Cheese Nutrition Corner

Patricia A. Groziak, MS, RD

Savor the Season with Simple and Nutritious Summertime Meals

Summer is upon us, and with the heat comes outdoor activities— including relaxing on patios, hosting picnics and grilling. So why not put a nutritious spin on your next outing by including natural cheese? Natural cheese is a flavorful, wholesome addition to any summer meal, providing a delicious, savory contrast to summer fruits and vegetables and a nutrient “boost” as a natural source of high-quality protein and calcium.

The unique flavor and nutrient content of natural cheese also makes it a “win” for consumers who are striving for or already living a healthy lifestyle. A recent survey commissioned by the International Food Information Council Foundation found that while taste has the greatest impact on food choices, consumers are increasingly more mindful of the healthfulness of the foods and beverages they purchase. The survey also reported most Americans agree that it’s important to consume enough protein, whether as part of a balanced diet, to help build muscle, recover from exercise or to help feel full.1

As a great-tasting, nutrient-rich dairy food, natural cheese can also help make summertime meals quick and easy—without ever having to turn on the stove! Having friends over and looking to serve a light appetizer? Fruit ‘n’ Cheese Kabobs combine summer fruits with savory cheese and are sure to delight everyone—even the kids. This recipe also helps meet recommended dairy and fruit servings for MyPlate, with cheese providing a natural source of calcium, an important nutrient to help build and maintain strong bones.

Packing a picnic lunch? Don’t forget the cheese! This Sassy Turkey and Swiss Cheese Sandwich has a delicious combination of natural cheese and sliced turkey breast, topped with leaf lettuce and tomatoes that you can find at your local farmers’ market. The Anytime Fruit Salad features bell peppers and a medley of fruits topped with natural shredded Cheddar cheese. Seasonal fruits and vegetables are a nutrient-rich, refreshing addition to summer meals, and many are high in water content, which count toward your daily fluid intake. Staying well hydrated is important for good health—especially in the hot summer months—so don’t forget to pack the picnic basket with plenty of bottled water to quench your thirst and meet your daily hydration needs.

Of course it wouldn’t be summer without outdoor grilling. Natural cheese can be a delicious, simple addition to any grilling occasion—think topping a burger with a slice of natural cheese for a delicious cheeseburger. As an alternative to beef, try this Cheddar Jack Turkey Patties with Arugula Salad recipe, which is high in both taste and protein. Or for a deliciously simple grilled chicken recipe, try the Grilled Chicken and Peppers Sandwich, seasoned with thyme and garlic and topped with bell peppers, arugula and the mild, smoky flavor of Sargento Ultra Thin Sliced Provolone Cheese. Brightly-colored bell peppers and arugula are summer seasonal produce favorites, and both are excellent sources of vitamin C.

So whether you’re seriously into Swiss or crazy for Cheddar, choosing natural cheese is a simple way to make any summer meal more delicious and nutritious.

Sources:

    1. International Food Information Council Foundation 2014 Food & Health Survey http://www.foodinsight.org/foodandhealth2014.aspx

Get the Real Facts

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    If you are lactose intolerant, you do not need to avoid cheese.

    When cheese is made, 96-98 percent of the lactose in the milk is removed, so cheese can be an important source of calcium for people with lactose intolerance. Natural cheeses such as Cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, Mozzarella, and Swiss contain minimal amounts of lactose.

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    You can eat cheese if you're following a gluten-free diet.

    Natural cheeses are gluten-free.

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    Natural cheese is made with 4 ingredients.

    Natural cheese is made from four basic ingredients: milk, salt, starter culture (“good” bacteria) and a natural enzyme called rennet, which separates curds from whey.

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    Cheese is a source of protein.

    Cheese provides a source of high-quality protein. High-quality protein, or complete protein, contains all the essential amino acids in the appropriate amounts needed by the body. Emerging research continues to support the important role of high-quality protein in promoting optimal health.

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    Cheese is a food that can fit into many healthful diet plans.

    Cheese is a nutrient-rich food available in a wide variety of forms and flavors that fit easily into many healthful meal plans, including the Mediterranean, Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), diabetic, gluten free, vegetarian, and low lactose.

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    Cheese is not a major source of sodium in the American diet.

    The majority of sodium in the U.S. diet (92%) comes from sources other than cheese. Cheese contributes only 8% of the sodium.4

    4. Hentges E. Sources of sodium in the food supply. Paper presented at the Institute of Medicine Committee on Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake. Information-Gathering Workshop; 2009; Washington, D.C.

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