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Cheese and Weight Loss

By Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D. ; Updated July 18, 2017

Although eating cheese in excess can lead to weight gain -- and increased heart-disease risks -- adding cheese to a weight-loss meal plan is generally OK. In fact, cheese is an excellent source of dietary protein -- which helps boost satiety and energy expenditure, according to a 2009 study in the “Journal of Nutrition.” The calorie, sodium and saturated fat content of some cheeses can be problematic, however.

Regular Cheese

Regular cheeses are fairly high in calories, so eat them in moderation or avoid them if you're trying to lose weight. One slice of cheddar cheese provides 113 calories, while one slice of provolone cheese contains 98 calories, notes the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. A study published in 2012 in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” reports that decreased meat and cheese consumption predicts weight loss in overweight and obese individuals.

Reduced-Fat Cheese

Choosing reduced-fat cheeses instead of regular cheese significantly reduces your calorie intake, which is beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight. The USDA reports that one slice of reduced-fat cheddar cheese contains just 65 calories, while once slice of reduced-fat provolone cheese provides 77 calories. Fortunately, reduced-fat cheeses often contain just as much dietary protein as full-fat cheeses, meaning many times they're just as satiating. Opt for lower-sodium, reduced-fat cheeses to help control your dietary sodium intake.

Weight-Loss Calories

To effectively lose weight, you should burn 500 to 1,000 more calories daily than you eat. For many adults, weight-loss energy needs are 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, notes the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Therefore, if you add cheese to your reduced-calorie meal plan but stick within your weight-loss calorie allotment, you should effectively lose weight.

Recommended Portions

One portion from the dairy foods group equals 1.5 ounces -- or about 1.5 slices -- of hard cheese, such as cheddar, 1/3 cup of shredded cheese, 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt or 2 cups of cottage cheese, according to The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 suggest consuming 2.5 portions from the dairy food group daily when eating 1,200 calories a day and three portions daily when following a 1,600-calorie diet.

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