Cheese intake has tripled since 1970. That wouldn't be due to how much pizza we eat, would it? Or that it's served on nearly every burger, burrito, sandwich, or salad? Nah.

We looked for the best plant-based "cheeses," lower-fat dairy cheeses (like fresh mozzarella or goat), and lower-fat versions of cheddar, Swiss, etc.

Check out the photos and our chart for some great-tasting Best Bites, Honorable Mentions, and near misses.

Does the dairy fat in cheese, whole milk, and cream ward off heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and weight gain, as some headlines suggest? Not according to the best evidence from randomized trials. In fact:

  • full-fat dairy’s saturated fats raise LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which causes heart disease,
  • dairy foods don’t lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes or the metabolic syndrome, and
  • eating full-fat instead of low-fat dairy leads to weight gain.

Are plant-based cheeses healthier? Sadly, no. Many are largely water, starches, and coconut oil, so they’re low in protein and as high in unhealthy fat as dairy. Only some add calcium.

Almond and cashew cheeses from Miyoko’s, Treeline, and Kite Hill manage to do better. It’s a pity they’re so pricey.

Plant-based cheeses that didn’t come close to dairy cheese’s calcium or protein got Honorable Mentions as long as they met our Best Bite criteria for saturated fat and sodium. If you go plant-based, look for your calcium and protein elsewhere.

Cheddar, mozzarella, etc.

cabot Lite50 white sharp cheddar
Cabot Lite50 White Sharp Cheddar
Misses a Best Bite by just 20 mg of sodium.
Cabot Creamery.

Hard cheeses like cheddar are among the saturated-fat heavyweights. Just 1 oz. (a 1-inch cube) of full-fat cheddar has around 6 grams of sat fat—30 percent of a day’s worth.

Solution: Find a sharp, strong-tasting cheese and use less. Or try one of our Best Bites. Most are lite, 2%, or reduced-fat.

Interestingly, most full-fat fresh mozzarellas also make the cut (or just miss). Why? They contain more water.

galbani fresh mozzarella
Galbani Original Fresh Mozzarella
The creamy star of your next salad.
Lindsay Moyer/CSPI.

Even rich-tasting burrata—fresh mozzarella filled with cheese shreds soaked in cream—nears Best Bite territory. BelGioioso’s missed by just 1 gram of sat fat (though it has only 3 grams of protein). Try it on a salad with uber-ripe tomatoes.

Cheeses that come sliced may look lower in calories, sat fat, sodium, etc., because their labels list a smaller serving (usually a ¾ oz. slice) than blocks or shredded cheese (1 oz.). Our chart shows numbers for 2 slices of thin-cut cheeses. That’s closest to the weight of a typical slice.

Shaving sodium? Try Swiss (many have just 50 to 100 mg per serving) or fresh mozzarella (80 to 100 mg).

Jarlsberg Lite Reduced Fat Swiss Cheese
Jarlsberg Lite Swiss
A pop of fl avor to upgrade your next sandwich.

Plant-based: Many blocks or rounds of cashew-based Miyoko’s and Treeline won Honorable Mentions or came close. And Miyoko’s Farmhouse Cheddar Slices (made with oat milk, beans, and coconut oil) melt like a dream.

miyokos Creamery organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella
Miyoko’s Organic Cashew Milk Mozzarella
Tastes good melted or unmelted.
Miyokos Creamery.

Best Bites have:No more than 3 grams of sat fat and 200 mg of sodium in 1 oz. or 1 slice.


Kraft Mozzarella
Kraft 2% Mozzarella
A trusty lower-fat mozz for your pizza.
Lindsay Moyer/CSPI.

Cutting back on cheese? Add a bevy of vegetables, and think of shredded cheeses as a garnish.

Imagine a whole-wheat quesadilla or bean burrito stuffed with sautéed peppers and onions with a light sprinkle of melty cheese. Or skip the cheese, and top your pizza with mushrooms, artichoke hearts, roasted vegetables, or raw arugula.

The good news: Plenty of 2%, lite, or part-skim dairy shreds taste great and get Best Bites.

Plant-based: Oatzarella manages to coax a super-meltable cheesy texture out of oats, olive oil, agar agar (vegan gelatin), and a handful of other ingredients. (If you’re vegan or allergic to dairy, always read the fine print. Trader Joe’s Almond Mozzarella Style Shreds “cheese alternative” and Go Veggie Lactose Free Mozzarella Style Shreds, for example, contain casein, which is a milk protein.)

Best Bites have:No more than 3 grams of sat fat and 200 mg of sodium in 1 oz. (¼ cup).

Cottage cheese

daisy cottage cheese
Daisy 2% Low Fat Cottage Cheese
Top with fresh fruit or juicy raw veggies.
Daisy Brand LLC.

When snack time rolls around, don’t forget cottage cheese. With 2% (aka low-fat), you get around 14 grams of protein for just 80 or so calories and 1½ grams of sat fat. That’s on a par with plain Greek 2% yogurt.

Cottage cheese has no tang, so it doesn’t need added sugar. Want a little sweetness? Mix in chopped pears, apples, peaches, or berries. Or go savory (try cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, or leftover roasted veggies).

