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Home arrow Nutrition arrow Healthy Eating arrow Is Grilled Cheese Healthy? Melting Away Misconceptions

Is Grilled Cheese Healthy? Melting Away Misconceptions

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Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
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Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
8 min read 122 Views 0 Comments
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Discover whether you can enjoy a delicious cheesy treat without the guilt

is grilled cheese healthy

With a crisp, buttery exterior and a rich, gooey inside, a grilled cheese sandwich is the ultimate comfort food. The classic culinary creation is universally loved, not only for its delicious cheesy goodness, but also as a fast and convenient option that works perfectly alongside a steaming bowl of tomato soup.

However, if you’re a health-conscious food lover, you may be wondering whether this tasty treat can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet. 

To separate fact from fiction when it comes to grilled cheese, we’ll explore its nutritional benefits and downsides, and explain how you can make a healthier version of this beloved sandwich. 

Is Grilled Cheese Healthy?

Grilled cheese sandwich’s healthfulness depends on its overall dietary context and individual health goals. However, it can be a good choice when made in the right way.

Low-fat cheese, whole-grain bread, and oil instead of butter can improve the nutritional profile of this cheese treat. Including vegetables in the sandwich and pairing it with a salad will make the sandwich even more nutritious.

While cheese is an excellent source of protein and calcium, it also contains saturated fat, which should be consumed in moderation. Bread, which is a significant source of carbohydrates, varies in terms of its nutritional value. 

Despite the fact that carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy, the nutritional content of bread varies according to what kind of grain is used. A white bread is usually made with refined grains that are low in fiber. 

Blood sugar levels can rise more quickly when people consume foods low in fiber, like white bread. Type 2 diabetes may be more likely to develop over time if you have consistently high blood sugar levels.

Grilled Cheese Sandwich Nutrition

Grilled cheese sandwiches are typically made with two slices of white bread filled with American cheese melted. They are then cooked with butter in a pan to create that classic golden brown crust we all know and love. 

However, the nutritional value of your sandwich will vary depending on the type of cheese that you use. While low-fat varieties are ideal, you could also choose blue cheese, Monterey Jack, or Swiss cheese for a more unique and flavorful cheese taste.

Along with the amount of butter used, bread choice is important, too. Whole grain varieties are more nutritious as they contain more fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals than white bread. 

When made in the traditional way (with American cheese and white bread), the nutritional breakdown for one sandwich is as follows:

Calories/NutrientAmount (per 100g)
Calories384 kcal
Carbohydrates33.3 g
Protein12.5 g
Fat22.4 g
Calcium706 mg
Iron2.42 mg
Magnesium31.3 mg
Phosphorus393 mg
Potassium197 mg
Zinc1.46 mg
Sodium906 mg
Vitamin A223 mcg
Vitamin B130.603 mcg

Cheese in grilled sandwiches provides some protein, which is essential for maintaining and repairing muscle tissue. They’re also high in zinc, a nutrient that supports immunity, healing, and development.

You may be surprised to learn that grilled cheeses are packed full of important vitamins. For example, they provide around 25% of the Daily Value for both vitamins A and B12. While vitamin A benefits immunity and vision, B12 is essential for forming red blood cells and DNA.

Grilled Cheese Benefits

Worrying about the consequences of eating grilled cheese? If so, check out some of the health benefits that the sandwich may offer:

#1 Good source of calcium

One grilled cheese sandwich contains 609 milligrams of calcium or about 46% of the Daily Value (DV). 

Around 99% of your body’s calcium is stored in the bones. Getting enough through your diet or supplementation ensures they remain strong while potentially delaying age-related bone loss through conditions like osteoporosis. It also aids blood clotting, and some studies suggest that it may help to lower blood pressure.

#2 Source of protein

With around 12.5 grams per sandwich, grilled cheeses are also a good protein source. Getting enough protein is important for muscle maintenance and growth, especially for older adults who are susceptible to loss of muscle strength as they age.

Consuming a high-protein diet has also been shown to aid satiety, keeping you fuller for longer. This is ideal for those on a weight loss diet looking to lower their calorie consumption naturally.

Grilled Cheese Downsides

Despite being delicious, eating traditional grilled cheese regularly has some downsides that could contribute to developing chronic diseases. You should consider the following disadvantages before making your favorite treat:

#1 High in calories and fat

Although grilled cheese sandwiches deliver a decent amount of protein, they are full of saturated fats, with 10.5 grams per sandwich. Overconsumption of this type of fat can raise levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol, increasing your risk of heart disease in the long term.

Despite containing protein, grilled cheese sandwiches can have a high-calorie content and may not always provide long-lasting satiety. You’re, therefore more likely to consume too many calories, which puts you at risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

#2 High in sodium

Each grilled cheese contains 906 milligrams of sodium, which equates to almost 40% of the Daily Value

Including more than 2300 mg of this mineral in your daily diet can increase your blood pressure, making it more likely that you’ll suffer a stroke or develop heart disease later in life.

