Can you eat cheese and still lose weight?

OK, we won’t keep you in suspense: The answer is a definitive yes. Read on as we explain how cheese can work as part of your health and weight-loss journey.
Published 2 August 2023 | Updated 28 May 2024

From bubbling mozzarella on a fresh pizza to nutty Parmesan sprinkled on pasta, nothing quite compares to cheese. But if you've recently started your weight-loss journey, you might be wondering if you need to cut out the creamy, crumbly, gooey delights of cheese. Wonder no longer.

Not only is cheese delicious; it can also totally work in a healthy pattern of eating—even the full-fat kind and even when you’re following a weight-loss program. While specifics vary by type (more on all that in a moment), cheese, in general, delivers key nutrients, including protein, calcium, zinc and vitamins A and D.

Can eating cheese help you lose weight?

While upping your cheese intake won’t shift the scale on its own, some research suggests that eating more dairy products could be helpful as part of a broader weight-loss program. One recent review published in Nutrition Reviews determined that as part of an energy-restricted diet, increased dairy consumption resulted in greater weight loss. The protein in dairy may partly explain why: A 2013 study found that higher protein intake may help preserve muscle mass as weight comes off. Protein also makes meals more satisfying.

At some point, you may have stumbled across an internet theory that the probiotics found in some cheeses can fire up metabolism and melt belly fat. Alas, that is a myth. There’s no evidence that any single food can target belly fat, explains Angela Goscilo, M.S., R.D. Not to sound like a broken record, but the same strategies that promote healthy weight loss also support healthier levels of belly fat. If you’re looking to build core strength, consider movements that target the abdominal muscles, like planks.

All this to say: You don’t need to eat more dairy products to lose weight. The takeaway is that cheese lovers need not worry about enjoying a slice of Cheddar or a few cubes of feta. Sustainable weight loss comes from long-term changes in lifestyle, such as adopting a healthy eating pattern, engaging in regular physical activity, and prioritising sleep.

Isn’t cheese high in unhealthy fat?

It can be, but hear us out: While some cheese varieties do contain saturated fat, which public health guidelines recommend limiting, this doesn’t mean you have to avoid cheese completely. The main thing is to keep an eye on serving sizes (recommended serving size for cheese is 40g) and be mindful of the rest of your diet. To make room for the saturated fat in cheese, think of places where you can swap in sources of unsaturated fat—the healthy kind. Maybe that means using avocado in place of mayonnaise on a sandwich, or grilling salmon for dinner in lieu of steak. You can also reach for low-fat or reduced-fat cheeses, which can also support a weight-loss journey.

How to enjoy cheese on a weight-loss journey

OK, so at this point, we’ve established that all foods, including cheese, can be part of a healthy pattern of eating that supports weight loss. Now let’s talk flavour, which is an overlooked benefit of cheese as it can bring a complex, bold taste to almost any dish, whether you’re adding a generous grating of Pecorino to zucchini noodles, or a scattering of blue cheese over a rocket salad. Cheeses with stronger flavours can be wonderful choices as a little goes a long way.

Types of cheese: Nutrition facts and tasting notes

We’re not suggesting you become a cheesemonger overnight, but it can be helpful to know a little about the different types and some ways to enjoy them. Before you hit the cheese aisle, here’s the lowdown on some of our favourite varieties, along with some delicious cheesy recipes.

1. Parmigiano-Reggiano

This is a regulated product from northern Italy; only wheels that meet strict guidelines are stamped "Parmigiano-Reggiano." As the cheese ages, Parmigiano's texture gets harder and crumblier, and its flavour sharper and nuttier with shadings of salt, sweetness, and spice. (Parmesan is a domestic version of Parmigiano-Reggiano). Grate parmesan over pasta or soup, shave it onto a rocket salad, or enjoy small chunks with honey-drizzled pear slices or balsamic vinegar for dipping. You’ll add bold flavour and get some protein and calcium.

2. Feta

A zesty sheep's-milk cheese, feta is made all over the world but is considered a Greek cheese. Depending on where it's made (wonderful versions also come from France and Denmark), feta might be sour or tangy, creamy or crumbly. Compared to other cheeses, it's relatively low-fat, and each 40g serving is a good source of protein. Buy it packed in brine—feta dries out quickly when exposed to air—and, if you find it too salty, soak it briefly in water. Feta is fantastic crumbled on salads, cooked vegetables and grains, and in traditional Greek dishes like spanakopita (spinach pie), omelettes and casseroles.

3. Mozzarella

Mozzarella is a stretched cheese curd that originated in Italy and was first made with milk from Mediterranean buffalo. While you can still find buffalo-based varieties (mozzarella di bufala), you’re more likely to see cow’s-milk mozzarella—or a blend of the two—at your local supermarket. Fresh mozzarella has a soft texture and a creamy, mild flavour; it’s often sold packed in water or whey. Low-moisture mozzarella is firmer and melts better than the fresh version, which is why it’s preferred for pizza. You can find this type as balls or grated in bags. A 40g serving of either type is a good source of protein and calcium and is 5 Points.

4. Cheddar

Cheddar refers to both the village in England where the cheese originated and a technique called cheddaring, which imparts a distinct dry texture. As the cheese ages, its flavour becomes quite sharp. Though cheddar cheese is made worldwide, English farmhouse cheddar is the most sought-after. A good source of protein and calcium per 40g serving, cheddar pairs well with everything from apples and pears to crusty bread and crackers.

5. Goat's cheese

Goat's cheese comes in many varieties from all around the world, but they all fall into two categories: fresh and aged. The younger cheeses have a milder and creamier flavour, so if you're seeking the best value for your Points Budget, opt for an aged variety, which has a more pronounced, salty tang. Goat's cheese can be used in a variety of dishes, such as salads (try it warmed), quiche, sauces, or melted over baked potatoes. Nutritionally, each 40g serving provides a good source of protein and vitamin A, as well as an excellent source of calcium.

6. Blue cheese

Nearly every cheese-producing country has its own famed variety of this pungent specimen: Roquefort (France), Cabrales (Spain), Gorgonzola (Italy), Stilton (England), Maytag (United States). They all share bluish-green mouldy veining and an assertive, salty flavour, but each has its own distinct bite, depending on which animal's milk is used: cow, sheep, or goat. Try blue cheese in salads and omelettes, or melt it onto a burger. Like many other varieties of cheese, 40g of blue cheese is a good source of protein and calcium.