Learning to love low-fat cheese

July 03, 1996|By Philip Lempert | Philip Lempert,Knight-Ridder Tribune

In today's low-fat times, cheese has been cast in the role of high-fat, artery-clogging villain. In response to that, manufacturers are refashioning cheese by lowering its fat content. Their success may be seen by the fact that cheese was the only refrigerated dairy product category to show increased sales in 1995.

A study conducted by A. C. Nielsen for the International Dairy Foods Association found that cheese gained 2.7 percent in sales for the year ended Sept. 9, 1995, with $4.6 billion in sales. Non- and reduced-fat cheese led the way. And when you look at natural cheese per capita consumption in the United States, there have been steady gains -- from 17.53 pounds in 1980 to 26.82 in 1994, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Carl Wolf, president of Al-pine Lace Brands in Maplewood, N.J., a manufacturer of low-fat cheeses, thinks that health-conscious consumers may be helping cheese sales. Those cutting back on meat may be substituting main-course salads, using cheese to add flavor and interest, he says.

The improved texture and taste of the so-called "nutritional cheeses" -- those lower in sodium, fat, cholesterol and calories -- hasn't hurt cheese sales, either.

Making a good lower-fat cheese has not been an easy task because fat provides much of the flavor and texture. Because nonfat and reduced-fat cheeses are made differently from regular cheeses, certain considerations must be taken into account when cooking with them. For instance, heat or broil it with caution; slices do not bubble or puff as quickly as full-fat cheeses and can scorch easily.

If you want to reduce fat but don't want to sacrifice flavor, try shredded cheese: On a sandwich, for instance, you use about half the usual amount of cheese, which translates to half the fat.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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