How To Make a Healthy Grilled Cheese? 4 Useful Tips

If made with the right ingredients, grilled cheese can be a nutritious meal or snack that contributes to your health goals. Try these simple swaps, and you’ll be able to enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches more regularly as part of a balanced diet:

#1 Choose whole-grain bread

To get more fiber into your grilled cheese, swap white bread for 2 slices of a whole grain variety. 

Breads containing whole wheat, barley, rye, or oat kernels can help to fill you up for longer without the additional calories, along with keeping your heart healthy. Because they’re not processed, whole grains also deliver more phenolic acid antioxidants, which fight free radicals in the body and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

#2 Select healthier cheeses

While American cheese may be the traditional choice, selecting other cheeses can increase the nutritional value of your sandwich.

Low-fat cheeses are healthier and better for weight loss as they contain less saturated fat, and may also be lower in calories. For instance, part-skim mozzarella generally has a lower fat content than other types. Many brands also offer low-fat or “light” versions of cheeses such as cheddar.

#3 Add vegetables

A traditional grilled cheese lacks many of the essential vitamins and minerals needed to keep your body functioning effectively. However, adding a vegetable to your sandwich is a simple way to boost its nutritional content.

As a superfood, spinach is a great choice because it is high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that keeps your immune system healthy. It is also a rich source of iron, calcium, and folic acid, which is important for cell function and growth. Some other good options include onion, tomato, zucchini, or bell peppers.

#4 Use oil instead of butter

Making a grilled cheese healthier doesn’t mean that you’ll have to sacrifice that crispy exterior. Instead of butter, which is high in saturated fats, try using small amounts of olive oil.

The extra virgin variety contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are a better option for maintaining balanced cholesterol levels. In the long run, this can reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease.

Healthy Grilled Cheese for Weight Loss: Recipe You Can’t Miss!

This healthier grilled cheese sandwich is a perfect choice for those who want to lose weight without sacrificing taste. With a combination of whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, important minerals like potassium, and vegetables, this meal is nutritious and satisfying at the same time. 

Try it yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • 1 slice of low-fat cheddar cheese (or any low-fat cheese you like)
  • 1/4 avocado, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium tomato, thinly sliced
  • 1 handful of spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon of olive oil

How to make it?

#1 Preparation: Preheat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Lightly brush one side of each bread slice with olive oil or use cooking spray.

#2 Assemble the sandwich: On one slice of bread (oil side down), place the low-fat cheddar cheese, avocado slices, tomato slices, and spinach leaves. Top with the other bread slice, oil side up.

#3 Grill the sandwich: Place the sandwich in the skillet. Grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. Press down with a spatula for even grilling.

#4 Serving: Cut the sandwich in half and serve immediately. Enjoy with a side of mixed greens or fresh fruit for a balanced meal.


Nutrition breakdown (per sandwich):

Calories: Approximately 330

Total Fat: 15g (Saturated Fat: 4g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g)

Cholesterol: 15mg

Sodium: 400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 35g (Dietary Fiber: 8g, Sugars: 5g)

Protein: 16g

A Word From Our RD

Expert image border HR_author_photo_Edna
Edna Skopljak, MD
Medical advisor for Health Reporter

Although grilled cheese may not be the most nutritious choice, it offers various health benefits you may not be aware of. For instance, research suggests that eating cheese may help to reduce tooth cavities by fighting bacteria in the mouth.

To ensure that you’re filling your plate with all of the essential nutrients, try to include a variety of healthy foods in every meal.

Choose whole grains such as brown rice over white rice, as they offer more fiber to keep your heart and digestive systems healthy. Lean meat and poultry provide important minerals like iron and protein, while fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats like avocados also make crucial contributions to any balanced diet.

FAQs

How many calories does grilled cheese have?

A traditional grilled cheese sandwich made with sliced white bread, American cheese, and butter contains approximately 384 calories. However, this figure depends on the exact ingredients used and the method of preparation.

Does grilled cheese have protein?

Yes, a traditional grilled cheese contains 12.5 grams of protein per sandwich. This is mainly due to its inclusion of cheese, which is a high-protein, high-fat food.

Is it bad to eat grilled cheese every day?

When eaten as part of a healthy, balanced diet, grilled cheese can be eaten every day. Try to use whole wheat bread, swap butter for olive oil, and choose low-fat cheeses to lower the calorie and fat content. Instead, add vegetables such as spinach and tomato to increase the nutritional value. 

Conclusion

So, is grilled cheese healthy? When eaten as part of a balanced diet, grilled cheese sandwiches can be a nutritious and delicious choice. To make yours even healthier, try swapping the traditional ingredients for whole grain bread, low-fat cheese, and olive oil.

You should also consider how a grilled cheese sandwich fits into your daily diet. For instance, you may want to eat one alongside a salad to boost your nutrient intake, or add a lean protein source like chicken to make the sandwich more filling.

Got your own unique take on a typical grilled cheese? We’d love to hear your recipes and tips, so please share some inspiration in the comments below!

Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
The article was fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
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HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD
HR_author_photo_Edna
Fact checked by Edna Skopljak, MD
Last update: January 15, 2024
8 min read 122 Views 0 Comments
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