What Is Low-Fat Cheese?

A.M. Boyle

Low-fat cheese has less fat per serving than regular versions. Sometimes referred to as reduced fat, these cheeses come in a variety of styles and varying fat content. Typically, cheeses that are low in fat are lower in calories as well, but some people complain that taste and texture are sacrificed.

A bowl of shredded low-fat cheese.
A bowl of shredded low-fat cheese.

Many people enjoy cheese as a snack or as part of a meal. Cheese can be a healthy source of protein and calcium as well as a host of other vitamins and nutrients. Unfortunately, even though cheese is delicious and nutritious, it generally has a lot of calories and a high fat content, the majority of which is usually saturated fat. As a result, individuals who are dieting often skip the cheese, much to their dismay.

The difference between low-fat and regular cheese depends on the type of milk used.
The difference between low-fat and regular cheese depends on the type of milk used.

In answer to this dilemma, low-fat cheese was developed. Basically, the difference between low-fat and regular cheese is the type of milk used in the process. In order to reduce the fat content, manufacturers typically use cow’s milk that is lower in fat, such as one-percent or two-percent milk. Some manufacturers use goat’s milk as a substitute for cow’s milk because it naturally has less fat yet tastes very similar when made into a cheese.

While some whole-milk cheeses are lower in fat than others, some can have a fat content as high as 10 grams (0.4 ounces) per serving. Similarly, the amount of fat in low-fat cheese can vary depending upon the type of cheese and the percentage of milk fat used. For instance, low-fat cottage cheese typically has a lower fat content than reduced-fat Swiss simply because of the differences between the products. By the same token, cheeses that are made with one-percent milk have slightly lower fat contents than products made with two percent.

Oftentimes, people criticize lower-fat cheeses because of their taste and texture. For the most part, it is milk fat that gives cheese its creamy, rich flavor and feel. Reducing the milk fat necessarily sacrifices some of that creaminess, and low-fat cheese might have a grittier feel and waxier taste. The fat also gives cheese its ability to melt. Consequently, many types of low-fat cheeses do not melt well, which can be a problem when making favorites such as grilled cheese, pizza, and nachos.

The flavor and quality of low-fat cheese also varies from brand to brand. While many cheese manufacturers keep even their low-fat cheese all natural, others add artificial flavors or additives in an attempt to improve taste and texture, some of which might not be healthy. For instance, some manufactured low-fat cheeses might have higher sodium contents to compensate for the loss of flavor. This can be an issue for anyone watching his or her salt intake. When choosing a low-fat cheese, therefore, it's always best for people to read the labels not only to determine the exact fat and calorie content but to assess what other ingredients might have been added.

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Discussion Comments


@heavanet- The point you make is a good one. I couldn't find any good low-fat cheese in the dairy section at most grocery stores. However, when I started shopping at a store that specialized in organic and natural products, I found a variety of low-fat cheeses to chose from.

My favorite low-fat cheese is extra sharp and made of one percent milk. It even melts very nicely when I use it to make sauces and sandwiches.


I think that low-fat cheese made of one percent milk is very good, as long as you find a quality brand. If a cheese company uses organic milk and makes cheese flavors like American and sharp cheddar, you will most likely find one that you like with less calories than regular cheese. From my experience, it is the cheaper brands that make low-fat cheeses that don't have much flavor.

To find the best low-fat cheese variety, you should look in the organic section of your favorite grocery store, or check out the cheese selection at a natural food store. These areas carry brands that make good cheeses with quality ingredients, and also focus on healthier options for consumers who want to improve their diets.

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