Cheese and Other Dairy Products: Are they Processed?

There’s a question I’ve been getting a lot lately and it goes something like this:

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, which we are not, 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 more than 5 (or any refined) ingredients.

So to hopefully answer some of those burning cheese questions I’d like to share what we look for when it comes to purchasing dairy products in general. And in case you missed it be sure to check out our post earlier this month all about milk.

Cheese

There are a few basic things we 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. When it comes to “voting with my dollars” I don’t like to mess around!
  • Full Fat: We no longer buy any reduced-fat or non-fat food products (since to get products that way they are simply more processed), which is actually kind of a relief because I never thought the low-fat versions tasted all that good anyway!
  • GrassFed: Cows are meant to eat grass (not corn), and as I mentioned in the milk post 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: Once again we did away with all low-fat and non-fat products when we made the switch to real food.
  • 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. We love mixing our plain yogurt with homemade berry sauce, homemade strawberry-honey jam, or a little maple syrup and vanilla extract… you can also add some orange zest for a real treat!
  • 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.

*Note Regarding Greek Yogurt: I can’t really say that Greek yogurt is “better” or “worse” for you than regular yogurt because to be honest it’s just different. As long as the yogurt meets the criteria outlined above just pick whichever one you like best!

New Sponsor: Plan to Eat

I’d like to introduce another one of our newest sponsors today…Plan to Eat! Plan to Eat is a very cool meal planning service that is quite different from all the rest. Before now most of the services I’ve come across give you a dinner plan and shopping list so you basically eat the meals they’ve picked out for you for the week. Plan to Eat, on the other hand, is a program that automatically turns YOUR own recipes into a meal plan and shopping list. You can import recipes from websites and blogs or add your own. So in the most basic terms you decide what you’re going to have for dinner and Plan to Eat organizes the information for you into one neat meal plan and shopping list! They even have a feature where you can access your shopping list from your mobile phone. Pretty cool, huh?

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263 thoughts on “Cheese and Other Dairy Products: Are they Processed?”

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  1. Hey,thank you for the info. Great post. Dairy products, in general, are very acid forming in the body, mucus-forming, and difficult to digest. They are Fat triggers and a major cause of weight gain.

  2. Tillamook is on the coast in Oregon and do not distribute outside of the West Coast… their factory is a great destination for a vacation… but many of their products now include some color or flavor addatives.

    They are like the Cabot of the west… but they also make ice cream.

    I really like this post… great way to explain different pitfalls but Stoneyfield isn’t on our list anymore… look at the amount of sugar… even for the vanilla the ones that are here in Ohio are more than 20g per serving? We finally gave up store bought yogurt after the Chobani recall earlier this year.

    1. We have Tillamook cheese available to us in South Mississippi, but I have never bought it. Is it a better cheese than the others?

  3. Hey, just wondering thoughts on Tillamook cheeses… supposedly they are really great though they have the annetto coloring (not that it’s bad for you). Would love to hear your thoughts! Thanks!

  4. Hi,

    I’ve stopped eating all flour products so I can lose the belly fat, but the problem is I’m allergic to wheat so I can’t substitute my carb intake with brown carbs so now I’m always hungry. What should I do?

    Thanks

  5. Thank you. You are a voice of reason in a sea of increasingly radical food ideas. We are all at different points in our journeys to live healthier, less processed lives. In the end, we all decide what we put into our mouths, what food strategy or lifestyle we will follow. Thank you for sharing yours.

  6. Couple of quickies…

    -The argument, “humans are the only animals to consume another animal’s milk” has been used ad nauseum. Let’s face it, humans do a lot of things other animals don’t do (like cooking our food, for example), so unless we’re going to strip down, head back to the woods and live “as nature intended”, this is one of the least valid arguments against milk. The majority of modern people have compromised leaky guts to begin with, throw some ultra-pasteurized skim milk on top of that and then your digestive problems start. Most people who are lactose intolerant actually have no issues digesting raw milk. That’s because milk in it’s raw form contains the necessary enzymes to help animals digest it properly…this is true of all milk, regardless of the animal of origin. In addition to destroying heat sensitive enzymes, heating milk denatures the proteins and makes them hard to digest. The problems with milk are problems we have created in order to maintain a healthy profit margin, rather than healthy people. Milk in its pure form, from healthy grass fed animals, is one of the most whole and nutritious foods you can consume. Make it in to yogurt, kefir, or sour cream and you’ve got a powerhouse food. Maybe the fact that humans are the only animals to do so, means we were smart enough to figure this out and put our opposable thumbs to good use.

    -The cholesterol and fat connection is based more on political agenda than the sketchy science that started it all. Every cell in our body uses cholesterol to repair and help maintain function, without we would die. There is no direct correlation between high cholesterol numbers and CAD…and let’s remember, until the plethora of now available cholesterol mediating drugs hit the market, the upper reference range for overall cholesterol was 250 (as I believe it still is in Europe). The number was arbitrarily lowered to 200 and all of sudden scores of people were diagnosed with hyperlipemia and needed cholesterol mediating medication to save their lives.
    More current studies are finally focused on inflammation as the primary cause for CAD, specifically, the type of inflammation caused by oxidized cholesterol found in low fat products such as skim milk and grains…one of the big reasons why most people feel worse on the currently prescribed cardiac diet. As inflammation increases, your body sends out more cholesterol to repair the damage (hence the apparent correlation between higher cholesterol and heart disease; a case of assigning a symptom as the cause, rather than the result). You can google the history of the lipid hypothesis to get all the cited studies and diagrams to explain it all in more detail.

