Healthiest cheese: Best and worst cheeses for your diet

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  • We’re a nation of cheese lovers, but do you know which is the healthiest cheese? We’ve ranked 17 cheeses from best to worst, so you know which ones to top your crackers with. 

    Whether it’s on toast, in a sawnie or taking pride of place on a cheeseboard – it’s official: us Brits can’t get enough of cheese.

    Each year we produce 700 different named British varieties. And our love for this dairy delight really comes into it’s own during the festive period, when we fork out £2 billion on cheese for our Christmas day spreads.

    Whilst this favourite fridge staple is incredibly delicious, we’re not oblivious to the fact that most cheeses aren’t a healthy snack, and indeed come with a heavy fat and calorie content. And though there is some evidence that a little bit of cheese is good for you, experts still encourage us to enjoy it in moderation.

    As dietitian Jasmine Carbon of Carbon Nutrition explains: “Adding cheese to a meal is a great way to incorporate depth of flavour, saltiness, and increases the nutritional value by adding calories, protein, iodine, phosphorus, and vitamin C. In moderate amounts (about 30g), cheese can and should be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. Yet regularly having more than that can take you over your daily salt, saturated fat and calories allowance.”

    Wanting to be wise in our future cheese choices, we studied the fat, salt and calorie content of some of our best loved cheeses to determine the healthiest cheese options overall. From Stilton to Cheddar and Parmesan to Philadelphia, we ranked our favourites and found some surprising results…

     

    Which cheese is healthiest?

    The healthiest cheese overall was Fat Free Cottage Cheese which as you’d expect ranks the best for fat content and is also the lowest calorie cheese on the market. In a 100g serving, Cottage Cheese boasts only 0.4g of salt, making it the best cheese for salt content too.

    • Healthiest cheese overall: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
    • Lowest calorie cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
    • Lowest fat cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese
    A close-up of a woman inspecting the healthiest cheese in the cheese aisle of a supermarket

    Credit: Getty

    The least healthiest cheese overall is Double Gloucester, which contains the highest amount of calories (415 per 100 grams) and a whopping 21.9g of saturated fat – which is more than the NHS’s recommended daily saturated fat limit for women.

    • Worst cheese overall: Double Gloucester (contains the most calories and fat)
    • Worst cheese for salt content: Roquefort
    • Worst cheese for saturated fat content: Stilton

     

    Healthiest cheeses ranked from best to worst

    1. Lowest calorie cheese and lowest fat cheese: Fat Free Cottage Cheese

    The healthiest cheese is low fat cottage cheese

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 62 – lowest calorie cheese
    Fat: 0.3g – lowest fat content
    Saturated fat: 0.3g
    Sugar: 4.7g
    Salt: 0.4g – lowest salt content
    Price: £1.20 at Tesco

    Verdict: Behold the humble cottage cheese, which takes the crown for the lowest calorie cheese and lowest fat cheese on the market. Though it’s a bit of a love it or hate it food, cottage cheese truly is the best cheese out there if you’re watching your weight. Try topping the original on a rice cracker with some cherry tomatoes for a more savoury taste. Or if you’re not keen on the plain version you could try one of the other varieties that are flavoured with fruits like pineapple or mango. Just bear in mind fruit versions like pineapple ones will be higher in sugar.

    View at Tesco

     

    2. Philadelphia light

    One of the healthiest cheese options is a tub of Philadelphia light

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 87
    Fat: 2.5g
    Saturated fat: 1.7g
    Sugar: 4.9g
    Salt: 0.85g
    Price: £1.95 at Tesco

    Verdict: Soft cheeses like good old Philadelphia light are generally lower in fat than a typical sandwich filler like Cheddar, but they are much lower in calcium. This is a cheese we tend to use as a spreadable snack, meaning that we don’t tend to eat too much in one portion. However if you’re thinking of filling a chicken breast with some then make sure you pick up the lighter tub, it’s got less than half the fat of regular Philly. Oh, and don’t be taken in by all the fancy flavours and variations, just stick to the original lighter offerings.

