A grilled cheese is perhaps the ultimate comfort food, combining the crunch of toasted bread with gooey and salty cheese, for a dish that tastes like a warm blanket feels.
It’s also a super simple meal to throw together at the end of a long day. But just how many calories are in a grilled cheese?
The average grilled cheese contains around 400 calories.
The traditional grilled cheese has a limited ingredient list, but some swaps can increase or decrease the number of calories, and the overall nutrition level.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the calorie count of the traditional grilled cheese.
We’ll also cover some methods for increasing the overall nutrient level in your grilled cheese, with smart methods that might even enhance flavor.
How Many Calories Are In A Grilled Cheese?
It’s difficult to determine exactly how many calories are in a grilled cheese, but expect each sandwich to have between 300 and 600 calories.
It could go even higher, depending on how it’s assembled, cooked, and if you add any extra ingredients.
The traditional ingredients of a grilled cheese are: bread, butter, and cheese.
Assuming two slices of white bread (133 calories), 1 tablespoon of butter (102 calories), and 2 slices of American cheese (131 calories), a grilled cheese contains 336 calories.
Of course, the exact ingredients used and the ratios in which they’re used will alter the calorie content.
If you want to enjoy a grilled cheese in a restaurant, be prepared for a higher calorie count.
The Steak ‘n Shake grilled cheese has 620 calories, the Sonic grilled cheese sandwich has 400 calories, while Panera Bread classic grilled cheese contains 880 calories.
How To Make A Grilled Cheese Healthier
It is possible to make grilled cheese healthier without sacrificing flavor. In fact, some of these healthy swaps might actually add some new tastes to your classic grilled cheese.
Use Whole Grain Bread
Using whole grain bread or whole wheat bread won’t reduce the number of calories in a grilled cheese, but it will increase the fiber, protein, and vitamin and mineral content.
The complex carbohydrates used in whole grain bread are a good source of energy, and whole grain bread typically contains fewer sugars than white bread.
Whole grain breads won’t just add nutrients, they’ll also add flavor and texture to your grilled cheese.
Another good choice is sourdough bread, which is also packed with nutrients, and can be easier to digest. Plus, sourdough bread also adds layers to the overall flavor.
Switch Mild Cheese For Sharp Cheese
American cheese is typically mild, and you might need to add several slices to your grilled cheese to get the real impact of the flavor.
Instead, try switching your milder cheese for a sharper alternative. Mature cheddar, Gouda, and Gruyère are good choices, delivering plenty of flavor from fewer slices.
A sprinkle of sharp cheese can satisfy your flavor cravings, while also delivering the gooey filling typical of a grilled cheese
American cheese is also highly processed, and often low in nutrients. Other forms of cheese might not be lower in calories, but they can contain more nutrients and proteins.
Melt Butter In The Pan
A traditional grilled cheese is made by spreading butter on the outside of the bread, and then grilling in the pan.
This provides the crunchy outer texture, but it can seriously up the number of calories. Particularly if you’re a little heavy-handed when applying the butter.
An alternative method is to melt butter straight into the pan, and then place the bread onto the butter.
It will easily coat each side, allowing you to use less butter overall, while still creating that perfect finish.
Or Try Olive Oil
Alternatively, try cutting out the butter altogether. Olive oil is lower in saturated fats than butter, while also containing more vitamins and antioxidants.
It also adds a unique taste to the grilled cheese! Simply pour a small amount of olive oil into your pan, and toast your grilled cheese as you normally would.
Another option is to use avocado oil. This is another source of healthy fats, and also contains plenty of nutrients.
Be careful when substituting butter for low-fat alternatives.
Sometimes, these products will remove the fat, but to make up for loss of flavor, they’ll add sugar. Keep this in mind if you’re looking for low-fat alternatives to cheese and butter.
Boost The Nutrition
The traditional grilled cheese uses just three ingredients: butter, bread, and cheese. Make your grilled cheese healthier (and tastier) by adding some fruit and vegetables.
Spinach and tomatoes are an easy choice, and a quick way to enhance the nutritional level of your grilled cheese.
Apple slices are another fantastic option, and a unique take on the classic dish.
Other flavors to consider are: avocado, zucchini, onions, bell peppers, or eggplant.
And on days when you’re feeling particularly hungry, rather than pairing your grilled cheese with a second sandwich, consider a bowl of tomato soup.
Other Nutritional Values To Consider
A grilled cheese sandwich can deliver a high amount of nutrients, but it can also be high in sodium.
Adults are recommended to avoid eating more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day.
A 28-gram serving of American cheese contains roughly 468 mg of sodium. A 28-gram serving of cheddar cheese contains roughly 174 mg of sodium.
Consider your sodium intake levels when deciding which ingredients are right for your grilled cheese.
A grilled cheese sandwich is a simple meal that can deliver low calories and high nutrition.
By making simple ingredients swaps, you can enhance both the nutritional value and flavor of your favorite grilled cheese.
Consider adding some fruits and vegetables for even more flavor, plus some interesting textures. But be careful about low-fat switches: these can often increase the sugar count.
The dairy and fiber provided by a grilled cheese can mean this comfort food is a good part of your diet.
Although it can be high in sodium, the versatility of the grilled cheese means there are plenty of ways to enjoy this sandwich.