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The Healthiest Cheese on the Planet

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    Cheese Please

    You probably think you need to say goodbye to your beloved cheese if you want to eat healthier or drop a few pounds. But don't completely restrict yourself from the gooey goodness just yet. Cheese can get a bad rap for being high in calories or fat, but Samantha Lynch, MS, RD, CDN, says it's actually a great source of calcium, protein, and vitamin D. "People shy away from cheese, but there are other important nutrients this dairy can provide." We tracked down the best of the best when it comes to healthy cheese, plus guilt-free recipes you'll love.

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    Feta

    This popular Mediterranean cheese comes in blocks or crumbles, and because of its strong flavor, you won't need a lot of it to get the full effect. "Feta gives you a lot of bang for your buck," says Lynch. At only 75 calories an ounce (that's about a one-inch cube), this cheese is on the lower end of the fat-and-calorie spectrum. What's more, since feta is typically made from goat's milk, it can be a great choice if you're sensitive to lactose.

    Try it: Greek Salad with Pita Croutons

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    Goat Cheese

    You may be surprised to learn this creamy, spreadable cheese is labeled a smart choice, but it's low cal, just like feta—plus it packs a bigger protein punch. With more than 5 grams of protein per ounce, you can skip the meat on your next salad. Lynch suggests trying it with beets for a delicious antioxidant-rich combo.

    Try it: Caramelized Onion, Arugula, and Goat Cheese Omelets

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    Cottage Cheese

    Instead of mindlessly snacking on cubed cheese (those calories added up fast—oops!), dip a spoon into protein-packed cottage cheese. This diet-friendly food has a whopping 16 grams of protein in just half a cup, says Lynch. Try it with pineapple, peaches, or mango, and choose the low-sodium variety to make it an extra-healthy choice. Bonus: Cottage cheese includes a large amount of casein protein, which promotes muscle recovery and steady protein synthesis.

    Try it: Cottage Cheese Veggie Dip

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    Provolone

    Build a better sandwich every time with a slice of this cheese. When compared to other common sandwich options (e.g., cheddar, Swiss, mozzarella), Lynch says provolone gets the win. Just one ounce provides 21 percent of your recommended daily value of calcium.

    Try it: Philly Cheese Steak Sandwich

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    Ricotta

    This Italian sheep's milk cheese is a familiar ingredient in everything from lasagna to dessert. And Lynch says although whole-milk and part-skim varieties are both low-cal—49 and 39 for one ounce respectively, "you can get away with part-skim ricotta in recipes." "I don't think the flavor is compromised, especially when combined with other ingredients," she says.

    Try it: Spinach-and-Ricotta-Stuffed Shells

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    Neufchâtel

    The fraternal French twin of cream cheese looks and tastes very similar to its American relative, but has one-third the fat—score! "It can be used in place of cream cheese on bagels or crackers, and in frostings and dips, too," says Lynch.

    Try it in: Blueberry Tart with Walnut Crust

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    Parmesan

    This versatile cheese comes in many forms, and Lynch recommends using the grated version in everything from omelets (swap American or cheddar) to popcorn (swap butter and salt) to save calories and cut back on fat while still getting a boost of flavor. Parm is a great example of why there's much more to a healthy diet than watching calories. It clocks in at 112 calories per ounce, but with that you also get more than 8 grams of satisfying protein.

    Try it in: Baked Parmesan Tomatoes

 

Alyssa Sparacino

Alyssa is the web editor for SHAPE & FITNESS and an ACE certified personal trainer. She is a cycling and barre enthusiast, and lover of both planks and pasta. Before joining the #ShapeSquad she was the digital editor for HGTV Magazine and assistant editor of Health.com.  More →

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