    View at Tesco

     

    3. Mini Babybel light

    Mini babybels are one of the healthiest cheese options

    Credit: Ocado

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 208 (just 42 cals per Babybel)
    Fat: 12g
    Saturated fat: 8g
    Sugar: Trace
    Salt: 1.8g
    Price: £1.95 for 6 or £3.50 for 12 at Ocado

    Verdict: If you’re really trying to be good and looking to quash your cheese craving with a quick snack, these little Babybels are perfect. The lighter versions contain just 42 calories and 2.4 grams of fat per cheese. We’ve ranked these highly in our healthiest cheese list as limiting yourself to just one is admirable and shouldn’t jeopardise a balanced diet.

    View at Ocado

    4. Reduced Fat Mozzarella

    A packet of Tesco reduced fat mozzarella

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 164
    Fat: 9g
    Saturated fat: 6.6g
    Sugar: 0.7g
    Salt: 0.4g
    Price: 70p at Tesco

    Verdict: Mozzarella is a fresh cheese traditionally made with Italian buffalo milk but quite often made with cows’ milk. You may associate mozzarella with your favourite pizza, a caprese salad, or the topping for a hearty lasagne. But how does it fair in the health stakes? It’s worth choosing lighter mozzarella options over Buffalo mozzarella or the full fat variety here, which carries double the amount of fat (18g per 100g serving).  Lots of supermarkets sell their own range of reduced fat mozzarella which cuts the fat and calorie content by half, making it a great option for salads.

    View at Tesco

     

    5. Reduced Fat Feta

    Reduced Fat Feta is one of the healthiest cheese options you could make

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 163
    Fat: 9.3g
    Saturated fat: 5.9g
    Sugar: 1g
    Salt: 1.8g
    Price: £1.00 at Tesco

    Verdict: Feta is a crumbly, aged Greek cheese made with sheep’s milk, so can be a saviour to anyone with an allergy to cow’s milk. It’s a delicious summer cheese, great with olives, and is everyone’s favourite part of a classic Greek salad. Overall, Feta is one of the healthiest cheeses you can buy, especially the lighter versions which carry less saturated fat than the full fat kind. Plus, the bonus about feta is that while it’s relatively low in calories it’s strong in taste – a combination that is hard to come by. It’ll satisfy your cheese craving without sitting heavily on your waistline.

    View at Tesco

     

    6. Light Cypriot Halloumi (30% less fat)

    A packet of light halloumi cheese from Tesco

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 253
    Fat: 17g
    Saturated fat: 11.7g
    Sugar: 0.7g
    Salt: 3.1g
    Price: £2.00 at Tesco

    Verdict: Cypriot cheese Halloumi has gained a following in recent years, fast becoming one of the nation’s best loved cheeses. It’s really high melting point makes it’s great for frying or grilling and having in a wrap or pitta bread. Regular halloumi is quite fatty, around 25g of fat in every 100 grams, but we’ve discovered that supermarkets sell lighter options that carry 30% less fat. Naturally salty in nature, halloumi therefore has one of the highest salt contents for cheese. So just watch your portion size when tossing into a salad or making Joe Wicks’ halloumi fries.

    View at Tesco

     

    7. Cornish Brie

    Tesco's cornish brie is oen of the healthiest cream cheese options

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 276
    Fat: 20.5g
    Saturated fat: 13.1g
    Sugar: 0.1g
    Salt:1.3g
    Price: £1.60 at Tesco

    Verdict: Brie, we had you all wrong. We thought this creamy soft cow’s milk cheese would be filled with fat. And whilst it’s not the healthiest cheese we’ve seen, it’s considerably less fatty than both full fat and light Cheddar and creamy blue cheeses like Stilton. It’s incredibly hard to find a light fat brie option though, so we’ve compared both Cornish and classic French brie options and found that the English variety is considerably better calorie and fat content wise.

