Secrets to Great (Guilt-Free) Grilled Cheese

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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, as 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 non-stick 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 non-stick 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 two 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