As Aussies, we are lucky enough to be blessed with a huge variety of hard and soft cheeses, suitable for every tastebud. And while we are huge fans of everything from a humble cheddar to a mouldy blue, there are some that are better for you than others. But where to start?
We sat down with dietitian and nutritionist Lyndi Cohen from The Nude Nutritionist to find out which cheeses we should be eating to keep us on track.
Low-fat or full-fat?
"Whilst traditional advice encouraged fat-free cheese as the healthiest option, new research suggests the fat found in dairy is not as bad for your health as we once thought," says Lyndi.
"The benefit in picking full fat dairy is that it is richer in flavour and tastier meaning you feel more satisfied after eating less," says Lyndi. This way, you're likely to end up consuming less calories overall.
Fat free products also go through more processing than full-fat options resulting in a less wholesome option. However, "whilst there are benefits to eating full fat dairy, low-fat options also tend to have slightly higher protein and calcium content," says Lyndi.
"Ideally, pick a mix of full fat and reduced fat dairy options – leaving the skim options behind".
It also happens to be one of the healthiest cheeses on the market and for that, we are stoked.
"It's low in calories with a strong, creamy taste which will naturally lead you to use less, while still getting a good dose of calcium and protein," says Lyndi. "One thing to bear in mind is the salt content, as some commercial fetas may contain a large percentage of sodium, which can lead to fluid retention and bloating." Where possible, go for reduced-salt fetas or skip the salt in your salad dressing.
"When you're trying to lose weight, it can be tempting to want to cut out calories and so the feta in your salad can often be forgotten," says Lyndi. "But adding feta to your salad can actually help you lose weight in the long term it will help you stay fuller for longer by providing slow burning, low GI energy and your salads will be far tastier, helping prevent feelings of deprivation."
This is one of those foods you either love or hate. It might be hard getting your head around the creamy and lumpy texture, but this is one of the healthiest cheeses on the market.
Cottage cheese is low in calories with only 98 calories per 100 grams, and very high in casein, a slow-releasing protein which will keep you fuller for longer and continue to build and repair your muscles throughout the day. It's a popular food loved by body builders and gymgoers. "Cottage cheese is the ideal choice when you're craving something light but also in need of essential nutrients," says Lyndi.
"Cottage cheese has gotten a bad wrap as a 'diet' food along with poached chicken and rice cakes," says Lyndi. "But cottage cheese is delicious when added to a salad or sandwich."
It can also be easily incorporated into many sweet and savoury dishes. Try spreading it over crackers with sliced cherry tomatoes for a quick snack, or toss through a quiche and ricotta.
Cottage cheese makes a delightfully light-flavoured substitute for cream cheese in cheesecakes, like in this lemon and blackberry cottage cheesecake.
You will find both regular and skim varieties of ricotta in the supermarkets, with both cheeses being relatively low in calories in comparison to high-fat cheeses on the market. Both cheeses are high in protein and calcium, however keep in mind that low-fat versions contain significantly more sodium.
To get the cheesy hit without the added fat, try tossing ricotta through your pasta dishes, using it to bulk up your pancakes or sprinkling it atop pizza in place of cheddar.
"[This way], you'll still get the creamy taste, without loading up on unnecessary calories," says Lyndi.
Mozzarella is a light, fresh cheese traditionally made with Italian buffalo milk which is often broken up and scattered over pizzas or tossed through pasta or salads.
A good quality mozzarella is lower in fats than many other commercial cheeses on the market, and is significantly lower in sugar and salt. It's a great substitute for higher-fat cheeses and gives a similar texture when melted.
Try it melted over pizza and flat-breads. "Mozzarella is really flavourful and rich so there is no need to drown your home made pizza in cheese," says Lyndi. "Try using half the amount of mozzarella of your pizza creations or ask your local pizzeria to do the same – this will help combat overeating, whilst ensuring you still get to have your pizza, and eat it too."