Cheese, glorious cheese.

I totally love cheese. On stuff. By itself. Any kind (except Limburger, of course). Melted, cubed, sliced, crumbled. If it weren't for cheese (oh, and bacon) I could probably be vegan. But anyway...

If you've been on many diets, and especially if you've done Weight Watchers, you already know that cheese is not exactly friendly to most point-counting or calorie-watching plans. It does have an offset with protein and calcium, but I realized it's probably worth a little research.

First, a visual. This is one ounce of each of these cheeses. Generally, an ounce is a serving size - a sandwich slice, a string cheese stick, those single serve snacks in a bag -- most of those are one ounce. It's a little hard to tell in a picture, but the "bars" like Gouda and Havarti look like about the same amount in an ounce, but parmesan looks like a much more when it's piled up like this.

Lesson #1: All cheese is not created equal. It's hard to tell by looking how much a serving is. Read the package, or err on the side of caution, and go for less if you aren't where you can measure.

Next, the facts.

 [The cheese didn't change color - it was hard to get the chalk to show up!]

Lesson #2: If you're counting calories, your best bets are mozzarella, goat, and cheddar. Same for counting fat, with mozzarella winning by a gram. I didn't have feta on the tray, but it matches up pretty well wtih goat cheese.

There is another measure to consider, depending on what you're working toward. Which of these do you think has the highest protein count per ounce? I was surprised to learn that it's parmesan, at 9 grams per ounce. And in second place? The Gouda has 7 grams of protein.

Another point about the higher count Havarti and Gouda: these are cheeses with strong flavors, which means you will most likely need less to add flavor.

My first thought when I looked at this - I know there have been times when standing by a tray of cheese cubes, I'd pop five or six (or thirteen) of them without a second thought. At around 80 calories each, those little "nibbles" added up to an entire hamburger's worth of calories. That's not counting the crackers that went with them.

Here's a quick reference:

I didn't include any of the reduced fat cheeses in this. I use reduced-fat cheddar and feta regularly at home, but in restaurants and at gatherings, they aren't likely to be on the menu.

I know I will never give up cheese. But maybe I'll be able to make choices that don't derail me just because I'm not paying attention.

And that concludes today's salute to cheese!


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