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Five tricks to a healthy grilled cheese treat

Friday, October 21, 2016

Grilled cheese sandwich

Lindsay Sawyer Lim, R.D.N., L.D.N., M.B.A., M.P.H.
Clinical nutrition manager, NCH Nutrition and Food Services

A grilled cheese sandwich is a great choice for dinner, especially if you work late or are short on time. So cozy up to a yummy grilled cheese this fall and winter!

1. I’m all about that bread, bout that bread. Let’s cut to the chase. White bread is boring and lacks nutrients. Choose whole grain bread to pack more nutrition and fiber. Better yet, buy crusty whole grain bread from your grocer's bakery section to make it extra special. (For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, there are a variety of good tasting gluten-free bread choices that hold up to the demands of a decent grilled cheese sandwich).

2. Go bold or go back (to the store). Use a cheese with bold flavor. Bigger flavor means less cheese needed and less fat. My favorite is sharp cheddar; however, there are lots of choices including gouda or a small amount of blue cheese or brie. Most flavors also are available with reduced fat. Whichever flavor you choose, keep it to no more than two slices to watch the calories. Spoiler alert: The cheese will likely leak out of the bread if you go with more than two slices anyway.

3. Add a little healthy to the mix. My favorite healthy ingredient is a mashed avocado half with a sprinkle of paprika. Other smart choices include slices of tomato, fresh spinach, fresh basil, sautéed mushrooms or sliced apples. Add a fried egg for extra protein. (Beware the bacon. Enough said.)

4. Mindful eating means mindful grilling. Use two teaspoons of olive oil or reduced fat mayo instead of butter to save on saturated fat. If you really prefer butter go for it, but keep the portion size to one teaspoon. Use a home panini press for even less fat and a nice crisp.

5. Pair with a healthy side. I love to dip my grilled cheese in low sodium tomato soup. Other great options carrot sticks with hummus, mixed greens with balsamic dressing or fresh fruit.

Whether you cut your grilled cheese in triangles, eat it open-faced, or start with the edges first, enjoy it!

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