/ Food & Drink

Reduced-fat cheese – is it worth buying?

Cheese on a cheese board with a grater and napkin

It’s hard to keep track of the number one threat to our health – is it salt, is it sugar, is it saturated fat? Some manufacturers want us to feel less guilty about indulging in ‘naughty’ foods. What about reduced-fat cheese?

Running our recent cheese taste test was like heaven for me – I absolutely love cheese and can’t imagine life without it.

My favourite cheeses have high fat contents though, which makes me wary of over-indulging. I started to wonder if I’d be better off swapping to the reduced-fat versions of the most popular branded cheeses.

Can reduced-fat cheese save me money?

When I last checked the prices of Cathedral City and Pilgrim’s Choice on mysupermarket.co.uk, there was no price difference between the full-fat and reduced-fat versions.

I’m quite a stingy person and I think that if I’m getting less fat in my cheese, it should cost less too. Someone more reasonable than me might point out that I’m getting the same weight of cheese, so maybe I should stop grumbling.

Great for grating

The lack of price difference didn’t impress me, so I asked a member of our cheese taste test expert panel for his opinion on reduced-fat cheeses. Nigel White, secretary of the British Cheese Board said:

‘Reduced-fat hard cheeses are firmer than traditional cheddars, making them easier to slice and grate. They work well in most uses from sandwiches to grated on your spag bol. If you’re a fan of cheese on toast, you won’t get the oiling off on the surface of the cheese you sometimes get with cheddar and it will still taste great’.

Traffic light labels

So far, so versatile. But is reduced-fat cheese actually better for me? Our nutritionist and food expert, Shefalee Loth, explains:

‘A 30g portion of cheddar provides around 40% of an adult’s daily calcium needs and around half of a child’s. Although a great source of calcium, cheese is high in fat, saturated fat and salt, so you shouldn’t eat a lot of it.

‘While the lighter cheddars contain 30% less fat and saturated fat than the standard ones, they still get a red traffic light rating for fat, saturated fat and salt, so should still be eaten in moderation.’

It sounds as though reduced-fat cheeses have their place, particularly for cooking, but I think I’ll carry on eating my favourite full-fat cheeses in sensible amounts. Are you a cheese fan? Has a reduced-fat cheese earned a place in your fridge?


As I too love cheese and eat quite a lot of it I always buy the lighter cheddar variety and find it just as tasty as the full fat in a sandwich. I do find the texture slightly harder than full fat but not enough for me to want to change back given the health benefits of eating a lower fat diet Because of it’s high calcium content I would much prefer to eat a nice tasty low fat cheese sandwich than ingest the alendronic acid prescribed by GP’s to prevent osteoporosis. I would emphasise however this is entirely my own opinion and would hesitate to recommend this to everyone depending on individual circumstances.

I read somewhere that a matchbox size portion of cheese on a daily basis is not considered harmful but like everything else in life, stick to the old adage that ‘a little bit of what you fancy does you good’ or to use a more correct terminology ‘moderation in all things’. As log as there is 30% less fat going into my system and I can still enjoy the health benefits I will continue to buy it.

I eat far too much cheese and coffee, but otherwise my diet is not too bad. Perhaps we should rejoice in the fact that cheese has a low sugar content. 🙂

OK – I will have another go at low-fat cheeses. I was not impressed last time I bought several offerings when it first appeared.

If you want to eat cheese and can find a lower fat one you like – fine , less fat , less calories.
Its as simple as that; some red traffic lights are worse than others !
We occasionally have to make decisions ourselves.

How many eat cheese as a deliberate and considered part of their dietary intake, and how many eat it just because they like it? I’m in the latter group – a late night snack of cheese on toast, a glass of wine with cheese and biscuits, a jacket potato with grated cheese, butter and bacon…… I eat the particular cheese because I like its taste and texture, whether cheddar, wensleydale, brie, lancashire. I would not eat reduced fat simply because it might be better for me, only if it stood on its own feet and satisfied these criteria. I expect I will suffer because of this approach. But then I like toast and dripping.

