Clean Eating Cheese

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.

Clean Eating Cheese
Copyright: monticello

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. (

Then everything gets cut, heated, and drained. Then salted, pressed, and cured.

Grant it, the process is a bit more involved than 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 altogether, 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?


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Avoid powdered cheeses. If it comes in powder form (like in a box of mac and cheese), it’s most definitely not clean.
  4. Avoid “cheese” from a spray can. I’m not even sure that stuff qualifies as cheese!
  5. Avoid low-fat or non-fat cheeses. They are heavily processed!


  1. 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.
  2. If you can afford organic, that’s always the better option, but not essential. Buy the best you can afford.
  3. 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.

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  1. Excellent little article. I found this very helpful. I don’t eat a lot of cheese/dairy but this will keep me more honest/clean!! Thanks!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Joy – My pleasure! Happy I could help in some way! 🙂

  2. I worked in a cheese factory for a few years and shredded cheese was no different than what was packaged into blocks. It all came from the same place.

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Tee-Jay – Yes, it comes from the same place. But with shredded cheese, they add an anti-caking agent to the package. Otherwise, the cheese would end up in one big clump. It wouldn’t stay in individual shreds.

  3. Is there any specific brands you recommend for being the cleanest? Love cheese but want to keep it clean!

    1. The Gracious Pantry says:

      Andrea – As long as it’s real cheese (not the processed stuff in a can or individually wrapped slices, you should be okay. I always opted for the blocks of cheese that I shredded myself so I would be sure I knew what I was getting. Soft cheese are usually just fine if they are not flavored. I also used white cheddar as the orange stuff is just colored. It’s not the terrible, it was just a personal preference. Hope that helps!

  4. What about cream cheese?

  5. Are sour cream and butter considered clean?