    -With regards to the white vs yellow vs orange cheese questions. It is normal for white cheese to vary in appearance from white to yellow in color, especially because the cream from healthy grass fed animals is actually yellow to begin with. But cheese is never orange. That effect is achieved by adding annatto color, a “natural” coloring meant to replace the yellow food colorings, specifically yellow #6. Annatto has since been found to be more allergenic to more people than yellow 6, and is a trigger for most people with an MSG sensitivity. Companies continue to use it because it allows them to slap “all natural” on their product and sell more of it. Natural though it may be, healthy and harmless it is not.

    1. Shauna
      Thanks very much for your info – certainly “food for thought” and pun intended. I’ve always been skeptical about the whole statin push and will do some more research on preventing inflammation rather than worrying about a cholesterol number. You mention grains in the same sentence as oxidized cholesterol – are you lumping all grains together or do you mean more highly processed grains?
      Thanks again for your post.

      1. No problem! :)

        All grains in general are inflammatory, some more than others, with processed obviously being the worse. Choosing the right ones and preparing them properly, goes a long way in helping. I’ll use wheat as an example; modern wheat has been hybridized several times over in order to achieve a plant that is compact, grows quickly, and produces a lot. The result is modern wheat contains a super gluten, not found in heirloom wheat, and more of it in general. Hybridization, combined with soil depletion, results in a wheat with less protein and lacking vital minerals. As an overall result we are finding gluten intolerance on the rise, and I would argue pretty much any animal alive today eating this stuff is sensitive to it to some degree. No one in my family has been diagnosed as gluten intolerant, but I did observe some ill effects on wheat (including whole wheat) including, constipation, bloating, and skin changes. We switched to gluten free for a while and that cleared up most of the issues. But, from a nutritional standpoint, I was not happy with the resulting breads and pastas. More research later, I came across heirloom wheat (the brand I use is Jovial, organic and sustainably grown, but not local). This is the wheat the Bible peeps were talking about when they said, “give us this day our daily bread” :) As the name entails, it is non-hybridized, contains much less gluten, and a higher protein content. Does not spike blood sugar (another inflammatory pathway of grains) when eaten…I tested this on my diabetic grandmother :) And people who have gluten intolerance issues are usually able to eat this without issue, including everyone in my family. We also noticed the wheat pasta has a nice nutty flavor rather than the bitter flavor of regular whole wheat pasta. I make all of my kids bread and snacks from their wheat berries after sprouting.

        Sprouting is a second big piece to the grain issue. Seeds and grains have self defense mechanisms to deter animals (including us) from eating them, these include anti-nutrients, ensuring continuation of their species. The key to making any grain more digestible, including any of the wheats (or hybrids), is soaking. By soaking the wheat berries, you trick them in to thinking they are being planted, instead of eaten. Once they sprout, you rinse them and dry them, either in a dehydrator or low temp setting on your oven, and then grind as needed. The end result is a grain that digests more like a vegetable than a grain. And a really fresh super yummy flour. Again, you can google for all the gritty details, this is really a broad overview.

        The moral of the grain story is, it should be a tiny piece of our food pyramid rather than the base. Overall, everyone would do better eating less grains, but when we do choose to, the type and how we prepare them, is important. Whole is only part of the puzzle.

        Another word on statins; statins work in our bodies directly on our liver, suppressing cholesterol production/release. This same mechanism also suppresses coQ10 in our livers, ultimately resulting in damage to our heart muscles. They are a lose lose. You may have also noticed, in all of the commercials for statins they always say, “may help reduce your risk of a heart attack”…this again, is because there is no direct correlation. And, current studies are finding that woman in particular, have better health outcomes with higher cholesterol…I believe this most likely has to do with the changing hormonal plane of our bodies as we age. Again, you can google for all the fancy cited studies…I have them on my computer, but not my phone. They are all mostly available in the public forum though.

      2. Another good resource, if your particularly interested in the wheat issue, is the Broadbent Wheat Study. It’s a long running research project studying the steady decline in the quality and nutritional value of our wheat.

  7. Check yogurt carefully, I recently bought Organic Plain Greek Yogurt (Greek gods) however it contained pectin?? Didn’t notice until I got home. Have since found another brand without added pectin.

    1. What is it about pectin that doesn’t qualify as real food? Pectin is a natural component of apples and oranges as well as other fruits. (I don’t mean for that to sound snarky.)

  8. As a fellow cheese lover, the part of this post that particularly stood out to me was “cheese is supposed to be white.” I am lucky enough where I live to have a ‘cheesemongers’ who sell magnificent cheeses, and a good friend who happened to work there. I asked her one day about cheese being yellow, and we found out this occurs as part of the natural cheese making process. This article explains better than I can…

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/07/26/why_is_cheese_yellow_or_orange_when_milk_is_white_.html

  9. Human beings is the only species on earth that consumes another mammal’s for sustenance.

    Consider the facts:
    Milk’s primary function is to provide high levels of nutrition, including fat, protein, carbohydrates and calcium, to a newborn baby through breastfeeding before the baby is capable of consuming other foods.