Plant-based: We didn't find any.

Best Bites have:No added sugar and no more than 1½ grams of sat fat and 350 mg of sodium in ½ cup.

Cream cheese

Philadelphia whipped cream cheese
Philadelphia Original Whipped Cream Cheese.
Light and fluffy.
Kraft Foods.

Cream cheese is more like cream than cheese. A serving—two level tablespoons—of full-fat typically supplies no more than a paltry 2 grams of protein and 2 percent of a day’s calcium, but costs you 4½ to 6 grams of sat fat and 80 to 100 calories.

Light cream cheeses shave off roughly half that sat fat. So do most whipped ones—because you’re getting more air.

(We didn’t look at fruit-flavored cream cheeses, which typically add more sugar than fruit.)

Or try labne, an ultra-creamy strained yogurt spread. Yum! Some brands just miss a Best Bite.

cedars labne
Cedar’s Labne.
Like the label says: “Tangy like yogurt, spreads like cream cheese.”
Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods, Inc.

Plant-based: Kite Hill and Treeline churn out almond and cashew cream cheeses that rose to the top of our Best Bite ranking. And even though Miyoko’s—made from cashews plus coconut—contains more sat fat, it still has less than most dairy cream cheeses.

Best Bites have:No added sugar and no more than 3 grams of sat fat and 200 mg of sodium in 2 Tbs.

kite Hill cream Cheese
Kite Hill Plain Cream Cheese Alternative.
A creamy almond spread.
Kite Hill.

Ricotta & farmer cheese

365 ricotta
Whole Foods 365 Part-Skim Ricotta.
Pick up any brand’s part-skim ricotta.
Whole Foods.

To find a Best Bite, look no further than part-skim ricotta or its cousin, farmer cheese. Spread some on whole-grain toast. Tablespoon for tablespoon, you’ll get about half the calories of light cream cheese. Layer sliced fruit on top. Mmm.

Plant-based: Not too many options here. You could try Kite Hill’s healthy-fat-rich almond ricotta, though it misses an Honorable Mention by 130 mg of sodium.

Best Bites have:No more than 3 grams of sat fat and 100 mg of sodium in ¼ cup.


athenos reduced Fat Feta
Athenos Reduced Fat Feta.
Perfect for a late-summer watermelon-feta salad.
Churny Company, Inc.

Feta’s Achilles’ heel, of course, is salt. But at least its punchy flavor means you may be able to get by with less. The surprise: Many full-fat fetas, like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods 365, just miss our sat fat cut-off.

Plant-based: Alas, vegan fetas from Follow Your Heart and Violife missed by a mile. The culprit: coconut oil.

Best Bites have:No more than 2 grams of sat fat and 350 mg of sodium in 1 oz.

Spreadable, goat cheese & brie

Chavrie Original Goat Cheese
Chavrie Original Goat Cheese.
Or try Trader Joe’s Goat’s Milk Creamy Cheese.

Light brie is a Best Bite, though it lacks full-fat brie’s signature richness. Instead, try creamy crowd pleaser Chavrie Original Goat Cheese pyramid or lookalike Trader Joe’s Goat’s Milk Creamy Cheese on your crackers.

Searching for a goat cheese log or crumbles? Try Vermont Creamery Classic Crumbles or Montchevre Medallions. Each missed a Best Bite by just ½ gram of sat fat. Small-household bonus: The individually wrapped medallions can wait in your fridge until you’re ready for them.

Treeline Creamy Scallion French-Style Cheese
Treeline Creamy Scallion French-Style Cheese.
Cashew “cheese” at its finest.
Treeline Cheese.

Plant-based: The folks at Treeline sure know their way around a cashew. One taste of their creamy, tangy French-Style Cheese, and we were wowed.

Best Bites have:No more than 3 grams of sat fat and 200 mg of sodium in 2 Tbs. (spreadables) or 1 oz. (brie & goat cheese).

Cheese snacks

Cracker Barrel 2% Extra Sharp Yellow Sticks
Cracker Barrel 2% Extra Sharp Yellow Sticks
Think string cheese for grown-ups.
Kraft Foods.

Take your pick. Many strings and sticks are only ¾ oz. and either “part-skim” or “2% milk.” Just 50 to 80 calories apiece.

We didn’t look at single-serve refrigerated cheese snack packs like Sargento Balanced Breaks, Babybel Cheese & Crackers, or Oscar Mayer P3. Many include sugar-sweetened dried fruit, chocolate-covered nuts, white-flour crackers, or processed meat (like bacon or deli meat).

Instead, why not grab an apple or clementine or a reusable container of cherry tomatoes or cucumber slices to go with your cheese string, stick, or Babybel round? And who can resist two crisp apple slices with a thin-sliced cheese like Kraft Slim Cut sandwiched in between them?

Plant-based: Miyoko’s Cheddar Sticks miss an Honorable Mention by just ½ gram of sat fat.

Best Bites have: No more than 3 grams of sat fat and 200 mg of sodium in 1 stick, string, or round.

Montchevre Goat Cheese Medallions
Montchevre Goat Cheese Medallions
Want just a little? Go mini.
Saputo Cheese USA Inc.