Cheese Nutrition Corner

Neva Cochran, MS, RDN, LD

Happy, Healthful Holiday Eating

Neva Cochran is a registered dietitian nutritionist based in Dallas. She is also a nutrition writer, researcher for Woman’s World magazine and a nutrition communications consultant to a variety of food and nutrition organizations, including Sargento. Neva has a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Oklahoma and a M.S. in Nutrition from Texas Woman’s University.

As winter holiday celebrations approach, we are overwhelmed with an array of delicious food at every turn – work, home, parties, luncheons, dinners and more. Food is a traditional part of holiday festivities, and no one wants to feel deprived. So how can you enjoy without overindulging? Try this 3-D approach.

1. Devour the best and leave the rest
Many foods are unique to the holidays, so savor those and leave the foods that you would normally eat year-round off your plate. For instance, enjoy sweet potatoes rather than mashed potatoes, a cheese ball instead of onion dip, or pumpkin pie in place of chocolate cake. If you are trying to save on calories without compromising on taste when preparing holiday dishes, substitute lower-fat ingredients like fat-free evaporated milk for cream in mashed potatoes, Sargento Shredded Reduced Fat Natural Cheese in a casserole, or a graham cracker crust for a pastry crust for pies.

2. Decrease portions
Rather than give up holiday treats, eat smaller portions and don’t take second helpings. Use the Choose MyPlate approach by making half your plate fruits and vegetables, one quarter lean protein and one quarter grains, plus a serving of dairy on the side or included in one of the foods on your plate. Find creative ways to trim portion sizes without sacrificing taste, like using Sargento Ultra Thin Slices that are only 40-45 calories per slice with all the delicious flavor of natural cheese.

3. Deliver nutrition
Many traditional holiday foods are brimming with nutrients essential for good health. Turkey boasts high-quality protein, vitamin B6 and niacin; sweet potatoes supply fiber, potassium, and vitamins A and C; natural cheese – often used as an appetizer, recipe ingredient or a topping for veggies – provides high-quality protein and calcium; and dark green veggies like broccoli contain vitamins A, C and folate as well as fiber. By filling your plate with a variety of delicious and nutritious foods, you’ll not only please your palate but also add to the healthfulness of your diet.

Sargento offers a wide range of delicious, natural cheeses that can make any holiday celebration exceptional. Try creating tasty and festive dishes using Sargento recipes, like the Cheddar Pimiento Cheese Ball, Sweet Potato Puree, Apple Cheddar Salad and Broccoli Casserole. They are sure to be holiday favorites for years to come!

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.