I’d like to take a moment to take a closer look at cheese. Many people are confused by cheese and how it fits into a clean eating meal plan.
While there is processing that goes into making cheese, the real stuff is not processed the way a box of powdered mac and cheese is processed. It’s processed in a way that simply turns the milk into cheese, much like making dough into bread.
Good bacteria, are added to milk to start the cheesemaking process. They help determine the ultimate flavor and texture of the cheese. Next, a milk-clotting enzyme called rennet is added to coagulate the milk, forming a custard-like mass. (source)
Then everything gets cut, heated and drained. Then salted, pressed and cured.
Grant it, the process is a bit more involved then that, but that’s the general outline. That being said, there is an awful lot that can happen to cheese during this process or once it’s been made. It can be colored, shredded and mixed with powdered anti-caking agents and, as I mentioned, powdered for packaged “foods”.
So what’s a clean eater to do?
While the purists out there would probably make their own or avoid it all together, the rest of us are left with what we can purchase in the store if we want it. So how do you make the best choice in the dairy aisle?
AVOIDING THE WORST “CHEESES”
- Avoid process slices. Yep, sorry. That package of American, orange, plastic, flavorless slices that melt so well on bread are anything but clean. Have you looked at the ingredient list lately? Instead, opt for real sliced cheddar.
- Avoid packaged, shredded cheeses. The stuff you find pre-shredded at the store may be convenient, but it has anti-caking agents added to keep all those little shreds from sticking together in one big clump. Instead, opt for a brick of cheese you can easily shred at home.
- Avoid powdered cheeses. If it comes in powder form (like in a box of mac and cheese), it’s most definitely not clean.
- Avoid “cheese” from a spray can. I’m not even sure that stuff qualifies as cheese!
- Avoid low fat or non-fat cheeses. They are heavily processed!
CHOOSING THE BEST CHEESES FOR CLEAN EATING
- Look for the real deal. Buy actual cheddar, actual havarti or gouda. There are so many options out there! The safest bet is always the block or wedge.
- If you can afford organic, that’s always the better option, but not essential. Buy the best you can afford.
- Some clean eaters worry about the fat content in regular cheese. The truth is, healthy fats from real cheese are not the worst thing you can be eating. Just keep it in moderation. You really wouldn’t want to polish off an entire block of cheddar on your own anyway. So keep things reasonable and there should be no reason you can’t enjoy the real stuff on a semi-regular basis.