    In nature, milk is meant to be consumed only by the offspring of the mother who is producing it. Milk contains high levels of casein, which a protein known to have opiate-like effects. The purpose of this is to cause an addictive response in the infant so it will crave the mother’s milk and continue to feed and nourish.

    Lactose is the sugar found in milk. In infants, the intestinal villi produce lactase, an enzyme secreted specifically to break down lactose. As the infant grows, the amount of naturally produced lactase decreases, making it more and more uncomfortable to digest.

    Is it any wonder that so many people are lactose intolerant? It simply isn’t natural or healthy to consume another mammal’s milk, let alone eat products made from milk or milk by-products. Cheese and milk is casein-filled, artery-clogging.

    Also read http://www.notmilk.com/kradjian.html

  10. Your reference to “voting with your dollars” made me think of this. There’s a new app called “buycott” which lets you trace the corporate origins of products that you buy. I just got it but it looks interesting. For instance, you may find that a company is financially backed by Monsanto or spend $$ to block GMO labeling. Thanks for helping people take ownership of what they use!

  11. We have had a hard time with the switch from flavored yogurt to plain yogurt. I was so happy to find this article. I mixed maple syrup and vanilla extract into the yogurt and my whole family loved it!

  12. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

    Hi Tina. Look for an organic cheddar or organic cheddar jack that you shred yourself. The raw cheddar in this post is yummy. ~Amy

  13. I’m searching for a great cheese for quesadillas! My kids love them & they’re our go to quick meal when we are busy with sports. The chihuahua cheese we’ve been using has cellulose. :( any ideas??

    1. If you can find it, try Farmer’s Cheese. We get it at the store near us. it’s relatively soft (think like feta), but we can shred it and it makes fabulous quesadillas.

  14. I see both “organic” and “grass-fed” on your list of criteria. I thought organic cows had to be grass-fed to meet the USDA requirements. Am I misinformed?

  15. Hi,

    Seeing your picture of Stonyfield yogurt made me wonder how you define “organic,” as you know that there is much deception with this labeling. Organic milk is often produced on the same farms as non-organic milk (just different barns, same factory-style). Organic eggs are often produced in the industrialized barns w/ chickens still never seeing the light of day (and “free-range” only means the chickens have to have access to daylight…not that they actually get it.)

    I thought I had remembered seeing that Stonyfield had caved to Monsanto’s GE crop agenda. Organic Consumers covers it here: http://thegoodhuman.com/2011/01/29/whole-foods-organic-valley-and-stonyfield-farm-surrender-to-monsanto/

    I know you advocate farmer’s markets, but for those who do not have easy access to these, they rely upon the “organic” labeling, often thinking they are getting something they are not. We are stuck, as consumers, because “true organic” is so difficult to come by, even if you buy directly from the farmer or grow it yourself. I just wonder how many consumers are still being deceived by this term.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Thanks for you input, Lindsay. Our readers are have so much helpful information! ~Amy

    2. The news about Stonyfield does not surprise me. They were bought out by a mega-corp, though I forget at the moment which one. The leadership now bows to the almighty dollar.

  16. How do you buy your spices, sugar, etc…organic, bulk ? Is everything you buy to cook with and eat pretty much organic? Still learning!!! :-)thks

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Katrina. We buy some in bulk and some prepackaged. We do try to find as many organic ingredients as possible. ~Amy

  17. I was wondering if Lisa and her Husband have had their cholesterol checked before starting on this type of full fat diet? I know they are young and the diet is very healthy otherwise but aren’t they worried at all about all of the cheese they eat?

      1. Thanks Jason! I really want to cut out the processed foods but was a little afread of pushing my cholesterol levels for myself and my Husband. We are in our 60’s and in generally good health. He always drank a lot of full fat milk and loves his cheese and he is very thin! I have always watched my weight (successfully) but ate some processed low fat and low sugar foods and never really felt good about eating them.

        I am determined to do this and hope I can succeed!

      2. Pat. Research about the low fat foods. A lot of the low fat foods are GMO filled which in turn causes your body to not fill up as fast as if you ate whole foods. I’m not talking about like whole wheat. I am talking about non processed foods, your cheap foods have GMO which are a lot lower in nutrition which your body can’t fill up and wants more. Scientists have now found that fructose corn syrup actually makes your body crave more sugary foods and in excess amounts. A great movie to watch is Genetic Roulette, it’s on Vimeo.com. Watch it when you can, it explains all this wonderfully. And stop eating any and all commercialized foods all together. They are all GMO filled.

  18. Thank you for this post (and your entire website!!!). I have been just wondering specifically about cheese, and I’ve been having a hard time finding organic cheese at my grocery store. What are your thoughts on mozzarella cheese sticks? My kids love them as a go-to snack, I will have to check the label for extras.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Jesse. Glad you are enjoy the blog. Yep, an old stand by…Don’t tell anyone but I have a(n) (old) package of organic string mozzarella sticks from my refrigerator that I am examining right now. The ingredients are: organic pasteurized part-skim cow’s milk, cheese cultures, salt, enzymes. I think the biggest issue here would be that it is not a full fat cheese which indicates it is more processed. Finding full fat fresh mozzarella might be better or tracking down full fat sticks….but I think we all have to pick and choose what works best for our families. ~Amy

      1. Mozzarella is often part-skim. Since most people make up the fat difference in something like butter, Personally i don’t think it’s terrible thing. I know a friend of mine made some at home and skimmed some of the cream off.

