April is National Grilled Cheese Month! by Jessica Dean, RD

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  Originally made with Wonder bread and American cheese, today our grilled cheeses are somewhat of a masterpiece.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:

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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).
  1. 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.
  1. 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:

Grilled Banana and Mango with Feta

Summer Tomato, Mozzarella Grilled Cheese

Grilled Ham, Muenster, and Spinach Grilled Cheese

Tasty Tomato Soup