It's rare that I serve a meal without cheese. It adds a generous dose of calcium for healthy bones and teeth, as well as protein which helps create a feeling of fullness after a meal. The best part about adding cheese to a meal though, is the comfort that it brings. Cheese brings homecooked meals to a whole new level of deliciousness —it's the component of the meal that makes you close your eyes and savour every bite.
Over the years, cheese has gotten a bad rap in the nutrition world, mainly due to its fat content, but as a dietitian it makes me so happy to see that people are realizing that dietary fat isn't so bad—that it's essential for proper health—and that cheese is actually a very nutrient-dense food. Adding a bit of cheese to meals also adds joy and comfort to an eating experience, something that is just as important nutrition-speaking as receiving essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals, in my mind.
Here are my top five favourite ways to include cheese in family meals and snacks:
One of our favourite fast and easy (but healthy) meals is the "melt." Start with high-fibre whole grain bread and top it with your protein-rich food of choice: tuna, leftover chicken, leftover ground beef, pan-fried egg, etc. Add sliced tomato, sprinkle with our favourite cheese, and pop under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Melted cheese adds a "comfort factor" and delicious flavour to your typical open-faced sandwiches and creates a meal everyone will love!
Fresh fruit is our go-to snack, but without pairing it with some protein, it doesn't keep bellies full for too long. Pair your favourite fruits such as peaches, plums, apples, grapes, berries and banana with some cheddar or mozzarella cheese and you have the perfect nutritious, delicious and filling snack for both parents and kids. Try cheese strings if you're on the go! These cheese apple stacks are one of my little guy's favourites. Slice a cored apple width-wise twice and spread peanut butter and top with dried cranberries on the bottom layer, and then put sliced cheddar cheese on the top layer (or use cheese for both!).
One of our other favourite snacks is cheese, crackers and fruit. If you're pairing your cheese and fruit with whole grain crackers such as Triscuits Original or Low Sodium, you've got a great balance of nutrients that includes fibre, protein, calcium and several vitamins and minerals. This combo could also easily be made into a quick and balanced meal. Cheese pairs so well with both crackers and fruit, so combining all three makes perfect sense!
We all know how important it is to eat enough vegetables, but this food group tends to be a tough sell with both kids and...ahem... some adults. There are many ways to make veggies more tasty and appealing, but my favourite way is to add a bit of cheese. Crumbled feta has become our go-to veggie toppers lately, especially with steamed broccoli, cauliflower, spaghetti squash, and roasted or grilled veggies such as peppers, zucchini, and mushrooms. Feta also makes for a great addition to roasted root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, beets, and fennel. Although it's often thought of as a salad topper, feta adds flavour and texture to cooked veggies too, which may appeal to more people in the fall and winter months.
In my mind, eggs and cheese automatically go together. I'm not sure I ever serve eggs without a sprinkling of my favourite cheese. They both provide a wide range of nutrients and health properties, but even better, they taste irresistible together! Whether it's a sprinkle on top of scrambled eggs, grated inside an omelette or frittata, or melted on top of sunny-side up or over easy eggs, cheese is a must-have addition to any of your egg dishes.
We often serve eggs for dinner because they're so fast and easy to prepare and chock full of nutrition.
We use ground meat a lot, especially leaner meats such as bison, turkey and extra lean ground sirloin beef. I find that ground meat is so versatile and most of the dishes make for great leftovers. I often cook one or two pounds of ground turkey or bison at the beginning of the week and use it for dishes throughout the week such as spaghetti sauce, tacos, chili, or even pizza and then freeze any leftovers for later on. Add of course, adding cheese to any of these dishes is a must. I've even started adding grated cheese to our homemade burgers, which makes them juicier and much more flavourful.
Speaking of flavourful, our new favourite easy, weeknight meal is Easy Cheesy Family-Friendly Burritos. I love this dish for so many reasons: it's a breeze to throw together, it's comforting and filling, it's loaded with nutrition and it freezes really well!
Heat canola oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and peppers and saute until fragrant and slightly soft (about two minutes). Add garlic and saute for another 30 seconds.
Add ground meat and cook until no longer pink (about three to four minutes). Turn heat down to medium and season with spices (to your liking). Add corn, beans, and salsa, combine and cook for a minute or two, turn heat down to simmer and cover for 5-10 minutes.
Lay your tortillas out and spoon a heaping spoonful of meat mixture into the middle of each. Top with grated cheese (1 cup dispersed among all 6). Fold the tortillas up and place side by side in the greased baking dish. Top all of the folded burritos with remaining cup of cheese.
Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes until cheese and tops of the tortillas are golden brown. Serve with fresh salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.
Cheese makes for the perfect addition to any of your healthy family meals.
Not only does it boost the overall nutritional value of a dish, but it also transforms a normal everyday meal into a delicious, cheesy comfort food that your whole family will ask for again and again. You really can't go wrong when adding cheese—its versatility allows you to be creative in the kitchen without having to whip up a complicated gourmet meal every night.
Who wants to dress up to go out when you can create warm comfort at home?
Create these mouthwatering cheese-inspired dishes found at the Kraft Comfort Zone. It’s ooey gooey goodness all in the comfort of your own home.