Secrets to Great (Guilt-Free) Grilled Cheese


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  56 comments   :  58,222 Views

Forget the cellophane-wrapped cheese slices and spongy white bread! It's time for a grown-up grilled cheese! Even if you're tracking calories and eating healthier meals, there's still room for this comfort food.

So how can you guarantee that this classic sandwich turns out just as good as you'd imagine? Follow these tips:
  • Use good bread. Choose bakery bread, one that's firm not spongy. This isn't a time for a pita, sandwich thin, or flatbread, which won't grill as easily. Whole-wheat is best; avoid seeded whole-grain breads--the nuts and seeds can sometimes burn.
  • Use shredded cheese, which melts more evenly. A little bit goes a long way--use about an ounce. Grate it yourself for even better results.
  • Coat the bread evenly with nonstick spray or butter--just a little won't add many calories, but it will taste amazing. One teaspoon of room-temperature butter should be enough to coat both sides of bread, for 34 calories. (Don't use margarine; it's more likely to burn.)
  • Keep heat medium-low. Start out on high and you'll end up with burned bread and cold cheese.
  • Use a nonstick skillet so the cheese doesn't stick to the pan. You also won't have to use as much fat, which is not only healthier but can prevent a soggy sandwich.
  • Choose gooey cheese--mozzarella, jack, provolone, cheddar, and fontina are all great grilling cheeses. Hard cheeses like Parmesan and Asiago and creamy cheeses like goat and feta don't melt as well.
  • Cook 2 minutes per side, then cover until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts. Covering it helps the cheese melt before the bread burns.
A traditional diner grilled cheese can have 900 calories and 46 grams of fat for two slices of white bread, a lot of processed cheese, and way too much margarine. You can reinvent grilled cheese at home, with whole-wheat bread, cheese of your choosing, and plenty of add-ons that add flavor for few calories.

For under 500 calories, you can turn grilled cheese into a real meal!

The basics:
2 slices whole-wheat bread
1 teaspoon butter
1 ounce shredded cheese
=331 calories, 17 g fat, 13 g protein
Our favorite grilled cheese combos:
1/4 avocado
2 tablespoons sliced red onion
1 roasted red pepper, sliced
+ 84 calories, 7 g fat
3 slices tomato
1 tablespoon pesto
+ 82 calories, 6 g fat
2 slices cooked bacon, cut in half, excess fat blotted away
4 sauteed mushrooms
+ 78 calories, 6 g fat
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 pear or apple, sliced thinly
+ 46 calories, 0 g fat
3 ounces white-meat turkey
Handful arugula
1 tablespoon all-fruit spread
+ 133 calories, 1 g fat
1 poached or "fried" egg
1 slice bacon
+ 106 calories, 8 g fat

Some of our favorite recipes!
Coach Nicole's Grown Up Grilled Cheese
Grilled Cheese Pizza Sandwich
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with Goat Cheese and Pesto
Grilled Deluxe Cheese Sandwich
What fills your favorite grilled cheese? Do you like grilled cheese with soup or on its own?

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  • 56
    Great ideas! - 9/21/2017   10:32:08 AM
  • 55
    Great ideas - 9/20/2017   12:43:54 AM
  • 54
    A small amount of butter is so much better than the spray! Worth it for taste, hence comfort. - 8/18/2017   12:42:43 PM
    great idea - 8/8/2017   1:39:48 AM
  • 52
    I can only eat real natural cheese. There is a non dairy feta cheese that comes in 2 varieties I can eat and real Parmesan cheese that are both expensive, they have no additives in them. I have trouble with not tolerating food that is not real, most dairy, eggs, most beans, soy, high acid foods,corn,gluten,sugar etc. I think the parmesan would work with gluten free bread, I also can not have artificial margarine or vinegar, I can have real butter and olive oil. So I make my own salad dressings, I can use non dairy yogurt & olive oil in them. - 8/6/2017   8:57:20 PM
  • 51
    This sounds so good. I need to find a good low carb bread - 6/15/2017   6:38:36 PM
  • 50
    Love grilled cheese but my sone doesn't so I don't make it - 5/6/2017   9:21:07 PM
    When I make grilled cheese, I don't even bother to add the butter to the bread and it isn't even missed! - 4/16/2017   2:26:20 PM
  • 48
    This is great to read. I love grilled cheese and I almost always starve myself because of all this weight on me. Thank you so much. - 4/13/2017   7:46:46 AM
  • 47
    I eat the same thing for most meals for quite awhile before moving onto something else. Right now it IS a grilled cheese !!! I do use a hearty bread (Try to find for 90 or below per slice) quite awhile ago I had read how bad american cheese is,,, it's NOT even "cheese" it's proceed crap (hence the name "proceeded" american cheese. I use cheddar. I buy the cabot cheddar slices. YUMMY !! I need as much calcium as I can, so I use 2 slices. Yes it's higher on calories, but there are days I do not hit my min cal allowance,, so this one meal being high I am fine with. I also do as said here,, use butter,, I do as it suggests and cook it on a med low temp. OH YUMMY OH YEAH ! My calories for it is 419. - 9/2/2016   12:09:03 AM
  • 46
    YES! Grilled cheese and tomato soup. I like to dunk each bite of the sandwich into the soup. Yummy. - 9/1/2016   8:54:43 AM
  • 45
    grilled cheese with tomato soup is awesome. A comfort food combo. I do however prefer Velveeta. But, am always open to new ideals, so, I will have to give this one a try. :~) - 9/1/2016   8:28:19 AM
  • 44
    Velveeta and yeah I know it's "processed" still makes one of the best and easiest grilled cheese sandwiches in my opinion. Still have memories of my Mom cutting slices from the brick of cheese with a cheese slicer. I don't think its hurts me for all the times I have them. Not to mention I think Velveeta is better than other chess slices at least its made mostly from dairy. Actually I don't think the cheese slices without milk are allowed to be sold in Canada.
    - 1/17/2016   8:06:08 PM
  • 43
    I'll be making this for lunch tomortow - 1/17/2016   6:18:26 PM
  • 42
    I do love me some grilled cheese, but I do agree with the people who prefer the more 'classic' white bread and fake cheese slices. Ah, memories.

