10 Low-Fat Cheeses You Can Eat When You're Losing Weight
Whether it's on pizza, you dust your pasta with it, or you simply love to slap it on a cracker, cheese just makes everything better. But if you're trying to lose weight or have set similar health goals, you're probably already wary of your cheese intake. This is usually because many types of cheese are high in fat (especially saturated fats) and are calorie-dense foods, which may not do your weight loss goals any favors.
That being said, by simply replacing cheese with low-fat cheese, you don't have to make as big of a sacrifice as cutting the dairy product out of your diet entirely. Browse the cheese aisle, and there are a plethora of reduced-fat (and non-fat) cheese options you can find, which means the fat was removed in the processing step. But, there are also some cheeses out there that are naturally lower in fat.
We asked two dietitian nutritionists for their thoughts on low-fat cheeses, and rounded up 10 low-fat cheeses you can feel good about eating.
What is reduced-fat cheese, and what are the pros and cons?
"The fat in cheese is saturated fat, which is a type of fat known to raise our cholesterol levels," says Sammi Haber Brondo, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian nutritionist, and author of The Essential Vegetable Cookbook. "Limiting this type of fat and replacing it with healthy, unsaturated sources of fat (like avocado, olive oil, nuts, and seeds) can be a really healthy swap. Low-fat cheeses remove a lot of the saturated fat that's naturally in them."
However, oftentimes, less fat equals less flavor.
"The caveat with this is that fat is usually replaced with some kind of binder to make the texture of the cheese still work," says Haber Brondo. "While the binder is usually totally safe and no big deal, these cheeses also might not taste as good."
According to Science Direct, reduced fat cheeses often suffer in terms of texture and can be found to be too hard, gummy, or chewy, which not only affects the flavor, but negatively impacts the cooking experience with these cheeses.
While the texture and flavor might be altered, some people still buy these cheeses so that they can stick to their health goals and still enjoy cheese.
"Low-fat cheese allows people to modify their diet for better health but still enjoy delicious flavor and a favorite food," says Isabel Maples, MEd, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
"Cheese is loved by itself, paired with other foods, or in recipes. People might choose low-fat cheeses to lower their intake of fat, boost their intake of protein, or simply to cut calories."
Can eating low-fat cheese help you lose weight?
Of course, eating low-fat cheese alone won't help you lose weight. But consuming fewer calories during snacks or meals can help contribute to a weight loss plan if you're monitoring how many calories you're eating.
"Cheese can help one lose weight—but theoretically, any food can," says Maples. "We tend to think of foods as 'healthy' or not, but there really are no good or bad foods—all foods can fit into a healthful diet. But while someone is losing weight, the combination of foods needs to be lower than what that person normally consumes (to allow for weight loss), so substituting low-fat cheese may do the trick to lower one's calories."
Maples adds, "Protein foods are digested more slowly, so they can be more physically satisfying. And as people cut calories, adding a protein-heavy food like low-fat cheese can help hold off hunger without adding too many calories."
Low-fat cheese can also help you reduce saturated fat intake. "If you like low-fat cheese and don't taste a difference compared to regular cheese, it's a good way to reduce saturated fat in your diet," says Haber Brondo.
How to eat cheese and stick to your weight loss goals
"Because cheese is so concentrated (it takes 10 pounds of milk to make an average pound of cheese), a little goes a long way and the calories can add up," says Maples. "Instead, moderation in one's portion size helps find that personal balance (having your cake and eating it, too) to meet individual weight management needs."
A few tips for eating cheese when you're wanting to lose weight:
- Pick a strong cheese. "A strong cheese can help add flavor without going overboard on calories (because you can add flavor with a smaller portion)," says Maples. "Examples include sharp cheddar instead of Colby jack on a sandwich or in a casserole. Or, blue cheese versus American cheese on a salad."
- Go with freshly-grated cheese. "Grated cheese can stretch flavor further," says Maples. "That's why grated cheese (like Parmesan or Romano) is a good choice—a little really goes a long way." For example, 1 tablespoon of grated parmesan cheese has 21 calories and a little over just one gram of fat.
Plus, freshly grated cheese is fluffier and may seem like you're getting more than you actually are. Maples suggests using a Microplane or box grater if you're freshly grating your cheese.
"These can make grating easier and faster," says Maples. "Also, hard cheeses like parmesan grate easier at room temperature, whereas a cheddar consistency grates easier when cold."
What cheeses are naturally lower in fat?
The following cheeses are naturally lower in fat than others. And if you choose reduced-fat versions, you can save on calories and fat even more.
Here are 10 low-fat cheeses and how they compare to each other.
These 7 cheeses all have less than 10 grams of fat per serving.
- Swiss, 1 slice: 86 calories, 6.9 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 20.4 mg cholesterol, 9.5 g protein
- Cottage Cheese (low-Fat), 1 cup serving: 163 calories, 2.3 g fat, 1.4 g saturated fat, 9 mg cholesterol, 28 g protein
- Ricotta (Part-Skim), 0.5 cup serving: 171 calories, 9.8 g fat, 6.1 g saturated fat, 38.4 mg cholesterol, 14.1 g protein
- Mozzarella (Part-Skim), 1 ounce serving: 72 calories, 4.5 g fat, 2.9 g saturated fat, 18.1 mg cholesterol, 6.9 g protein
- Muenster (Reduced-Fat), 1 slice: 75.9 calories, 4.9 g fat, 3.1 g saturated fat, 17.6 mg cholesterol, 6.9 g protein
- Provolone (Reduced-Fat), 1 ounce serving: 77.7 calories, 5 g fat, 3.2 g saturated fat, 15.6 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein
- Mexican Blend (Reduced-Fat), 1 ounce serving: 79.9 calories, 5.5 g fat, 3.3 g saturated fat, 17.6 mg cholesterol, 7 g protein
These 3 cheeses all have less than 12 grams of fat per serving.
- Cheddar (Reduced-Fat), 1 ounce serving: 49 calories, 2 g fat, 1.2 g saturated fat, 5.6 mg cholesterol, 6.9 g protein
- Parmesan (Reduced-Fat), 1 ounce serving: 75.1 calories, 5.7 g fat, 3.8 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 5.7 g protein
- Monterey (Reduced-Fat), 1 ounce serving: 87.6 calories, 6.1 g fat, 3.9 g saturated fat, 18.2 mg cholesterol, 7.9 g protein
The bottom line:
"Low-fat cheese is a food that can add flavor (and a sense of not being deprived), while also cutting some calories," says Maples. Plus, it's an excellent source of nutrients and protein that many American miss out on.
"Low-fat cheese can help you get in more calcium in a delicious way, but still trim some calories and saturated fat. Though people only think calcium when they think of cheese, cheese is also a great source of protein, plus phosphorus, vitamin A and zinc."
A previous version of this story was published in January 2020. It has been fact checked and updated with additional copy.
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