        I’m guessing here, but I would think for ‘real food’, low-fat isn’t necessarily the problem, but that the problem comes from what they replace the fat with (usually refined sugar and other garbage). My two cents.

  19. Organic Valley actually states that their products are suitable for vegetarians as far as the enzymes used to culture the cheese are concerned. BJ’s carries organic goat cheese, with vegetarain enzymes for culturing also.

    All of these cheeses are very expensive in comparison to standard products, so we use them sparingly. I guess a good thing overall.

  20. American cheese isn’t really cheese in the true sense as its usually a mix of different cheeses blended together with other stuff added. American cheese that is very yellow or orange is usually due to colorants added. However, dark yellow English cheese is usually due to the color of the milk from the cows (from eating a lot of carrots, seriously!). However, some English do use natural colorants (like carrot juice) when the color of the milk varies throughout the year from the cows eating more grass or more carrots etc depending on whats happening in the season. I’m Australian and we don’t color cheese and I am still yet to eat American yellow or orange cheese even after a year of living in the US – it just looks very unappealing to me!

  21. The difference for me is chemically processed vs. mechanically processed. I eat tons of mechanically processed food–like cheese (or anything cooked!) but I try to avoid chemically processed.

  22. I agree with the previous poster on Stonyfield “Plain” Yogurt. I will not buy it until they get the pectin out of it. There are other organic yogurts with nothing but organic milk and cultures.

  23. As for the cottage cheese, you can find a farmers cheese or dry curd cottage cheese mix a little cream or whole milk to get it to the consistency of cottage cheese and you don’t have any gums or other ingredients. You can also use a yogurt maker to get your own yogurt. I make mine and ferment for 24 hours to remove all lactose. When I eat it I add fresh fruit and a little honey or I had honey sweetened preserves that I have made. Delicious. SO much better than buying it. If you want a cream cheese you can also drip your homemade yogurt to a cream cheese consistency and add a little honey. Delicious!

  24. The greek yogurt that is available in american supermarkets is regular yogurt that has been drained, making it drier and thicker. You can do this yourself by placing several layers of cheesecloth in a strainer and draining the regular yogurt for a day or two. Save the container to put the yogurt back into afterwards. Saves a bit of money as well.

  25. I was wondering if American Cheese from the deli is allowed on a real foods diet. Is it still considered processed? If so, I’m going to have a tough time convincing my family to give it up. Any suggestions?

    Thanks!!!

  26. Why don’t you make yogurt at home, so much cheaper and less processed, and you can make it flavored in the process of fermentation as well, like sweet vanilla (perhaps you do by now). Don’t buy it. Allow me to share a list of things and tutorials on what I make rather than buy:

    http://girlsguidetobutter.com/2013/02/diy-foods-and-products-what-do-you-make-yourself/

    Non-aged cheeses are also easy to make, and I would never, ever purhase bread.

  27. Have you ever tried a yogurt maker before? What are you thoughts? Would that be a better option that store bought yogurt?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Leynie. Lisa has not made her own yogurt. Many readers have, however. If you try it, let us know how it worked. ~ Amy

  28. Organic Valley cottage cheese ingredients: Organic Cultured Pasteurized Skim Milk, Organic Pasteurized Cream, Organic Nonfat Milk, Citric Acid, Salt, Organic Guar Gum, Organic Locust Bean Gum, Acidophilus and Bifidus Cultures, Enzymes.

  29. Thanks so much for this! I haven’t been able to find cream cheese without one of the “gums” in it. I just checked and Nancy’s does not! Excellent – we can have cream cheese again!

  30. What is your feeling about the dairy products sold by Trader Joe’s? I have been buying my dairy there for years because I feel comfortable with the company and their pledge that none of their products contain rBST, but now that I have read your post I am wondering if I should be buying organic entirely. Do you have a sense of the real difference in this case? Thanks for any insight!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Amy. I buy some of their products as well, but, I do try and buy the organic cheeses. The difference is that the organic products have to follow the organic standards (non GMO, testing for pesticides, no additives, just to name a few). So, while their non-organic cheeses don’t use the rBST growth hormone, they don’t have to follow the other standards necessarily. Hope that helps. Jill

  31. I have a dairy allergy and was looking into trying to eat more unprocessed foods. I already hardly eat any due to the fact that most contain dairy, so I end up making most things from scratch anyways. Most dairy alternative products contain more than 5 ingredients, such as the yogurt, milk, cream cheese, cheese and butter. Is is okay if I continue to use them still and do the 100 day pledge or will I have to eliminate all of them in order to do the pledge? It is extremely difficult to make anything without some kind of dairy alternative and I have tried all of them and soy is the only kind that tastes decent enough to tolerate. I usually use Silk products and Daiya “cheese” products.

    1. Making your own yogurt is really easy! I make it in the crock pot all the time and just love it. All you need is a tiny amount of yogurt to use as starter (I used Stonyfield because it has good live cultures) and some milk, and you can make it very easily in a crock pot. I couldn’t believe how easy it is.

