The cheese board is one of those things that would appear to be completely off limits when it comes to weight loss. Think about all those beautiful morsels laid out so nicely on the wooden board – camembert, blue vein, goats cheese and aged cheddar, the list could go on. Not to mention the quince paste and those deliciously sweet muscatels – surely, all of these things would be on the banned list when it comes to weight loss?
Well, low and behold, I’m here today to shed some light on cheese, to shave off some edges from the parmesan and give you the low down on that food that we all love to eat. And guess what, it’s GOOD news. You see, it seems that cheese has been hit with the same stick as eggs did some years ago, when we were told that eggs were bad and led to high cholesterol. Thank goodness eggs are back on the menu (thanks to more robust research and the Heart Foundation now recommending enjoying up to 6 eggs a week), and it seems it’s now the same for cheese. Yep, guys, I’m pleased to tell you that cheese is back on the menu. Not only does it not increase our cholesterol, but in fact studies have found that cheese can reduce our risk of heart disease, stroke and metabolic syndrome. And the researchers now believe it has a lot to do with the fermentation and ripening process, as well as the fact that it’s a nutrient-rich bundle of goodness containing over 10 essential nutrients, two of these being calcium and protein which help to keep our bones and muscles strong.
So, let’s get back to our question. Can you eat cheese and lose weight? The truth is, when it comes to weight loss, it all comes down to the portion you eat and number of kilojoules you consume. Regular cheese has slightly more kilojoules than reduced fat cheese, so if you’re looking to lose weight, reduced fat may be a better choice. Or, you could simply eat a smaller portion of full fat stuff (let’s be honest, low fat cheese is not for everyone!) The good news is, cheese is recognised as an everyday food in the Australian Dietary Guidelines, and most people need around 3 serves of dairy or dairy alternatives per day to meet their nutritional needs. Women aged over 50 need a little more as they are at a higher risk of osteoporosis. A serve of dairy is 2 slices of cheese or 40g, so having a serve each day, for example, 2 slices of cheese on your sandwich or 40g feta tossed through your salad will help you achieve 1/3 of your needs. Add to this a cup of milk on your cereal and a tub of yoghurt for morning tea, and you’re all set!
Now, you might be thinking this all sounds a little too good to be true. How can cheese possibly be so good for you when it was always seen as the enemy? You never seemed to have much success at keeping the weight off when you indulged in the cheese platter at Friday night drinks, so how could cheese suddenly help to work in reverse? Well, the trick is to get your portions right, and change your mindset from indulgence to having a little each day. Most of us when we’re having cheese indulge in far more than the recommended servings and tend to tag on plenty of wine at the same time. Now I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with enjoying a glass of wine every now and again with a lovely small platter of cheese, but it’s not a licence to go overboard. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and increases our appetite so naturally we’re going to eat more, it’s just how alcohol works. The other piece in the puzzle is the time we often eat cheese – at the end of the week when health and wellness go out the window and on go our dancing shoes. So rather than going overboard with cheese and wine on the weekends, why not think about how you could include a little bit of cheese in your everyday life? Some of the ways I just love to enjoy cheese is adding a slice of Jalsberg to my sandwich at lunch, and in the mornings there’s nothing more that I love than some wholegrain sourdough toast with peanut butter, ricotta and a drizzle of honey. Try to also balance out the more indulgent cheeses like haloumi and brie with cheeses like ricotta and bocconcini. Get outside your comfort zone and try different varieties. Enjoy the new textures and tastes, and enjoy cheese in a mindful way. Slow down and savour every mouthful and appreciate the food you have in front of you. After all, food is one of life’s great pleasures and no one should miss out on the pleasure of cheese. Yes, you can have your cheese and eat it too!