Q: Is adding Parmesan cheese a good way to add flavor to salads and other healthy foods without adding a lot of calories?
A: Richly flavored cheese, like Parmesan, used in small amounts can be a smart strategy for adding flavor without many calories. One tablespoon of grated Parmesan cheese adds only 22 calories, just less than one gram of saturated fat and only 76 milligrams (mg) of sodium. You might want to try the blocks of Parmesan and Romano, as they tend to have a stronger flavor than the pre-grated cheeses. Then you can grate just the amount you need at home. With a flavorful cheese like Parmesan or Romano, one tablespoon or less is plenty. However, when large amounts are melted over a food or when it’s part of baked dishes that include the Parmesan name (like Eggplant Parmesan), the calorie and fat (especially saturated fat) can add up.
If adding some grated Parmesan to salads or vegetables helps you enjoy them so much more that you eat larger portions of these healthful foods, then overall it will probably help you fill up on fewer calories. A diet with plenty of leafy greens and other low calorie vegetables is linked to health benefits including lower risk of cancer, heart disease and more.
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN – American Institute for Cancer Research