Healthier grilled cheese, 2 variations

Contributed by Food for health editors

Healthier grilled cheese, 2 variations

There are probably as many variations on the classic grilled cheese sandwich as there are people who make them. These healthier grilled cheese options put cheese in more of a supporting role with the flavors and textures of the add-ins as the surprise stars of the show.

The basics for a healthier grilled cheese include a flavorful cheese and whole-grain bread. Cheeses with strong flavors allow you to use less cheese in your sandwich. Grating the cheese helps it melt around the other ingredients, reducing the need for multiple slices of cheese. And using whole-grain bread adds fiber and a nutty flavor.

Cheese note: Both of these variations use sharp cheddar, but there are many other cheese options — such as Swiss or mozzarella — that would work in a healthier grilled cheese sandwich. Most reduced fat options (2 percent cheddar or part-skim mozzarella, for example) work equally well in this recipe, but be sure to check the sodium levels in the cheese. Many times when fat is reduced, sodium is increased.

Add-ins note: The first variation is a great way to use leftover roasted vegetables. This version uses a combination of broccoli and cauliflower, but you could also use roasted asparagus, mushrooms, tomatoes or other favorites. Make sure to remove from the fridge in advance so the vegetables can come up to room temperature.

Preparation note: If you use a non-stick pan, griddle or panini press, there is no need to butter or otherwise dress the bread or cooking surface. Whole-wheat bread gets a nice nutty crust without any extra fat.

Servings: 1


  • 2 slices of whole-grain bread
  • 1/3 cup (about 4 tablespoons) grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup roasted broccoli and cauliflower, cut into smaller-than-bite-size chunks (variation 1)
  • 3 to 6 thin apple slices (preferably a tart apple such as Granny Smith), enough to cover one slice of bread (variation 2)
  • 3 to 6 baby kale or spinach leaves (variation 2)


  1. Heat skillet, griddle or panini press to medium high heat. Place one slice of bread directly onto the heated surface.
  2. Sprinkle half of the grated cheese on the bread, covering as much of the bread as you can.
  3. Layer on your add-ins, covering as much of the cheese as you can.
  4. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and cover with the second slice of bread. 
  5. If using a press, close the press and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the top slice of bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. 
  6. If using a skillet or griddle, press down with a spatula and cook on each side for about 3 minutes, until both slices of bread are browned and the cheese is melted. 
  7. Cut in half and serve with a green salad or the rest of the sliced apple.

Nutrition information (per serving)

  • Calories: 310
  • Total fat: 15 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Cholesterol: 40 mg
  • Sodium: 540 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 30 g
  • Dietary fiber: 6 g
  • Protein: 16 g

Variation 2:

  • Calories: 320
  • Total fat: 15 g
  • Saturated fat: 8 g
  • Cholesterol: 40 mg
  • Sodium: 530 mg
  • Total carbohydrate: 35 g
  • Dietary fiber: 5 g
  • Protein: 15 g