    (I'm also a little concerned about the post from three years ago where the poster said 17 grams of fat was more than she ate in two days. I hope she's alright...) - 1/17/2016   11:16:57 AM
  • 452134
    these all look yummy. - 10/20/2015   9:09:58 AM
  • 40
    Lol I guess I'm the only one who just thought "but I LIKE cellophane wrapped cheese and spongy white bread!" :P This is a great way to have something comforting, but it's just not the same for me. I'm not saying I'm gonna eat grilled cheese everyday... I have it probably less than 5 times a year, but when I do, I want spongy white bread and some form of gooey processed cheese :P - 3/2/2015   4:08:54 AM
    all good commits. anxious o start. - 2/9/2015   2:46:54 PM
  • 38
    I don't normally eat grilled cheese, but I sometimes make them for my daughter by using whole wheat bread and shredded cheese. Sometimes, instead of making grilled cheese, we will sort of have a quesadilla by taking either flatbread or a tortilla and putting shredded cheese on it. I think your ideas will work for these as well.

    We eat a lot of cheese... thank you for this AAA+ rated article! - 5/18/2014   7:37:43 AM
  • 37
    I use 4oz lite cheeses on ww or lite rye 380 cal 14g fat, Very YUMMY - 3/8/2014   10:10:53 PM
    I eat grilled cheese sandwiches made with whole grain wheat bread, mozzarella, thin slice of tomato and some fresh basil. Also sometimes I just have the bread with cheddar and jalapeno relish. All of your ideas sound really good. I will be trying some of them. - 3/8/2014   3:14:36 PM
    17 is more grams of fat than I consume in 2 days! ! ! ! ! NO WAY! - 1/14/2013   7:36:23 PM
  • 34
    This sounds wonderful. Thanks. - 1/13/2013   8:28:17 AM
  • 33
    I generally just use cheese, but the added mushrooms sounds yummy! - 1/12/2013   7:47:45 PM
  • 32
    Know I would love the mushroom & bacon. Also anxious to make the apple & dijon; my youngest son loves apples so I'm betting this will be a favorite for him.
    - 1/12/2013   6:08:51 PM
  • 31
    Oh wow, yummy..I also like the shredded cheese part. Very helpful hints. Thanks! - 1/12/2013   1:16:32 PM
  • 30
    We've been pretty severe about calorie counting at our house --- summer is around the corner and we are saving up for Grilled Cheese and Beefsteak Tomato sandwiches . . . . we can live without other variations, but when those tomatoes are ripened in the backyard garden there's no escaping the sandwich! Yum!!
    Thanks for the hint on the tsp of butter - the flavor is really important on that sandwich we love so much! - 6/11/2012   4:39:05 PM
    I was trying to print this recipe and my printer is playing up and will only print words and not the picture. Any suggestions?
    Jo - 6/9/2012   12:00:32 PM
  • 28
    Thanks so much this is one item I miss a lot and will add to my tomato soup for a real comfort meal - 6/2/2012   6:04:24 AM
  • 27
    Something I love with my grilled cheese is pear slices. It adds a nice touch of sweetness and compliments the cheese and bread nicely. - 5/31/2012   4:49:18 PM
  • GALEY2
    I make with low fat cheddar and butter but I always sprinkle a little parmesan cheese on the outside (it sticks to the butter) and grill on low heat. Crispy, tasty crust for just a few extra calories. Try it! Yummy! - 5/30/2012   3:11:44 AM
  • 25
    Ok I couldn't wait. lol. I made one for dinner I used 1 slice 12 grain, 15g reduced fat mexican shred, and a few grape tomatoes sliced up: calories 131 carbs 21 fat 3 protein 5 (so as a compare with 2 slices 12 grain & full serving 1/4c of cheese: calories 300 carbs 41 fat 10 protein 14 vs my norm: calories 305 carbs 43 fat 10 protein 11) I opt for the gooeyer (sp) velvetta. lol - 5/30/2012   1:44:58 AM
  • 24
    Oh wow that is a great tip with the shredded cheese! I too love the tomato soup and grilled cheese. :) Or grilled cheese with a tomato slice. Especially open faced under the broiler.