      Here’s the web site that has the best instructions I’ve found: http://girlsguidetobutter.com/2010/02/crock-pot-yogurt/

      Enjoy! You’ll love it!

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Jennifer. I have not, but, I know some readers have posted ideas as to how to do this in the comments section before. You may want to take a look. Jill

  32. As far as Greek yogurt vs regular, I prefer Greek because the protein content is much higher. I buy a local Grass fed plain Greek yogurt that costs a good $1-2 less than any processed yogurt you can find in the store. I use it as a substitute for mayo in all recipes as we get more protein, no yucky oil, and a really fresh and flavorful taste!

  33. Wow, I never realized the hidden ingredients in shredded cheese. I have a question regarding the ingredients…what are your preferences regarding cheese that contains enzymes? I’m a little torn and information I have come across does not help much. Thanks for your help!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Cayce. I’m not that familiar with your question, but, from what I do understand, a lot of cheese contains rennet. This is often from animals, but, not always. So, for those who are vegetarian or vegan, you need to consider if your cheese contains animal rennet. Sorry I couldn’t provide you with more information. Jill

  34. Sorry I also meant to add icecream. I have bought soy but still contains Ingred. I don’t like, carageenan being one of them. We have bought the organic coconut milk one but that doesn’t go far with 4 kids and $7 for 500ml!! Ouch. We have read every label out there and there is nothing remotely acceptable :(

    1. What about Haagen Daz? Their vanilla ice cream only has 5 ingredients. All real food~ milk,cream, sugar,vanilla and egg yolks (i think)

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Lara. I usually buy the Organic Valley, but, I’ve not looked that closely at the ingredients. As for ice cream, have you considered making your own? There are a few good recipes you could try…https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2012/04/26/recipe-strawberry-ice-cream/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/10/06/recipe-banana-ice-cream-and-another-announcement/, https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2010/06/16/recipe-homemade-maple-pecan-ice-cream/. Hope that helps. Jill

  35. what about cottage cheese? i have been looking around and can’t find one without carrageenan in it (or other stuff i would rather avoid). any good suggestions on brands to buy or where to buy?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Maura. I usually buy the Organic Valley brand. I’ll be honest I’ve not looked that closely at the ingredients, but, I didn’t think it had the carrageenan. Jill

  36. Have you ever tried pre grating your own cheese and then freezing it? so that you can have grated cheese handy? I was just wondering if that worked?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Tiffany. Yes, I’ve actually done that and it works fine. You can even use the cheese right out of the freezer if you’re cooking it in something. Jill

    2. We also do this all the time. I buy big blocks from Costco and grate 1/2 – 2/3 of the block in the food processor. (hands down best way to grate; super fast then toss it in the dishwasher!) Then I freeze a couple of blocks for slicing and the rest in ziploc bags, grated. It does clump together some which is what cheese is supposed to do! :-)

  37. I have found that most selections of Organic Valley block cheese contain Rennet, which I wouldn’t think would be considered natural.

  38. Cheese is one of the things that has confused me the most when choosing real food.. I’ve converted from shredded cheese in the bag to block cheese, but I can’t seem to find any block cheese labled organic at Kroger. The ones I have bought have 2-3 identifiable ingredients with the addition of “enzymes.” I looked it up, and it seems the enzymes are probably from vegetables since it does not list rennet as an ingredient. Your thoughts?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Heather. I would just make sure that it doesn’t have the powdered cellulose (the anti-caking agent found in shredded cheeses). And, if they don’t have organic, perhaps they at least have one that is free of added hormones (RBGH). Jill

  39. My question relates to guar gum and carageenan in cream cheese. I see this in all the ones I have looked at, and this can even be a code ingredient for glutamic acid/msg. (See truthinlabeling.org for information on the prevalence of msg in our food.) I even looked at the organic ones, and they also had guar gum in them. Can you comment on guar gum and whether it follows a real food diet or not? I mostly shop at Trader Joe’s. I can probably get some of the other brands you mention at Fresh Market (which is the only other “health” food store we have), but I would prefer to not make a separate trip for cream cheese.

  40. can you please advise what pectin is? i will be taking the mini pledge next week for the low-fat switch to whole fat and noticed that pectin is in the low-fat stonyfield as well as the whole one? please advise!

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Pectin is a naturally occurring substance found in ripe fruits. It is used as a gelling agent particularly in jams and jellies. Is the Stonyfield yogurt you are referring to the plain variety? I wouldn’t think the plain one would have pectin but I could see that it might be in the fruit flavored variety. We would recommend using plain yogurt and sweetening it yourself (you could try this berry sauce to sweeten it https://www.100daysofrealfood.com/2011/05/03/recipe-berry-sauce/). Jill

      1. That’s the strange part, Jill, the Stoneyfield yogurt I’m referring to is both plain. I particularly love just plain yogurt altogether with nothing in it. It’s just strange that pection, the naturally occuring fiber in fruits is added to plain yogurt “for the gelling”.

  41. I remember when I was young and mom made tacos….we would pull out the big block of cheddar and start grating it on the grater. That’s just the way it was done….no bags with powdery stuff in it. Sad how the things that “seem” more convenient really don’t do us any good in the long run. I have recently gone back to shredding my own cheese! One baby step at a time.

