The 5 Best Cottage Cheese Brands, According to Nutritionists
Protein is where it's at these days when it comes to nutrition. Besides the fact it fills you up, it's necessary for muscle-building and has been proven to be an ally in weight loss. There are many sources of protein, but one of the best comes from the healthiest cottage cheese brands.
"Cottage cheese is one of the most underrated protein sources out there," says Charlotte Martin, MS, RDN, CSOWM, CPT, registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Shaped by Charlotte, LLC. "It's super versatile. You can mix it into a protein smoothie, make pancakes with it, spread some onto a piece of toast and top with avocado, enjoy as is, and so much more!"
We asked three registered dietitians to narrow down the 5 best cottage cheese brands (and ones you should avoid).
What is cottage cheese, and what are its nutritional benefits?
Technically, cottage cheese is actually cheese curds.
"Cottage cheese is a mild-flavored, fresh cheese curd product made by draining the cheese instead of pressing it, so it retains moisture and some whey. Unlike other cheese products, it doesn't undergo an aging process," says Martin.
And since it's a dairy product, it's packed with protein and lots of vitamins and minerals.
"Cottage cheese is packed with nutrients, including B-complex vitamins, like vitamin B12, and calcium," says Martin. "It's an excellent source of protein, with 1 cup of small curd cottage cheese containing nearly 25 grams of protein. The majority of protein in cottage cheese is casein protein, as opposed to whey, which is slowly absorbed and helps prevent muscle breakdown. Some brands may even contain probiotics, aka friendly gut bacteria that support gut health."
How can you choose the best cottage cheese?
"Most cottage cheese brands are high in sodium, but if you need to keep your sodium intake low you can find brands labeled 'reduced sodium' or 'no salt added'," says Martin. "Just as with picking Greek yogurt, I look for cottage cheeses that have no added sugar, which is usually in the flavored varieties."
Ultimately, it comes to your preference in taste and ingredients.
"Finding the right cottage cheese can be difficult. I believe it comes down to personal preference and what your health goals are," says Amber Pankonin MS, RD, LMNT, registered dietitian and owner of Stirlist. "Cottage cheese can be a great snack because it's filled with quality protein and it's low in carbohydrates, but it can also be high in calories and sodium, so learning to read labels is really important when finding the right brand for you."
The 5 best cottage cheese brands you can buy.
"It's made with minimal ingredients, free of artificial ones, and is free of pectins, gelatins or thickeners (which aren't known to cause harm but may be problematic for some individuals)," says Martin. "Plus, they've added strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus, probiotics which may help support immune and digestive health."
"I like that it's low in sugar and comes in a plain flavor plus a fruit flavor that helps to jazz up 'plain old cottage cheese'," says Maggie Michalczyk, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist who runs the blog Once Upon a Pumpkin. "And I like that they are pre-portioned–great for taking on the go."
"I think a little higher milk fat can be very satisfying when it comes to picking the right cottage cheese. This one has great flavor and it's also much cheaper compared to other options," says Pankonin.
"I think the flavor is great and I like this one because I can find it at most grocery stores for a reasonable price," says Pankonin.
"As long as it does not have added sugars, you can't go wrong with any store brand of cottage cheese," says Michalczyk.
The 5 worst cottage cheeses
"Breakstone's ingredient list is much longer than those listed above and contains ingredients that seem unnecessary (although harmless) to make a good tasting cottage cheese," says Martin.
"Like Breakstone, the ingredient list for Hood's Cottage Cheese is long, and many of the ingredients seem unnecessary considering many tasty brands don't include them," says Martin. "For example, I'm no food scientist but I'm not sure why a plain cottage cheese would need to include natural flavor. I'm not saying natural flavors are a harmful ingredient, they just seem unnecessary in this case!"
"Even though this low-fat cottage cheese is low in calories, I just don't find it very satisfying," says Pankonin. "It's a little higher in sodium compared to the others and personally, I prefer a little more fat as I find that more satisfying while snacking."
"This is another cottage cheese with a lengthy ingredient list. This ingredient list also includes carrageenan, which is very controversial," says Martin. "Carrageenan is added to some food products as a thickener and emulsifier. Some evidence suggests carrageenan triggers inflammation and digestive issues; however, we have limited research on this. If you have any concerns over this ingredient, most other brands don't include it so it's easy to avoid."
"Even though it's lower in fat and higher in protein compared to similar products, it does contain 450 mg of sodium, which is a little higher than I would recommend," says Pankonin. "This brand is also much more expensive than other options."