My nutrition clients often wonder what to add when they are following a high protein diet. Cheese is high in protein, but it can be extremely high in fat, depending on the type.
So, can you eat cheese on a high protein diet? Cheese is one of many protein sources that you can include on a high protein diet. It has all the essential amino acids making it a complete protein. However, it’s important to choose low-fat cheeses like cottage cheese, low-fat mozzarella, and ricotta to keep your fat intake on the lower end.
Since not all cheese is good to include in a high protein diet, below you will find the ultimate guide on adding cheese and which ones to pick.
In this article, you will learn:
- What is considered a high protein diet?
- Is cheese a high-protein food?
- Ways to add cheese on a high protein diet.
- What kinds of cheese to include?
What Is Considered A High Protein Diet?
A standard protein intake is based on your weight. According to the National Institute of Health, the recommended protein intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. This recommendation is set for a person with an average weight, and that does light activity.
However, in my opinion, this amount is very low for the average person. Whether you are trying to lose weight or are very active, you need to increase your protein intake to maintain and support your muscle mass. Thus, I believe that the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) recommendation is more accurate.
According to the ISSN, a high protein diet is 1.6-2.0 g of protein per kilogram of body weight.
This means that a person who weighs 80 kg should have an average intake of 128-160 f of daily protein.
Is Cheese A High Protein Food?
Cheese is a high-protein food. On average, 1 oz of cheese has between 7-8 g of protein. The negative side of cheese is its fat content. It could range from 0-8 g of fat per serving.
Since cheese comes from an animal protein, it has all of the essential amino acids your body needs. An example I often give my clients is that amino acids are the pearls that make up the pearl necklace (protein). Cheese has all the amino acids you need. That is why it is said that cheese is a complete protein.
The fat content might vary between each cheese though. Typically, the cheeses that are harder or melt easier tend to be higher in fat content. I break down several different types of cheeses and their macronutrient profile below.
- Related Article: Is Cream Cheese Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
5 Ways You Can Eat Cheese on A High Protein Diet
1. Track Your Daily Macros to Fit Cheese
Cheese is a high-protein food. However, you need to track to make sure you are not going over your fat content.
This is one of the most common problems I find with my clients. They believe that since cheese is high in protein, they don’t need to track it. This is not the case. You still need to measure and add it to your tracking app (I recommend MacroFactor). Any calorie excess without being controlled leads to weight gain.
2. Opt For The Low-Fat Content
One of the tips I usually give my clients is to try to have more protein than fat. So, for example, if cheese has 8 g of protein per serving, the fat content should be less than 8 g.
If you are going to include cheese in your life, try to choose those that are lower in fat. The next time you go grocery shopping, pick those that are reduced-fat. They generally have less fat than the original product.
- Related Article: Cheese Makes Me Sweat: 5 Reasons & How To Fix
3. Have It As A Snack
Cheese is an excellent option as a snack. To maintain or gain muscle, I typically recommend consuming a protein source every 2-3 hours. This is often the most challenging task to achieve. Cheese is a great option to include a high-protein snack.
For example, one of my favorite snacks I often recommend to my clients is cottage cheese with fruit (like cantaloupe) and healthy fats (almonds).
4. Add Cheese to Your Recipes
Adding cheese to your recipes is a great way to increase your protein intake. For example, if you have pasta, add some cheese to increase the protein content.
- If you want to know more about pasta in a high protein diet, you can check my article Can You Eat Pasta On A High Protein Diet?
If you are having trouble with your protein intake, cheese can always help you out. For example, you can add some ricotta cheese next time that you make a salad.
5. Only Add Fatty Cheeses When Bulking
It doesn’t matter if you are in a bulking or a cutting phase, you can always add cheese to your diet. However, if you are going to add a fatty cheese (like mozzarella), make sure that you are in a bulking phase.
On a bulking phase, you have a wider range of calories and grams of fat, while you might be more limited on a cutting phase. For those of you in a cutting phase, try to choose low-fat cheeses.