Mmmm, why not eat 30% less full fat cheese? It’s 30% cheaper too.

We seem to have been conditioned into eating a certain volume of food regardless of its nutritional value. It’s certainly not necessary to eat as much as we do in Western societies.

As a foodie, I must agree it’s not pleasant feeling hungry all the time, but how much of that is played on by advertisers – note how they always seem to promote snack foods during the evening schedules when our appetite should be most at its most satisfied – and how much of it is real?

Aren’t low-fat foods just another con to get us to buy something else we don’t need?

We should get away from this childish idea of ‘naughty foods’. There is no such thing as a naughty food! Furthermore the ‘fat is harmful’ school of thought is at last being questioned by researchers and not before time. Too many carbs. do the real harm because they are a relatively recent addition to Man’s diet. If you eat low-fat, the chances are that you’re also eating more carbs. Look on the ingredients labels and you’ll see. Trouble is, few people ever do this and prefer to believe everything they’re told by the Food Police.

If you look at all the evidence that is available rather than just what suits the argument, I think you will find that there is still a strong case for restricting the amount of saturated fat in our diet. Ignore this advice and you increase your chance of getting clogged-up arteries.

There is a good case for cutting down the amount of sugar and refined carbohydrate in the diet, but perhaps we should not condemn unrefined carbohydrate, which is one reason we are encouraged to eat vegetables.

I nominate peas as ‘naughty foods’ because they have a tendency to roll off the plate. 🙂

I would advise anyone who doubts the negative effect of eating too much saturated fat to have their cholesterol levels checked ASAP.

Depends how the evidence has been gained and which argument is being suited. It also crucially depends on who is financing the research. Some results are highly inconvenient to certain parts of the food and drug industry. Of course the public will be told only what this industry wishes them to be told, as fear is such a well-worn way of making people buy things. Billions of shekels are thus pouring into the coffers of these large companies, purely as a result of skilled marketing. When something is being heavily advertised to consumers, they would do well to be suspicious and ask themselves questions along the lines of my opening comments. The issue of cholesterol is highly complex and the jury is very much still out.

V920607588 – You could support the AllTrials campaign, which is doing its best to prevent the pharmaceutical industry from misbehaving. As you say, the cholesterol issue is complex, but that does not mean that we should not acknowledge that a high fat diet can predispose us to serious medical conditions.

I am very concerned about overuse of drugs, and also people taking unnecessary supplements, often promoted by misuse of science.

The dangers of smoking and over-imbibing in alcohol took years before the conclusive evidence was established by the medical profession and the same could now be said with regard to food and saturated fats, but it is only a matter of time before this is happens. Let’s face it people can always find a reason [or excuse] to justify the continuation of whatever pleasure they happen to enjoy irrespective of the potential danger to their health, but that is their prerogative just as long as it does not affect the welfare of others in the process.

I can fully understand why a pharmaceutical company would not want to discourage people eating saturated fats, as after all their livelihood depends upon it and with so many of my contemporaries now taking statins why would they?

Nigel White says:
24 April 2014

You may be surprised to know that reduced fat hard cheeses are (as are British cheeses like Cheddar, Cheshire, Wensleydale, Red Leicester, Double Gloucester and Stilton etc ) to all intents and purposes sugar free – virtually all of the milk sugar (lactose) has been taken out in the whey during the cheesemaking process. Just look at the nutrition label to see what the carbohydrate content of these cheeses is and typically its about 0.1 grams per 100 grams.

Also 30 grams of Cheddar (and slightly less of reduced fat hard cheese) give adults about 30% of their daily calcium requirement.

Hard cheeses provide calcium and other nutrients but the problem is that even the low-fat versions contain a lot of saturated fat. We can get calcium etc. from low-fat milk etc. without consuming a lot of saturated fat.

