How to Build a Better (and Healthier!) Grilled Cheese

Ah, grilled cheese: The aroma of a thick pat (or two) of sizzling butter and a few orange squares of “cheese” melting on white bread conjure up wonderful childhood memories.

But sadly, this version of the American classic isn’t exactly the healthiest way to fuel your body. Thankfully, there are ways to make a healthier grilled cheese sandwich — without sacrificing flavor (or bread or cheese). Check out our tips to cook up a delicious, more nutritious grilled cheese.

How to Make a Healthy Grilled Cheese

 

The Bread

 

Ditch the traditional white slices in favor of something heartier and healthier: Choose whole-grain breads with short ingredient lists. Look for 100-percent whole wheat or whole grain on the label; breads that just say “wheat” don’t necessary contain all the parts of the wheat kernel and may just be colored to look like whole-wheat bread.

How to Make a Healthy Grilled Cheese

 

The Cheese

 

If you’re going to eat a grilled cheese, eat a grilled cheese. Rather than suffer through an unsatisfying, non-fat-cheese sandwich, go for full-fat cheeses. By choosing a full-flavored cheese, you can get away with using less of it.

Pick super flavorful cheeses like smoky Gouda, nutty Gruyere, tangy goat cheese, or sharp cheddar. To get the gooey deliciousness of a traditional grilled cheese, try a cheese combo: Pair a more melty cheese like part-skim or full-fat mozzarella with a stronger, aged cheese for a punch of flavor.

Another way to go easy on the cheese is to shred it first; this will allow you to spread the cheese in a thin, even layer rather than overlapping slices to fully cover the bread.

 

The Spreads

 

For even more flavor, add a swipe of healthy spreads like pesto, olive tapenade, hummus, guacamole, salsa, avocado dressing, or creamy dill dressing.

For extra healthy bonus points, make your spreads from scratch so you can avoid any preservatives, artificial colors, flavors, and sometimes crazy-high sugar and sodium levels.

If you’re going for a sweet grilled cheese, like one with pear and Brie, a light smear of raw honey can help satisfy your sweet tooth.

 

The Fruit and Veggies

 

A traditional grilled cheese sammie calls for just bread and cheese (and OK, a wee bit o’ butter), but don’t be afraid to cook outside the bread-and-cheese box: Shake up your sandwich by adding fresh fruit and vegetables. (Say what? Yes.)

Pro tip: Slice toppings nice and thin so they meld with the cheese and you’re not stuck with a giant hunk of tomato or apple.

How to Make a Healthy Grilled Cheese

 

Try These Unique (and Healthy!) Toppings:

 

Greens

Spinach
Arugula
Kale (make sure to remove the stems)

Herbs

Basil
Sage
Dill
Parsley

Fruit

Avocado
Figs
Apple
Pear
Peaches
Berries

Vegetables

Roasted red peppers
Zucchini
Tomatoes
Jalapeño peppers

 

Cooking Tips

 

While it may feel like a sin to go butter-less when making a grilled cheese, you can craft a satisfying, flavorful, toasty sandwich with a cooking oil high in omega-3 fatty acids instead.

– Lightly spray a warm pan with extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, unrefined coconut oil (especially great for sweet grilled cheeses), or another cooking oil of your choice.

– Once you add your sandwich to the pan, pop a lid on top to help melt the cheese without burning the bread.

Grilled cheeses don’t need to be limited to cheat days (or worse, forbidden) — you can enjoy a grown-up grilled cheese by making just a few strategic, healthy swaps.