    View at Tesco

     

    8. Le Rustique camembert

    Camembert is a middle of the range healthy cheese

    Credit: Ocado

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 268
    Fat: 20g
    Saturated Fat: 14g
    Sugar: <0.5g
    Salt: 1.6g
    Price: £2.05 at Ocado

    Verdict: Camembert has a similar nutritional make-up as brie, but we’ve ranked it a little lower for it’s increased saturated fat content. We could forgive you for thinking that a baked camembert is one of the worst cheese offerings, yet it’s fat and calorie numbers actually rivals most hard cheeses like Cheddar, Cheshire and Wensleydale cheese.  Sharing one of these beauties between two is under 300 calories – provided you skip the bread (which may cause bloating!)

    View at Ocado

     

    9. Pilgrims Choice Lighter Mature Cheddar

    A lighter cheddar cheese is the best cheddar option for your diet

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 314
    Fat: 22.1g
    Saturated fat: 13.8g
    Sugar: 0.1g
    Salt: 1.8g
    Price: £2.59 at Tesco

    Verdict: A true British favourite, this cheese gets its name from the English village of Cheddar in Somerset. Who can resist a tasty slab of Cheddar on a ham sandwich, or melted over a slice of toast? Unfortunately for us Cheddar lovers, it’s one of the fattiest cheeses around. If you can’t bear to part with your Cheddar for a lower-fat cheese, then make sure you’re making a smart Cheddar choice by buying the lighter version, like this Pilgrim’s Choice one.

    View at Tesco

     

    10. Goats’ cheese

    Goats' cheese isn't the healthiest cheese option

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 279
    Fat: 23g
    Saturated fat: 16g
    Sugar: <0.1g
    Salt: 1.7g
    Price: £2.00 at Tesco

    Verdict: Goats’ cheese isn’t too bad, it still beats full fat Cheddar and super fatty Stilton. Unfortunately we’ve not been able to track down a lighter version, but it is rich in vitamin D, and compared to lots of lighter versions, it doesn’t fare too badly. Despite it not being the healthiest cheese, we reckon it’s okay to enjoy from time to time.

    View at Tesco

     

    11. President Emmental cheese

    President Emmental is one of the worst cheeses for your diet

    Credit: Ocado

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 368
    Fat: 28g
    Saturated fat: 19g
    Sugar: 0g – sugar free
    Salt: 1.5g
    Price: £2.20 at Ocado

    Verdict: Holey moly – who knew that Emmental cheese was so high in fat? If, like us, you thought the holes made it a healthier cheese, think again. Whilst this soft, savoury cheese is good on a piece of crusty bread it’s not so good for our waistlines. Per 100 grams this regular Swiss cheese sets you back 368 calories, which means it’s not a viable low calorie snack option. Sadly, President seemed to have discontinued their lighter option, so if you are eating the original be sure to keep an eye on your serving.

    View at Ocado

     

    12. Worst cheese for salt content: Roquefort

    Roquefort is one of the least healthiest cheese options as it's high in salt

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 372
    Fat: 32g
    Saturated fat: 20g
    Sugar: 0g – sugar free
    Salt: 3.6g – highest salt content
    Price: £2.00 at Tesco

    Verdict: We were quite surprised at how much salt is in blue cheese Roquefort. The 3.6g of salt in every 100g serving makes up over half of the NHS’s daily salt allowance. However, it’s still lower in fat and calories than Stilton. Plus it’s made from sheep’s milk – making it a great choice if you’re allergic to cow’s milk.

    View at Tesco

     

    13. Worst cheese for sugar content: Wensleydale with cranberries

    A packet of Tesco Finest Wensleydale cheese with cranberries

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 365
    Fat: 25.6g
    Saturated fat: 15.9g
    Sugar: 15.7g – highest sugar count
    Salt: 1.3g
    Price: £2.50 at Tesco

    Verdict: ‘What’s wrong with Wensleydale, Gromit?’ We love a bit of Wensleydale cheese as it’s light and slightly sweeter than other cheeses – especially when it’s mixed with fruits and other flavours like chilli. However be mindful that these different flavour combinations hike up the sugar content; this Tesco Finest Wensleydale with cranberries is officially the worst cheese for sugar content (a staggering 15.7g per 100 grams).

