Three clever ingredient swaps make classic grilled cheese much healthier—and just as tasty. Learn how we pulled it off, then snag the recipe below.
Credit: Photo: Randy Mayor

Tackling the iconic grilled cheese—complete with gooey, melty goodness contrasted against golden-crisp bread—is no small feat for a nutrition-minded cook. An impeccably creamy interior is easy to achieve with several ounces of hearty cheddar, and even easier with American.

Fry it (let's not kid ourselves by calling this a sauté) in a chunk of butter, and you're in 400-plus-calorie territory, double-digit sat fat, and nearly 1,000 milligrams of sodium for a three-ingredient meal. Not convinced? The Classic Grilled Cheese on White Bread from Panera will cost you 640 calories, 26g fat, 15g saturated fat, and 1580mg sodium. Yikes. 

Thankfully, there's an easy way to make a healthier grilled cheese. We swapped traditional grilled cheese ingredients with lower-fat and more nutritious alternatives to come up with a lighter, just-as-tasty version that cuts the calories, fat, saturated fat, and sodium of the classic sandwich in half. How’d we do it? Here’s the breakdown:

1. Cheese: Reduced-fat cheddar alone would be an easy swap here, but it doesn’t quite boast the meltability and satisfying gooeyness of full-fat cheddar. We put our heads together, and found a way to duplicate the irresistible texture of the original version. Reduced-fat cheddar combines with light cream cheese and canola mayo for a mixture that has 40% less saturated fat than regular cheddar. When slathered on whole-grain bread and sautéed in olive oil, the mixture melts into a gloriously silky, ultra-cheesy filling.

2. Whole-Grain Bread: Sliced white bread is the foundation of a classic grilled cheese, but it lacks in nutrients. Skip it, and use your favorite store-bought 100% whole-grain bread to access abundant health perks. You’ll also notch nearly half of the six 1-ounce servings of whole grains that the USDA recommends eating per day.  

3. Olive Oil: Swapping olive oil for butter saves an additional 7g saturated fat—a huge saving that doesn’t compromise flavor. Olive oil is also a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which are linked to lowered levels of bad LDL cholesterol in the body. To add the most flavor to your grilled cheese, make sure to use a high-quality olive oil (avoid extra-virgin, as the smoke point is too low).

Without further ado—here’s how to make the ultimate, healthier grilled cheese.

Ultimate Grilled Cheese


  • ½ ounce 1/3-less-fat cream cheese
  • 1 teaspoon canola mayo
  • 1 ounce 2% reduced-fat shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 (1-ounce) slices whole-grain bread
  • ¼ teaspoon olive oil

How to Make It

1. Combine cream cheese and canola mayo in a small bowl. Add cheddar cheese.

2. Spread cheese mixture between whole-grain bread slices.

3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat; pour in olive oil and sear each side until bread is browned and crisp.

Serving size: 1 sandwich; CALORIES 288; FAT 13.8g; SAT FAT: 5.8g; SODIUM 556mg