  42. Regarding the use of orgainc milk in making cheese or yogurt, most store purchased organic milk is ultrapasturized for longer shelf life. This means it has been heated more than regular milk in order kill off additional microbes. For those fortunate enough to live near a dairy, this may not be the case.

    Most recipes state not to use UP milk in the making of these products. Having made yogurt and cheese for many years, the end result using UP milk is slightly different, a bit more runny, but still quite good!

    Love the blog :)

  43. My family is plagues with migraines, and am grateful for the headsup about annatto being a possible trigger. Thanks.

  44. Here is a link to a youtube video giving a good demonstration of how to make your own yogurt. Love this lady:http://youtu.be/TvpmtjTyCKY

    Also Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that has been strained. You can use store bought yogurt. Strain it and you will have thicker Greek style yogurt. Here is a link: http://greekfood.about.com/od/greekcookingtips/ht/strainyogurt.htm

    I was also thrilled to buy 100% grassfed whole milk plain yogurt from Maple Hill Creamery the other day. Good stuff and so much more yellow than the non-grassfed versions! I flavor it with a little honey and vanilla extract – yum!

  45. This may be a silly question, but what about cottage cheese? They all seem to have additives in them, but I’m not sure what is unnecessary and what is needed to make the cheese. My kids love cottage cheese, but I’ve been wondering about its “realness”!

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      Nancy’s Organic Cottage Cheese is pretty decent…it has cream, milk and a couple of bacteria cultures (which are necessary).

  46. I absolutely LOVE what you doing! Thank you for bringing beautiful awareness into the world about the power of the foods we eat and the joy of mindfulness around it all! So glad to find your site via Anne Hofweber.

  47. The reason I eat Greek yogurt is for the higher protein content. 18g per 3/4 cup. You can find it in 0%, 2% and 10% fat – plain or flavoured (the flavoured stuff has added sugar so I never buy it). I flavour my plain Greek yogurt with vanilla & maple syrup or fruit. I also use it in place of sour cream, in smoothies, and in dips – hummus, taco dip, veggie dip, homemade ranch dip etc. Mine only has 2 ingredients!

  48. How to make fast Greek yogurt: buy your favorite yogurt, line a large size fine mesh colander with cheesecloth or fabric (I bought a half yard of unbleached organic 100% cotton at walmart just for this purpose). Place the yogurt in the fabric that is lining the mesh colander and fold the additional fabric up over the top of it. Place the entire thing over a pot to collect the whey that will drip out. Then fill up a quart size ziploc baggie with water and lay across the top of the colander. (This will press down on the yogurt and help strain it). Place everything into your fridge for a day. The next day you have greek yogurt/yogurt cheese depending on how firm you want it. Super simple!!!

  49. I literally just came to your site to look up cream cheese- and which one(s) were best, when low and behold there was a picture of cream cheese right on top- with tons of other information I’ve been wondering about!

    Great minds!!!

  50. Awesome article! I have been making my own ricotta cheese and believe me it’s so easy – replaces most soft cheeses you’d buy at the store. It’s found on the smitten kitchen food blog. Enjoy!

  51. Your article is very informative regarding dairy products. I myself, didn’t know that yogurt and Cheese come in so many forms. Your article has helped me become a better buyer of these product.

  52. I really loved this post. While I don’t personally think dairy is good for us, I love how informed you are in the decisions you make for your family and that you can easily explain yourself. It makes a lot of sense and are good rules to follow :)

    I am a self diagnosed cheese addict, working at leaning into a more vegan-ish lifestyle {I will never be 100% because I don’t want to be}…but I like the idea of having it sometimes and will be looking seriously at these points you’ve made when deciding what to buy.

    The key is also moderation – your real food lifestyle has also allowed you to live a less excessive one,so I think your cheese/dairy intake isn’t of much concern. We are all so used to doing this excessively – changing that is one of my favorite things about this lifestyle.

    Anyways, great post – and way to be informed!

  53. On the yogurt – I have found that Greek yogurt leaves a dry aftertaste in my mouth… BUT… I’ve only been able to find 0% or 2% Greek yogurt and I was wondering if that makes a difference to the dryness. When I pour out the extra liquid of regular yogurt (which I buy full fat) it doesn’t taste that way. Anyone know?

  54. Beth – daiya isn’t really a “cheese”. It does alright in small doses…maybe in a casserole or a little on a pizza, but it just isn’t the same. It taste ok. Worth a try.

    I would encourage you to give going non-dairy a try. I did a vegan challenge and came to the conclusion that dairy really isn’t all the good for me. Starting to add some meat back in my diet, but trying to keep the dairy in small amounts.

    Back to the organic dairy thing…I thought that if something was labeled “organic dairy” that just meant that they were fed organic grain. It doesn’t mean grass fed or anything else. I am sure there are exceptions, but it would be labeled as “pastured”. I guess my question is, would organic dairy from a grain fed cow be considered within the rules for a “real food”?

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Kerri. My understanding from what I’ve read is that the cows must have year-round access to the outdoors, access to pasture during the grazing season, and a specified minimum intake from pasture grown without synthetic herbicides and pesticides. They also must not have been treated with hormones or antibiotics. Now, I think that’s just for milk, I’m not sure if that applies to all organic dairy. I hope that helps. Jill

      1. I’m not sure that is correct. Unless the USDA actually got tougher rules – which is so rare. At one time at least the rule was that the cows needed to be pastured for a percentage of their life. This can, and did, include the period of their life before they could even be milked (and after). So some companies at that time were actually limiting pasture time during the period that we consumers most want them to be pastured. It takes effort to round up a heard and bring them in for milking twice a day. And even “access to pasture” does not mean the cows go much farther than a pen outside the barn.

