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

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DEE107 1/7/2020
thanks Report
CECELW 11/20/2019
I've never felt guilty about anything I have eaten. I don't know what that means Report
MNABOY 11/14/2019
THANKS! Report
Hmmmm, grilled cheese Report
DEE107 10/9/2019
thanks Report
CECELW 8/20/2019
i love grilled cheese in any way shape or form Report
Delicious. Thanks Report
BABY_GIRL69 3/19/2019
Sodium is in almost everything..... Report
OUTstanding ideas. A couple sounds horrible, but a few sound wonderful and I will try those. Report
Thank you. Report
Grilled cheese and tomato soup on a cold day - you just can't beat it. Report
There are some thinking that I can change when making grilled cheese sandwich thanks for this info. Report
Delish, Thanks! Report
I like avocado and dijon mustard on mine! Report
great ideas thank you love grilled cheese so to get it with fewer calories is good Report
looks awesome. I'll have to try it Report
Guilt-free Grilled Cheese sounds amazing! Report
Great ideas! Report
Great ideas Report
A small amount of butter is so much better than the spray! Worth it for taste, hence comfort. Report
great idea Report
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. Report
This sounds so good. I need to find a good low carb bread Report
Love grilled cheese but my sone doesn't so I don't make it Report
When I make grilled cheese, I don't even bother to add the butter to the bread and it isn't even missed! Report
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. Report
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. Report
YES! Grilled cheese and tomato soup. I like to dunk each bite of the sandwich into the soup. Yummy. Report
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. :~) Report
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.
I'll be making this for lunch tomortow Report
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...) Report
these all look yummy. Report
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 Report
all good commits. anxious o start. Report
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! Report
I use 4oz lite cheeses on ww or lite rye 380 cal 14g fat, Very YUMMY Report
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. Report
17 is more grams of fat than I consume in 2 days! ! ! ! ! NO WAY! Report
This sounds wonderful. Thanks. Report
I generally just use cheese, but the added mushrooms sounds yummy! Report
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.
Oh wow, yummy..I also like the shredded cheese part. Very helpful hints. Thanks! Report
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! Report
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 Report
Thanks so much this is one item I miss a lot and will add to my tomato soup for a real comfort meal Report
Something I love with my grilled cheese is pear slices. It adds a nice touch of sweetness and compliments the cheese and bread nicely. Report
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! Report
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 Report
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. :) Report