Is cheese a good or bad snack food?
For many people with diabetes, smart snacking a few times a day can help to keep blood glucose levels stable. Whether you have diabetes or not, eating a snack between meals can help you curb hunger and keeps you feeling satisfied so you are less likely to overeat at your next meal.
However, many people think of high-fat, high-sugar foods when we talk about snacking. Unhealthy snack foods like cookies, candy, and chips are dense in calories and offer minimal nutritional value. It is best to think of snacking as an opportunity to get more nutrients into your day from healthy foods like fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy.
Cheese is low in carbohydrates, but most cheeses also have quite a bit of saturated fat. We call saturated fat an “unhealthy fat” because too much of it in your diet can raise your cholesterol levels. Snacking on cheese is not a bad option, but it is very important to watch your portion size.
1 ½ ounces of cheese is about a serving, which is about the size of four playing dice. Usually, 1-2 slices of cheese or ¼ cup shredded cheese is also about a serving size. Keep in mind that 1 ½ ounces of regular cheese (such as cheddar, American, blue, brie, Monterey jack, Colby, or Swiss) usually has over 100 calories and about half of the saturated fat you need for the entire day. So, you probably don’t want to have much more than one serving for your snack.
The best cheese choices are those with less than 3 grams of fat per ounce or cottage cheese. If you cannot find a cheese that you like with 3 grams of fat or less per ounce, opt for one with 4-7 grams of fat per ounce, such as:
- Reduced-fat cheeses which help to cut back on total fat, saturated fat, calories, and cholesterol
- Pasteurized processed cheese product/spread
- String cheese
- Ricotta cheese
Does one ounce of cheese sound like a small snack to you? If it works with your meal plan, eat a few apple slices, raw veggies, or 2 whole wheat crackers with your cheese. You may also want to mix up your snack menu a bit. For more snack ideas, check out our Snacking page on diabetes.org.
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