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 many South Beach Diet-friendly dishes. 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 when they can be eaten in moderation. Here’s more on the benefits of cheese, along with some ways to add cheese to meals and snacks.

A Source of Healthful Nutrients

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.

A Great Addition to Your Meal Plan

In addition to enjoying cheese in recipes, you can 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 meal plan:

  • Blue cheese, which comes in many varieties from around the world, has been treated with molds that form the blue or green veins throughout and give the cheese its characteristic sharp flavor. Some blue cheeses are made with mold cultured on gluten, so read labels if you are avoiding or limiting gluten in your diet. Buy blue cheese precrumbled for sprinkling over salads and fruit desserts.
  • Cheddar cheese is a firm cow’s milk cheese that is available in a range of flavors from mild to extra sharp. It's great in sandwiches and casseroles or enjoyed as a snack.
  • Cottage cheese has a rich, creamy texture and a defined curd. Choose 1%, 2%, or fat-free and have a small 4-ounce individual container as part of breakfast or as a snack.
  • Farmer’s cheese is a form of cottage cheese with its liquid pressed out. It's excellent in a breakfast crepe.
  • Feta cheese is a tangy cheese that can be crumbled into salads and omelets and used in a variety of Mediterranean-inspired entrées.
  • Monterey Jack is an ivory-colored cow’s milk cheese that is great 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 added to whole-wheat pastas and pizzas.
  • Light spreadable cheese is a creamy, 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 to enjoy with vegetable sticks or fruit, depending on which Phase you're on.
  • 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. One of the best-tasting is Parmigiana-Reggiano. It’s more expensive than other types of Parmesan and should be used in moderation because it is not available in reduced-fat versions, but it is well worth the price for its remarkable flavor. Buy it in wedges; then, once it's gone, add the rind to soups to increase flavor.
  • Part-skim ricotta is a smooth cheese that resembles cottage cheese but has a slightly sweet taste and four times more calcium. Part-skim ricotta has all the flavor of the whole-milk version but 40 percent less fat. Ricotta cheese is an ideal ingredient in dessert recipes, such as our Phase 1 ricotta crèmes or our Phase 1 cheesecake.
  • Part-skim cheese sticks, which come in various flavors, make a delicious and easy on-the-go snack.
  • Provolone is an Italian cow’s milk cheese that is great for melting. Try it in an omelet.
  • Swiss is a holey cow’s milk cheese that is commonly used for sandwiches, but it can also be melted into egg dishes and casseroles.

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