Nigel White says:
25 April 2014

A 30 gram portion of reduced fat hard cheese contains about 6.5 grams of fat and about 288 mgs of calcium. To get the same amount of calcium from semi skimmed milk you would need to drink 240 mls of milk (0.42 pints) which would give you 3.6 grams of fat. If you included half a pint of s/s milk plus 30 grams of reduced fat hard cheese plus a 150 gram carton of low fat yogurt you would just about get to your recommended level of daily calcium intake – sounds like a good start to a balanced diet.

Dave says:
13 May 2014

Once you Pasteruize something you kill everything in it including the calcium in 1927 the british medical authority did a big study on pasteurization and concluded that you got no nutritional value once you Pasteruize milk. Then in the 2nd world war the british army tested supplemental vitamins on thousands of soldiers and concluded that they do not work, whether things have changed I don’t know but seeing the rockerfellers and rothschilds control the majority of the pharma corporations its very hard to believe, and seeing humans should live to at least 120 years old going by the hayflick limit where our cells divide then we are getting severely short changed.

Edwin Jones says:
25 April 2014

Even better is reduced fat cheese for your cheese on toast, and cottage cheese elsewhere.

J Francis says:
25 April 2014

The Co-op sell a grated cheese that is stated to be 55% less fat and it is really nice and it does not go off as quickly as some of the other grated cheese.

Why not try Wyke Farms Super Light Somerset Mature cheese? It has only 1.3g saturated fat and tastes good. It used to be available in my supermarket but I don’t think that enough people bought it and I buy it now by post from Wyke Farms.

I omitted to say in my last comment that Wyke Farms Super Light Somerset Mature cheese has only 1.3g saturated fat per 100g.

Since this Conversation appeared I have tried several reduced-fat cheddar. Sadly they were bland and tasteless compared with ordinary cheddar. Maybe I need to shop around to find a reduced-fat cheese with plenty of flavour.

Wavechange – I have found it depends very much on whether you eat it in a sandwich with a complimentary filling or from the cheese board with crackers.

I think you are right, Beryl. Perhaps the best compromise is to go for reduced-fat cheese where cheese is there more for nutrition than for its flavour and texture.

Maybe the lack of flavour will help me cut down my cheese consumption. 🙂

It depends upon your attitude to food, doesn’t it? I enjoy eating, so good-tasting food is one of life’s pleasures. But I eat a very varied diet. If you are really concerned about a particular food, rather than eating some less-flavoursome version that you don’t enjoy because it might be “better for you”, best to eat something else you do enjoy. Or eat a smaller portion of the real thing. I have a friend who will eat anything – including cheap sausage and chocolate – with no eating enjoyment at all; he just eats to live. Missing out.

Malcolm – I decided to try to find out if there was a reduced-fat cheese that is equally enjoyable and so far I have been disappointed. What I have in mind is trying reduced-fat cheese in cooking, where the difference is less noticeable. I expect that I will carry on eating full-fat cheese for enjoyment but if I do discover a tasty low-fat alternative I will be happy to switch.

Like many people I switched to semi-skimmed milk to decrease my intake of saturated fat. To start with, I did not enjoy it, but now I hate full-cream milk, though it is better on muesli.

On a positive note the best comparison I can offer Wavechange is similar to the taste depletion of sugar following abstinence. The taste buds will normally adjust. On a more negative note however I have read somewhere that the sense of taste as with smell, diminishes with age so one is more likely to appreciate a stronger tasting cheese which in turn doesn’t help the cholesterol levels. Not sure whether this is just a myth or not.

As Malcolm says food is very much one of life’s pleasures and we all have choices.

I have noticed this more with salt. I use little salt, partly for health reasons and partly because I don’t find it enhances the flavour of most foods. As a result, I find bought soups very salty.

I apparently although I am slim don’t smoke only drink a medium glass of wine and day have high cholestrol !! I am a cheese lover so I am scouring all the cheeses for a low fat and cholesterol level !! Is there one out there? ?? Help !!

Hi Ann

I found some useful and reasonably balanced data here:


I think this is also an area where browsing the small print on food labels can help.

Good link, Derek, showing once again that the only real clarity about cheese and cholesterol is that there’s no real clarity. It’s truly astonishing that we still know so little.

Ann: you have my sympathy.