    View at Tesco

     

    14. Cheshire cheese

    Cheshire cheese is one of the least healthiest cheese options

    Credit: Ocado

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 381
    Fat: 31.8g
    Saturated fat: 21.1g
    Sugar: 0.1g
    Salt: 1.58g
    Price: £2.10 at Ocado

    Verdict: Did you know that Cheshire cheese is the oldest known cheese in the UK? Perhaps not, but what you do need to know is that it contains almost 32 grams of fat per 100g – which is almost the same as full fat Cheddar. Unfortunately all our dairy drawer favourites seem to be very high in both fat and saturated fat. And while lots of lighter versions have appeared on the shelves in the last few years, our beloved Cheshire is one we’re yet to see have a reduced fat version. Best saved for a treat, we say.

    View at Ocado

     

    15. Parmesan

    A packet of grated parmesan

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 402
    Fat: 29.7g
    Saturated fat: 19.6g
    Sugar: 0g – sugar free
    Salt: 1.6g
    Price: £2.20 at Tesco

    Verdict: This cheese is an Italian hard cheese made from raw cow’s milk. Thankfully when we use Parmesan we tend to be quite sparing with it, grating a little bit here and there over a pizza or pasta, and it’s just as well, because it’s almost as calorific as Stilton. Just under 20g of saturated fat and over 400 calories per 100g, Parmesan is not one of the healthiest cheese options. However, whilst Parmesan does tend to be a pretty fatty and salty cheese, one of its benefits is that it is high in calcium. In fact, just an ounce of Parmesan contains a third of your recommended daily allowance.

    View at Tesco

     

    16. Worst cheese for saturated fat: Stilton

    Stilton is one of the wrost cheeses for your diet

    Credit: Ocado

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 410
    Fat: 35g – joint highest in fat
    Saturated fat: 23g – highest in sat fat
    Sugar: 0.1g
    Salt: 1.98g
    Price: £1.70 at Ocado

    Verdict: It’s sad news for Stilton fans. This rather fragrant blue number is officially the worst cheese for fat and saturated fat.  And what’s more, these figures are especially alarming when you realise that an 100g serving of this will take women over their daily saturated fat limit. For those that really can’t resist a slice, consider a half portion treat every now and again.

    View at Ocado

     

    17. Highest calorie cheese: Double Gloucester

    Double Gloucester is the least healthiest cheese overall

    Credit: Tesco

    Per 100g serving:
    Cals: 415 – highest calorie count
    Fat: 35g – joint highest in fat
    Saturated fat: 21.9g
    Sugar: 0.1g
    Salt: 1.7g
    Price: £1.55 at Tesco

    Verdict: A strong, savoury flavour, this is the sort of cheese we end up eating chunks of in between putting some in a sandwich. But these nutritional figures should hopefully make us lay off the mindless snacking. Double Gloucester is again quite similar to Cheddar in the sense that it’s a hard cheese with a high amount of fat. Every 100 grams has over 30 grams of fat and 415 calories – making it officially the highest calorie cheese. So, although it’s tasty, it’s actually the least healthiest cheese on the market.

    View at Tesco

     

    What is the healthiest vegan cheese?

    Generally vegan cheeses are typically lower in fat, protein and calcium compared to regular cheese choices. However, as vegan cheese is a processed food, it often carries a higher sodium and saturated fat content than regular cheese. So it’s wise to consult the label before purchasing.

    The healthiest vegan cheese is Violife Original Soft Cheese Dairy Alternative

    Credit: Tesco

    We’ve researched the vegan cheese market and found that the healthiest vegan cheese overall is Violife’s dairy free soft cheese. This spreadable vegan cheese actually contains just over 1g of salt and is 239 calories per 100g serving.

    For those after a harder vegan cheese – the healthiest option is Violife’s original flavour block. Compared to other leading vegan cheese brands (think Follow Your Heart, Koko and Tesco’s dairy free range) this cheese has fewer calories (270 per 100g) and a commendable 19g saturated fat (most contain 23g and over).

     

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