    I have turned my family to grilled cheese w/ 12 grain bread. I usually only need one slice and half ounce of cheese to get my craving "licked". lol.
    I'm a bad girl using Velvetta... I know it is processed junk. Can't give it up. Moderation right?
    Excuse is the stats for 2 slices of 12grain and 1 oz velvetta: calories 305 carbs 43 fat 10 protein 11. Compares to the example in the blog article.
    However, I will try my reduced fat shredded cheese that I use on nachos, next time. :) - 5/30/2012   12:57:58 AM
  • 23
    Excellent! I've never thought about using shredded cheese! - 5/30/2012   12:14:37 AM
    I used to sprinkle some Italian seasoning on my buttered bread before grilling it - gave it a great little kick of flavor! Works great with provolone or mozzarella as well! - 5/29/2012   2:24:41 PM
  • 21
    I like to add arugula or spinach, sauteed mushrooms, sometimes a tomato and a good deli mustard (I like Beaver or Ingelhoffer brands). Yummy! Now my mouth is salivating for grilled cheese... - 5/29/2012   1:21:59 PM
  • 20
    De-licious ideas! Thanks! - 5/29/2012   12:45:26 PM
  • 19
    Make the basic grilled cheese: whole wheat bread, pan coating spray, 1 oz shredded cheese - for amazing flavor: add a tablespoon or two of chopped, canned, (drained) ortega green chile with the cheese before grilling. lots of vitamin A and C and 5 or 10 calories. - 5/29/2012   12:02:17 PM
    I like to microwave my "grilled" cheese. Toast the bread first so it doesn't get soggy, add slices of cheddar or colby cheese, then microwave for 30-40 seconds. No greasy bread, and no pan to clean!

    Also good - add salsa. This tastes best on a heavier bread, like Brownberry whole wheat bread. - 5/29/2012   11:32:04 AM
    I know green olives has lots of sodium, (so I don't have it this way to often) but I love green olives on my grilled cheese. - 5/29/2012   9:54:48 AM
    I know green olives has lots of sodium, (so I don't have it this way to often) but I love green olives on my grilled cheese. - 5/29/2012   9:54:47 AM
  • 15
    This can be a quick and easy breakfast, extra piece of leftover bacon adds flavor and just enough 'punch!' Love these ideas! - 5/29/2012   7:38:33 AM
  • 14
    Sounds delicious, I'm making this tomorrow! - 5/23/2012   12:27:26 AM
    I love, love, love Tomato soup and Grilled Cheese sandwiches. I remember them from school!!! - 5/22/2012   11:17:17 PM
  • 12
    These are great suggestions, but I don't think they would work for me, because I tend to have two or three toasties at a time. - 5/22/2012   12:01:05 PM
    Add a slab of roasted red bell pepper - yum!

    One of the best sandwiches I ever ate in a cafe had apple slices and sunflower seed kernels with cheese melted over them. Another yum! You can definitely go light with cheese on this if you wish - melt it open-face under a toaster oven broiler and use just enough grated cheese to keep the seeds from falling off :^) - 5/22/2012   11:12:49 AM
  • 10
    My husband and I make Toasted Cheese sandwiches. We use specialty breads, like the La Brea Bakery Jalapeno Cheddar, or a black pepper sourdough. We lightly toast the bread, to give it body, while we are preparing the cheese. We use a mixture of cheddar and pepper jack and toast that open face under the broiler until it bubbles, not long. We don't have a toaster oven any more, but that was great. No butter on the outside, a less greasy feeling sandwich and a gourmet flavor. - 5/22/2012   10:29:10 AM
    These sound delicious. Going in the recipe box for sure! - 5/22/2012   10:21:33 AM
  • 8
    My last grilled cheese was just the other night! I tried the parkay spray butter for the first time and it did great as well. - 5/21/2012   8:49:50 PM
  • 7
    These recipes sound good cant wait to try one
    - 5/21/2012   8:01:44 PM

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