        I’m guessing that even the label “pasture fed” has to have some exception when the dairy is in an area under snow part of the year. This would actually be an interesting topic. Figuring out the USDA might be tougher than the FDA, though.

  55. Daiya is a vegan cheese and I am considering trying it. The whole dairy thing is starting to concern me about how healthy it really is. Has anyone tried it? Currently I try to buy organic dairy.

    1. My son with a dairy allergy uses Daiya cheese for lots of foods – grilled cheese, pizza, homemade mac & cheese, mixed with tuna etc. The taste is OK and it gives him something to have that is the same as everyone else!

  56. Melinda Caskey

    My mom makes her own yogurt. She cooks milk until it is hot and bubbles just start to form at the edges. Don’t boil it. Then you add one small container of plain yogurt (for the cultures) Remove it from the heat and wrap the whole pot in a towel to keep it warm and let it sit. Voila, yogurt.

  57. Freeze your cheese if it gets mouldy. I cut my block up into about 2 oz. pieces and get at least a week’s worth of lunches out of it. I have several kinds in the freezer and just pull it out as needed. If I wanted to have several on hand at any moment, you could pre-cut everything and just take out what you want that day (it would thaw by lunch). I only use raw organic milk cheese and find that my healthfood store has more variety than TJ for that type, but, TJ’s organic raw milk chedder is very good, too:)

  58. I live in WI and eat a lot of cheese as well – we get ours mostly at farmers’ markets and butcher shops, where we get great local and natural products at great prices! It’s something that’s super important to us so we make sure we budget for it.

  59. Organic cheese is one of those things I wish I could afford. Here in WI we eat A LOT of cheese. I generally have 7-10 kinds of cheese in the fridge at a time. When I can, I buy cheese from Trader Joe’s, since at least it’s BGH free. Though I find their blocks of cheese go moldy rather quickly, so I can’t stock up on the blocks, like I do their cheese sticks.

    1. I just wanted to say that I frequently freeze blocks of cheese when I can get a good price. The only time I’ve ever had a problem was with very sharp cheddar – it tends to be a bit crumbly after thawing, but since we normally shred ours for use it doesn’t really matter to me if it’s not perfect little shredded pieces. I’ve never tried freezing a soft cheese though.

      1. Katelyn, just try thoroughly thawing it for a couple of days on the counter and it will be perfect :)

  60. Straus Family Creamery makes an organic, grass-fed, whole fat yogurt. It is to die for! Seriously, I would bathe in it if I coukd! Their ice cream is supposed to be excellent as well, but my health food store doesn’t carry it :(

  61. Eating organic and eating whole is a beautiful thing. Its so nice not to have to watch the calories when I’m eating raw and whole foods. It really does taste so much better then eating low fat. I really love this website because all these things are doable and fun. I’m going to be making the homemade yogurt next thanks for affirming everything my childhood friend has told me about healthy eating. I’m so glad I started, and I’ve only been doing it for 3 months and have last nearly 30lbs.

  62. I love making our own yogurt from local organic milk. You know exactly what is in it and you can flavor it any way you like. My little boy (14 months)can’t get enough of it. Which brings me to my question, is raw cheese safe to give to a young child? There are debates about giving raw milk to children and I wondered if that included cheese as well.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Mike. I don’t have an exact answer for you, but, just like the raw milk commenters have noted, I think you would want to be confident of your source in that it is safe and clean and that the animals are treated properly. I have read that making cheese out of raw milk is different than consuming raw milk, but, I don’t know the specifics behind that statement. Good luck with your decision. Jill

  63. I just love how you and I are in sync with all things real food related. I get alot of the same questions you do, often times I feel like an encyclopedia. I constantly send my family and friends over to your site to educated themselves on their own time. I’ve even converted a few! :) Thank you for taking the time to lay out the in and outs of real food eating!!!

  64. Can I comment on the new sponsor? I’ve been using Plan to Eat for over a year and absolutely love it. I hardly throw away food any more (something I used to do weekly when I shopped based on what looked good when I was in the store) and it is so easy to use. I’ve bought gift memberships for friends as well – it’s really a great tool.

    My other comment – did you know that your recipes won’t import using their “bookmarklet” tool? You have to copy/paste them. I don’t understand how it works well enough to say why, but they won’t import and I’d love it if they would!

  65. @Shannon, to get the creamy texture of velveeta add some cream cheese, plus chedfar, gouda, of fontina (or all 3!) In your recipes.

    1. Thank you Courtney. I’m excited to try this, as my husband LOVES velveeta cheese. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

  66. This is very helpful – thanks!

    One small point: Cellulose is actually not at all harmful by itself. It is found in all plants (it provides structure – you can think of it as a sort of skeleton for the plant cells) and is a major component of the “dietary fiber” that you see listed in nutrition facts. Not trying to nit-pick; I just think that as much as possible we should know exactly what these additives are and what they do. That said, I understand why you prefer to grate your own cheese – I don’t like the powdery-ness of the pre-grated stuff either.

