese has been treated with molds that form the blue or green veins throughout and give the cheese its characteristic flavor. Some blue cheeses are made with mold culture on gluten, so read labels if you are avoiding or paying attention to gluten.
  • Cheddar cheese is a firm cow’s milk cheese that is available in a range of flavors from mild to extra sharp.
  • Cottage cheese has a rich, creamy texture and a defined curd. Cottage cheese is an acid curd cheese that relies on the tendency of warm milk to curdle.
  • Farmer’s cheese is a form of cottage cheese with its liquid pressed out.
  • Feta cheese is a tangy cheese that can be crumbled into salads and omelets and used in a variety of Mediterranean entrées.
  • Monterey Jack is an ivory-colored cow’s milk cheese that is great for melting and for sandwiches. Look for some of the newer varieties like jalapeño or chipotle.
  • Mozzarella is a cow’s milk cheese that is delicious with salads and sandwiches as well as on pastas and pizzas.
  • Light spreadable cheese is a creamy, smooth mild cow’s milk cheese that typically comes in wedges and in a variety of flavors. A single-wrapped portion makes an easy, fuss-free, take-along snack on its own. Or, depending on the Phase you’re on, enjoy it on whole-grain crackers, spread into celery sticks, or in a sandwich.
  • Parmesan is a hard, full-flavored cheese that is at its best when freshly grated. Use it in pasta dishes, on salads, and for topping soups and stews. Look for Parmigiana-Reggiano. It’s more expensive and should used in moderation because it is not available in reduced-fat versions, but it is well worth the price for it’s remarkable flavor. Once the cheese is gone, the rind can be added to soups to increase flavor.
  • Part-skim ricotta is a smooth cheese that resembles cottage cheese but is sweeter-tasting and has four times more calcium. Part-skim ricotta has all the flavor of the whole-milk version but 40 percent less fat. Because of its sweet flavor, ricotta cheese is a great ingredient in dessert recipes, such as our Phase 1 ricotta crèmes.
  • Part-skim string cheese makes for a delicious and easy on-the-go snack.
  • Provolone is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that is great for melting.
  • Swiss is a holey cow’s milk cheese that is commonly used for sandwiches and it can be melted into egg dishes.

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