Cheese and Other Dairy Products: Are they Processed?
There’s a question.
“If you avoid processed foods how is it that you’re still eating cheese (or cream cheese or sour cream or [insert dairy product here])? Isn’t cheese processed?”
The thing is even cooking is technically a form of processing or changing your food so unless you are on a raw food diet, we are all eating food that’s been somewhat “processed”. So maybe it would be better to say we avoid all highly processed foods, which, to draw the line somewhere, we define as having is having more than 5 ingredients.
So to hopefully answer some of those questions I’d like to share what I look for when it comes to purchasing dairy products in general.
There are a few basic things I look for in cheese…
- Organic: As I’ve mentioned before you can’t exactly peel or wash off dairy products like you can with conventional produce so we think it’s best to go organic if you can.
- Block Form (as opposed to pre-grated): Bagged, pre-shredded cheese contains an anti-caking agent called cellulose that’s sometimes made from wood pulp. Whether this additive concerns you or not the point is it’s an extra additive you will not find in a block of cheese. So when we want grated cheese at our house we just grate it ourselves. Yes, it’s an extra step, but it’s worth it to me especially because I think the texture is much better (i.e. less “powdery”).
- White: Cheese, which is obviously made from milk or cream, is meant to be white not orange…think about it. The orange color is typically a harmless, natural color additive, but just to make a point I personally like to buy my cheese white because that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
- Full Fat: I do not buy any reduced-fat or non-fat food products (since to get products that way they are simply more processed).
- Grass–Fed: Cows are meant to eat grass (not corn). When animals are fed a proper diet their food products are in turn more nutritious for you. Sometimes it’s hard to find, but I ideally look for cheeses that either say “grass-fed” or “pasture raised” on the package.
Yogurt*, Cream Cheese, and Other Dairy Products
This is what we look for when it comes to other dairy products like cream cheese, sour cream, yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese…
- Organic: Just like cheese and milk we always choose organic when it comes to any dairy products.
- Full Fat: in moderation.
- Plain: When it comes to dairy products like yogurt, it’s always best to buy the plain version and flavor it yourself. The majority of factory-made food contains way too much sugar (and salt and oil) so it’s not only best to be able to control how much is added, but also what type of sweetener is used.
- Least Number of Ingredients: No matter what type of food you are buying I highly recommend to ALWAYS read the ingredients before making a purchase. Most of the time least processed = least number of ingredients (as long as those ingredients are “whole” of course).
- Grass-Fed: Once again this can be hard to find especially when you are looking beyond cheese and milk, but ideally all dairy products should come from grass-fed (as opposed to corn or grain-fed) cows.