    1. Just went to check the fridge and both the the Organic Valley whole milk and whipping cream say “blissfully pastured”, though frankly most dairy cows here in WI are pastured when it is available. They also have a salted PASTURED butter (green package) that tastes AMAZING on good bread. I think their regular organic butter is pastured too, though they truck fresh grass up in winter for the cows making milk for pastured butter, when regular cows would be eating silage. Also, I think to be considered organic cows are required to have a certain amount of time on the pasture.

      1. I’ve been told that Organic Valley products are not always pastured – for example at the store today I saw salted butter and cultured butter but neither of them said “pastured”. I did look because I was talking about it with my friend at the time :) She told me the pastured products are seasonal.

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Jill)

      Hi Emily. Earlier this year Organic Valley announced the launch of Organic Valley Grassmilk, an organic specialty milk produced from cows that are 100% grass-fed. The milk is said to be sourced from pasture-raised cows that eat only fresh grasses and dried forages, like hay. They do not eat supplemental grains or soybeans. The information for Stoneyfield stated that all of their cows that make milk are pasture-raised on organic dairy farms. Hope that’s helpful. Jill

  67. I have made mayo in my food processor. It wasn’t hard because the feed tube on my food processor lets the oil drizzle in thin stream. It’s basically eggs, vinegar or lemon, and oil. A lot of oil. It would give you the flexibility of using cage free eggs and whatever kind of oil you want.

  68. @Shannon, Velveeta is not real cheese. If you are looking for a real cheese with similar consistency try gouda (this will traditionally have an orange coloring that comes from Annatto, an natural coloring from the Annatto tree). You could also try fontina, which tastes a lot like cheddar. Both gouda and fontina are very soft cheeses and melt beautifully. I make my own cheese. It is very inexpensive, but time consuming. It is a good winter hobby.

    PS, I love the blog! Your recipes are all really great and I am happy to be learning information about food that I did not know.

  69. I really enjoyed your post and all the information…it is all definitely something to think about! I completely agree with the list of ingredients tip! Another reason I make so much of my food myself-that way I know exactly what is going into it! Check out some of my healthy recipes that are easy to make yourself @ bakingblissful.blogspot.com

  70. I have been buying organic, or in some cases a more local dairy product that says it does not use milk from treated cows. I had not been happy with the taste of our butter, even organic, so I just made my own the other day and everyone is so happy with it. I used organic heavy cream and in about 10 minutes I had butter and buttermilk!

  71. I have some friends who eat a “raw” diet. But recently my husband listened to some experts on television who talked about how studies show that cooking food actually makes it easier for the nutrients in it to be utilized. I think if anyone is considering following a “raw” diet, they should really check in carefully to the research.

  72. @Wendy – there are versions of Greek yogurt out there that are fat free, but not all of it is. Greek yogurt is just regular yogurt that’s been strained to remove the liquid (whey), leaving it thicker.

  73. I enjoyed this post and definitely agree with it! We also grate our own cheese because it does taste a lot better and is also healthier. I do have a question about velveta cheese though. I know velveta cheese is highly processed and probably isn’t really cheese. So I was wondering if you might know an alternative to velveta to use in recipes? Thanks!

    1. I have a recipe for making your own “velveta” like cheese if you are interested. I would be glad to share it, although it is a little labor intense but tastes very good. Email me if you are interested @ mlhuston@yahoo.com

  74. I have no fear of annatto (I actually have purchased annatto seeds myself to use in traditional South American cooking).

    Pre-shredded cheese sometimes has potato starch in it an ant-caking agent as well. My younger son was allergic to both potato and tomato as an infant/toddler/preschooler (no, we tried no other nightshades at that point!) He could not eat anything with cheese at a restaurant, a friend’s, or grandma’s, because of the potato starch issue.

    I also prefer to make my own yogurt. It is sooooo yummy. I heat it on the stove and keep it in a cooler I have pre-warmed.

  75. Lisa,
    Have you tried making your yogurt in the slow cooker??? It’s super easy (though you have to make sure you’re going to be home at two differnt 3 hr time intervals.) And it’s really good too! I’ve been making it myself (and once you’ve made it the first time, you no longer have to buy yogurt for your starter.) I use it for eating with honey and granola, or making homemade “go-gurts” and for making smoothies! You should try it! Then you REALLY know what’s in your ygurt. :D

  76. One other reason to avoid “yellow” cheeses – yellow (annatto) food coloring, while a natural dye, can trigger migraines. This type of migraine is a bit delayed so it is hard to trace it back to the annatto. For example, if you have this cheese on Friday evening, the migraine would show up on Sunday morning. This was new info to me so I thought I’d share.

  77. I’m curious too, how many nutrients are lost (or compromised) from making smoothies and preparing fruits and veggies using a food processor. This may be a better question for a food scientist, but wondering if you knew.

    1. 100 Days of Real Food

      This is not something I can answer with specific numbers, but I do know digestion starts in your mouth…and with anything we go for variety. So rather than a complete liquid diet we sometimes have smoothies, but also chew our food plenty as well! I hope that helps.

    2. No nutrients are lost by chopping up food in a blender or food processor. It is the same as chopping up a fruit or vegetable with a knife, except into smaller pieces.