Did you know the grilled cheese first appeared on the scene in the 1920s? Originally made with Wonder bread and American cheese, today our grilled cheeses are somewhat of a masterpiece. From the countless bread options to the large selection of cheese, this sandwich can range from plain jane to gourmet! However, with all those new options also comes a potential nutrition disaster. It’s estimated that a typical grilled cheese could easily contain 670 calories and 46 grams of fat! So, we must be mindful when creating our grilled cheese masterpiece.
To avoid a nutrition disaster, here are a few simple tips to keep your grilled cheese on the healthier side:
- Choose Whole Grain Bread.
- Whole grains contain phytoestrogens (plant estrogens) and essential minerals such as magnesium, selenium and copper, which may protect against some cancers.
- Eating whole grains instead of refined grains substantially lowers total cholesterol, triglycerides and insulin levels.
- Research has shown that an extra 2 servings of whole grains a day may decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by 21 percent.
- Choose a Cheese with Big Flavor.
- American cheese is traditionally used, however because of its mild flavor you may use a larger quantity – leading to an increase in consumption of saturated fat and calories.
- American cheese contains added ingredients such as stabilizers, emulsifiers, and flavor enhancers, making this cheese a less desirable choice.
- Try a cheese full of flavor such as Gouda, Cheddar, Jack, Mozzarella or Provolone. Because these cheese options have big flavor, you will use less – saving you fat and calories.
- Add A Little Extra.
- Try adding spinach for an extra boast of iron.
- Add tomato for lycopene.
- Mix in some avocado for heart healthy (mono and polyunsaturated) fats.
- Try some banana and mango for potassium (see recipe below).
- Use A Non Stick Skillet Or Panini Maker.
- Use a non-stick skillet or Panini maker to reduce the amount of fat needed for grilling.
- Instead of butter, add a little olive or canola oil to the skillet.
- Slowly grill to allow the cheese to melt evenly and the bread to become golden brown.
- Add Some Tomato Soup.
- If using a store bought soup, check the sodium content and choose the lower sodium product.
- If preparing soup from scratch, choose unsalted stock instead of broth for a richer flavor. You can add salt as needed.
Jessica Dean, RD, CDN
Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup Recipes: