Cottage cheese tries for a comeback

img_1432It might come as a surprise to most people under age 55, but yogurt did not always dominate the dairy aisle.  Instead, there was cottage cheese, an essential feature of “diet” plates and diet plans.  It came in large tubs.  It came in one flavor — plain.  Both of which are still the case, 60-odd years later.

Now food companies are trying to capitalize on our obsession with protein by sprucing up cottage cheese’s image.  And plenty of existing dairy food companies are getting in on the act.  The goal: to position cottage cheese as an alternative to yogurt, packaging it up in single serving containers and adding flavoring, from sweet (honey, vanilla, maple) to savory (olives, herbs, red pepper, Parmesan).

How does cottage cheese stack up nutritionally compared to yogurt?  Here are the numbers for one 8-oz cup* of 2% Greek style vs. 1 cup of 2% cottage cheese vs 1 cup of regular plain 2% yogurt (*NOTE: for some reason the standard serving size for cottage cheese is 1/2 cup, while many yogurts list single serving size as ‘1 container’, which might be anywhere from 5-8 oz).

                    calories   protein   fat gr   carbs   calcium

Cottage cheese       180        20 g      5        10 g    300 mg

Greek style 2%       170        22 g      4.6       9 g    230 mg

Regular 2% yogurt    130        11 g      2.5      16 g    350 mg

Note that regular yogurt has a higher water content than Greek style or cottage cheese, which lowers all the nutrient values except calcium.  When Greek yogurt is strained, or cottage cheese is made, some calcium is lost when liquid is removed.  On a calorie basis, regular yogurt is actually a better calcium bang for your calorie buck.

The main nutritional difference between yogurt and cottage cheese is the probiotics.  Cottage cheese is made by a completely different process than yogurt and does not contain probiotics.

So in fact plain versions of these foods have similar nutrient content.  Everything would change depending on what’s added to boost flavor.  More sugar?  Chunky items that displace the actual yogurt or cottage cheese (thus lowering protein and calcium).

The focus of cottage cheese marketing seems to be protein content.  But as you can see it’s equivalent to Green style yogurt, so I’m not sure that argument is compelling.  The one thing going for cottage cheese is that I think it will work better as a savory food, flavored with herbs, hot spices or vegetables.  Which means it won’t have added sugar (or at least it shouldn’t have any).  Yogurts can be loaded with added sweeteners and other extraneous stuff like granola or fruit pieces, all of which cuts down on the actual yogurt in the container.

My preference?  It’s a taste thing.  If probiotics are important to you, yogurt is the way to go.  But if you’re getting bored with that, try cottage cheese.  Buy one of those large retro tubs and dish out your own, or look for flavored single-serve containers.

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