The most amazing versatile foods

Most people have a solid direct opinion on it. You either love it or you hate it. It’s a brilliant source of protein, it is amazingly versatile, it is cheap, you can get it easily, it’s very healthy, and yet most people don’t know anything about it — cottage cheese.

Did I lose you? Stay tuned. I have to tell you something. I hate cottage cheese, but I eat it all the time. (What?) The trick is, to hide it in stuff (for me). If you like cottage cheese – awesome — so much the better for you.

Cottage cheese been around since before little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet, but never come to popular use for the main stream. Personal trainers and dieticians have been using it and hailing its benefits for at least as long as I have been in this game (15 years) and far longer. I think that most people believe you have to just eat it plain with a celery stick though and that is a level of suffering I am not willing to go through.

Back to the benefits. Trainers like to recommend it because of the high amounts of casein – a nice, slower digesting protein, plus it is a complete protein – meaning it contains all nine essential amino acids required to be used by the body to rebuild tissue. That makes it a great choice for vegetarians, because their diet can lack complete proteins, leading to nutritional deficiency problems down the road. You do have to read labels – some cottage cheese has added sugar to make it taste better, and that is typically to be avoided if you are going for optimal health. Cottage cheese can also be quite high in sodium, so look for lower sodium versions, like dry curd cottage cheese. One cup of cottage cheese has 14% of your RDA for calcium, in addition to having 28g of perfect protein — same as a medium chicken breast, or a 3.5oz steak.

Now, back to eating the stuff (for those of you out there that don’t happen to love it). There are several tricks to this that will amaze you. I bury cottage cheese in yogurt, and I have been happily eating it that way for 15 years, which is impressive given the fact that I cannot stand the taste of cottage cheese itself (and that should tell you something). I also add in some fresh fruit and some almond slivers or pecan chunks. Nighttime meal perfection! If you want more carbs for that particular meal (so it would be a perfect breakfast) – add some muesli or granola to the mix.

Another way to hide the cottage cheese and reap the rewards is to add it to canned soup. Pick out a nice soup that is low sodium, no MSG, and fairly healthy ingredients. Add in some frozen veggies like peas or whatever you prefer. When the soup is cooked and hot – add in a cup of cottage cheese and voila. You have just made your low calorie, low protein soup into a perfect meal.

Cottage cheese and fruit salad: Add a bunch of cut up fruit in a bowl, toss in some cottage cheese and add your favourite yogurt and you have an amazing summer salad that is so healthy, light and fresh.

The best lasagna has cottage cheese in it – use extra lean ground beef, or lean ground turkey, whole wheat pasta and increase the cottage cheese in the recipe a bit, plus a few extra veggies and once again you have a great meal,

Cottage cheese with pineapples plus the raw juice and some almond slivers is another amazing before bed snack. Some folks like their cottage cheese with pepper and cucumbers – good for you.

So the next time you are in the grocery store, and walking past the first part of the dairy section, load up on this inexpensive powerhouse protein.

Scott McDermott is a personal trainer and owner of Best Body Fitness in Sylvan Lake. He can be reached at 403-887-7667 or check out www.personaltrainersylvanlake.com for more information.

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