If you're a cheese fanatic you'll be happy to know that you don't have to banish it to have a healthy diet - it's all about how often you eat it and how much.
Ideal portions are petite because cheese is essentially condensed milk. Because most of the liquid is removed, an 8 oz cup of milk is the nutritional equivalent to just 1 oz of cheese. An ounce is: one slice, the size of a coaster; one string, about the size of your index finger; 4 cubes, the size of dice; or a quarter-cup shredded or crumbled, about the size of a golf ball.
To stick with these portions think of cheese as a condiment. Add one slice to a sandwich along with lean protein and veggies, pair a string or cubes with fresh fruit and nuts, and sprinkle shredded or crumbled varieties onto a garden salad, whole grain pasta dish, soup or chili.
Cheese does provide protein and calcium and right-sized portions will prevent your intake of saturated fat and cholesterol from creeping too high. When used as an accent, rather than the main attraction in a meal, you can enjoy it every day. No guilt necessary!
Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD is an ABC News contributor and Good Morning America Health's Food Coach. Through her New York City-based private practice Cynthia specializes in weight management and sports nutrition. She is the nutritionist for the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Rays, and worked with the Philadelphia Phillies from 2007-2009. She's also the Weight Loss Coach columnist for Shape magazine and a New York Times best-selling author. Her newest book Cinch! Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches will be released by Harper Collins December 28, 2010.