It’s hard to beat the taste and simplicity of a grilled cheese sandwich. But if you’re trying to eat healthy, this comfort food may not be your best option – at least not if you cook it the traditional way.
First there is the butter. While butter adds rich flavor to the sandwich and prevents the bread from sticking to the pan during cooking, it also adds unhealthy saturated fats, rather than nutrients.
Then there is the bread. Many people use white or sourdough bread for grilled cheese. Kelly Kennedy, RDN, nutritionist at Everyday Health, says both options are high in carbohydrates and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
Finally there is the star of the show: cheese. “Cheese is great because it’s protein, but it’s also very high in saturated fat,” says Kennedy.
It all adds up to a less than healthy sandwich from top to bottom.
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Are you ready for good news? There are tons of ways to turn a grilled cheese sandwich into a healthy, satisfying meal.
“You can add a little more nutritional value to a grilled cheese by making a few changes or combining it with something like a vegetable-rich soup,” says Maggie Michalczyk, RD, who lives in Chicago.
An easy way to bring your grilled cheese to a nutritional level is to add fruit or vegetables to the sandwich. Michalczyk suggests using avocado slices for healthy fats or a handful of spinach for more fiber and vitamins A and C. Apple slices, broccoli, asparagus, and tomatoes are other good options.
Replacing white or sourdough bread for whole wheat bread is an easy way to balance the fiber, vitamins, and minerals in your sandwich. Be sure to read the package so you don’t inadvertently buy a bread that isn’t actually whole grain: “It should have 100 percent whole grain somewhere on the package,” says Kennedy, adding that you’d also like to see whole-grain flour listed as the first ingredient .
Check out these 10 healthier grilled cheese sandwich recipes for more ideas.