Grocery Shopping for Your Health: The refrigerated case – cheeses
Welcome back to our “Grocery Shopping for Your Health” series. We focused on milk and yogurt in the refrigerated case in our last series post. We’re staying in refrigerated case for this post, to discuss cheeses.
Note that stores typically have their own designs and layouts. So, you might find cheeses in different display areas around the store, rather than isolated to one refrigerated section.
So what is cheese? Put simply: cheese is concentrated milk. It is more compact and has a longer shelf life. Cheese also contains milk’s nutrients, but some cheeses may have considerably more saturated fat per serving than a glass of milk.
The art of cheese making produces different textures and flavors due to the type of milk that is used in production. But, variables such as the butterfat content, aging time, and additional herbs and spices (if used) all add to the varieties of cheeses we can purchase.
Of course, not all cheese is made from cow’s milk. We can find popular cheeses made from goat’s milk and sheep’s milk, among others. Don’t be afraid to try different types.
Cheese also comes in a variety of textures, including soft, semisoft, semihard and hard. The difference between these cheeses is the amount of moisture and aging time. So, harder cheeses, like Parmesan, have less moisture and a longer shelf life, while softer cheeses, like Monterey Jack, contain higher levels of moisture. For recipes, harder cheeses are good for grating while softer cheeses are better suited for melting.
Cheeses such as Roquefort or blue cheese get their flavor from “friendly” mold. And soft-ripened cheeses, such as Brie, start firm but the center softens as the cheese ages, intensifying the flavor in the process.
Just like milk, cheese can come in lower-fat forms, like low-fat ricotta, part-skim mozzarella, and even string cheeses. These reduced- or fat-free choices will have fewer calories and usually less cholesterol. As always, though, be sure to read the label.
One health tip for those of us wanting the flavor of cheese but also trying to limit calories and cholesterol: grate harder cheeses over foods to punch up flavor. You’ll find you use less cheese, and save money by doing so.
You also can save money (and, often, get better flavor) by skipping the pre-grated or -shredded cheeses and buying whole blocks that you grate or shred.
Finally, make sure to buy cheese in well-sealed packaging, and always check the “use by” or “sell by” dates on the package. If you are purchasing your cheese from the deli, ask how long it will last in your refrigerator. Freshly cut cheeses will have a shorter shelf life than those in sealed packages and containers.
NEXT: Before we leave the refrigerated area, we’ll talk eggs.