Considering how much cheese we eat, I’m not sure “diet” is really the right term to use for the way we are eating these days! Here are some samples of yummy cheesy goodness from this weekend:
- grilled cheese sandwiches on homemade whole wheat bread, Organic Valley American Cheese slices, cooked in organic butter
- whole wheat mac & cheese — FINALLY nailing this! (see bottom for recipe)
SOOOO… is eating this much cheese a healthy part of the Real Food “diet”? Obviously, I think it is! Of course, we supplement our full-fat dairy consumption with lots of fresh veggies and fruits, 100% whole grains, and lean proteins. I loved how Lisa Leake summarized her family’s approach to cheese on 100daysofrealfood.com — so I quote her below. You can read her complete post here — and check out the rest of the site while you are there (or follow her on Facebook)!
She was asked:
“If you avoid processed foods how is it that you’re still eating cheese? Isn’t cheese processed?”
And she replied: “The thing is even cooking is technically a form of processing or changing your food so unless you are on a raw food diet, which we are not, we are all eating food that’s been somewhat “processed”. So maybe it would be better to say we avoid all highly processed foods, which, to draw the line somewhere, we define as having more than 5 (or any refined) ingredients.
There are a few basic things we look for in cheese…
- Organic: As I’ve mentioned before you can’t exactly peel or wash off dairy products like you can with conventional produce so we think it’s best to go organic if you can.
- Block Form (as opposed to pre-grated): Bagged, pre-shredded cheese contains an anti-caking agent called cellulose that’s sometimes made from wood pulp. Whether this additive concerns you or not the point is it’s an extra additive you will not find in a block of cheese. So when we want grated cheese at our house we just grate it ourselves. Yes, it’s an extra step, but it’s worth it to me especially because I think the texture is much better (i.e. less “powdery”).
- White: Cheese, which is obviously made from milk or cream, is meant to be white not orange…think about it. The orange color is typically a harmless, natural color additive, but just to make a point I personally like to buy my cheese white because that’s the way it’s supposed to be. When it comes to “voting with my dollars” I don’t like to mess around!
- Full Fat: We no longer buy any reduced-fat or non-fat food products (since to get products that way they are simply more processed), which is actually kind of a relief because I never thought the low-fat versions tasted all that good anyway!
- Grass–Fed: Cows are meant to eat grass (not corn), and as I mentioned in themilk post when animals are fed a proper diet their food products are in turn more nutritious for you. Sometimes it’s hard to find, but I ideally look for cheeses that either say “grass-fed” or “pasture raised” on the package.”
Nicely put, Lisa!
*and for my revised, revised, and revised again recipe for Whole Wheat Mac & Cheese:
- preheat oven to 450degrees
- butter a 9×9 ovenproof dish
- cook 1 1/2 c. dry whole wheat macaroni according to package directions erring on the side of less-done; drain
- in a med. sauce pan over med. heat, melt 2 T. butter
- whisk in 2 T. whole wheat flour; whisk for 1-2 minutes until flour is incorporated and starts to brown
- turn heat to low and whisk in 1 C. milk; keep whisking until any flour lumps are dissolved
- stir in 1/2 C. shredded white cheddar and 1/2 C. shredded asiago
- season with salt, freshly ground pepper, dried mustard, garlic powder, and paprika to taste
- once cheese melts, stir in cooked & drained macaroni
- you could just eat right from the pan at this point, but I like to:
- pour the mixture into buttered backing dish
- top with a thin layer of whole wheat breadcrumbs, some hearty sprinkles of freshly grated parmesan, and a light sprinkling of paprika
- bake for 15 minutes; broil for a minute or two if you like it even crispier on top
Let sit for a couple of minutes, then serve!