- Sometimes eating too much cheese can make you feel sleepy. Find out why
What Kind of Cheese is High in Protein?
Now let’s talk about which type of cheese to include in a high protein diet. The most important thing is the protein and fat ratio. Make sure that it has more protein than fat.
Try to pick the low-fat version of the cheese. Others are higher in fat, and they are ok to have, as long as you keep track of the grams of fat it offers.
In 100 g of ricotta, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 138
- Carbs: 5.1 g
- Proteins: 11.4 g
- Fats: 7.9 g
Ricotta is an excellent option to add some protein to your diet. Keep in mind that the nutritional content is partially skimmed ricotta cheese. The regular (whole) ricotta is higher in fat. Thus I would recommend avoiding it.
It is a great option to combine with pasta dishes or put in salads.
2. Cheddar (Low-Fat)
In 100 g of low-fat cheddar cheese, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 173
- Carbs: 1.9 g
- Proteins: 24.4 g
- Fats: 7.0 g
Cheddar cheese is characterized by being a high-fat cheese. The regular version is very high in fat. However, the low-fat version is very high in protein and very low in fat. It is an excellent option if you want to put some cheese in your favorite nachos or tacos.
- Cheddar Cheese is on our list of high calorie, low sugar foods (click to read more food choices that fit this category)
In 100 g of cottage cheese, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 82
- Carbs: 4.3 g
- Proteins: 11 g
- Fats: 2.3 g
Cottage cheese is one of my favorites when you are trying to cut down on saturated fats. It is one of the lowest cheeses with fat content. Thus if you are in a cutting phase and need to increase your protein intake, this cheese is the best to add.
It has the advantage that it is very versatile. You can eat it with sweet or savory toppings.
- Check out my other article where I go into more detail about cottage cheese: Is Cottage Cheese Good or Bad For Bodybuilding?
4. Mozzarella (Non-Fat)
In 100 g of mozzarella non-fat cheese, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 141
- Carbs: 3.5 g
- Proteins: 31.7 g
- Fats: 0 g
This is one of the top-choice cheeses that you can add. It is extremely high in protein, and it has no fat. Make sure to pick the noon-fat version since the regular might be very high in fat content.
5. American (Low-Fat)
In 100 g of American low-fat cheese, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 180
- Carbs: 3.5 g
- Proteins: 24.6 g
- Fats: 7 g
If you want to add a slice of cheese to your favorite burger, American low-fat cheese is the way to go. It is going to be higher in protein and less fat than the regular version. However, it is a very processed cheese high in additives. Thus I recommend consuming it in moderation.
6. Swiss Cheese (Low-Fat)
In 100 g of swiss cheese (low-fat), you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 179
- Carbs: 3.4 g
- Proteins: 28.4 g
- Fats: 5.1 g
Swiss is another great option for a high-protein and low-fat option. It also gives your food a very tasty flavor. Add it to a slice of bread with some veggies to have the ultimate high-protein snack.
7. Goat Cheese
In 100 g of goat cheese, you can find the following nutritional value.
- Calories: 264
- Carbs: 0 g
- Proteins: 18.5 g
- Fats: 21.1 g
Although goat cheese is higher in fat than in protein, it is a great option to include once in a while. For those who suffer from allergies, especially respiratory, adding goat cheese is a great way to decrease some people’s symptoms.
What Else Can You Eat On A High Protein Diet?
Check out my other articles on high protein diets:
- Can You Eat Ice Cream On A High Protein Diet?
- Can You Eat Rice On A High Protein Diet?
- Can You Eat Fruit On A High Protein Diet?
- Can You Eat Bread On A High Protein Diet?
About The Author
Brenda Peralta is a Registered Dietitian and certified sports nutritionist. In addition to being an author for FeastGood.com, she fact checks the hundreds of articles published across the website to ensure accuracy and consistency of information.