Choosing Best Cream Cheese — Healthiest!

Are you on the hunt for the healthiest cream cheese options for your bagels or dips? We’ve scoured the shelves to bring you the best cream cheese brands that are not only nutritious but also delicious and budget-friendly.

As a general rule of thumb, we should look for cream cheese that is made with natural simple ingredients rather than artificial ingredients. And opt for brands with lower fat and sodium content, and try to find options made with minimal additives.

We know there are a lot of questions along the line that comes with finding the healthier cream cheese, like “Does it spread well on my bagel?” or “Is it affordable?” Don’t worry, we’ll answer those questions and more. So, sit back, relax, and let’s dive into the world of creamy, spreadable, and nutritious cream cheese!

How to choose?

To determine which cream cheese is healthier, you can compare the nutrition information on the label. Here are a few key things to look for:

  1. Ingredient list: look for brands that use simple, whole ingredients. This will help you avoid unnecessary preservatives, artificial flavors, stabilizers, and thickeners. Keep in mind that this approach to ingredients may result in variations in texture, spreadability, and flavor.
  2. Fat content: Lower fat (& saturated fat) content is generally considered healthier. Look for brands with less than 10 grams of fat per serving. Low-fat, “lite” or reduced-fat options can be a healthier choice, as well as options with lower sodium content.
  3. Calorie content: The calorie count can vary greatly between brands and varieties. For plain cream cheese, you can expect a range of 50 to around 120 calories per serving. In general, aim for brands with fewer than 100 calories per serving.
  4. Non-dairy alternatives: Non-dairy cream cheese often has lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, though this may depend on the ingredients used. For example, Tofutti Cream Cheese is made with soy milk and has 20-30% less fat and calories than traditional cream cheese.

Consider cream cheese made from grass-fed organic cow milk for healthier options with 5x more unsaturated fats, according to Reuters. Check the label for stabilizers, as they help with texture and shelf life, but can cause digestive issues for some.

The Healthier Cream Cheese Brands

Choosing the right one can make a difference in your everyday health goal and dietary restriction. Below we will go through a list of popular and healthier cream cheese brands with some of the differences and features they offer:

#5 Philadelphia Original Cream Cheese

PER SERVING (31g): 80 calories, 7g fat (4.5g saturated), 20mg cholesterol, 125 mg sodium, 2g carbs, 2g proteins, vitamin A 6%, calcium 4%

INGREDIENTS: Pasteurized Milk and Cream, Whey Protein Concentrate, Whey, Salt, Carob Bean Gum, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor), Vitamin A Palmitate, Cheese Culture. 

With a slightly lower focus on health, Philadelphia’s cream cheese is among the most popular and widely available classic brand that offers traditional cream cheese flavor. While the nutrition content is not particularly noteworthy compared to other options, it also has ⅓ reduced-fat option with 50% fewer calories & fat — which is much healthier.

Other than the main ingredients such as the milk, cream, salt, and cheese culture. Philadelphia contains a few other added ingredients which may be seen as a drawback for those who prioritize consuming all-natural and minimally processed foods. For example, the whey protein concentrate (as a stabilizer) and Vitamin A palmitate (to replace vitamin loss). Additionally, the cream cheese also has carob bean gum (also as a thickener & stabilizer) and natamycin (to prevent mold). Overall, Philadelphia’s cream cheese is affordable and easy to find in most grocery stores.

#4 Organic Valley Cream Cheese Spread

PER SERVING (30g): 90 calories, 9g fat (6g saturated), 25mg cholesterol, 110 mg sodium, 2g carbs, 2g proteins, vitamin A 6%, calcium 2%

INGREDIENTS: Organic Pasteurized Milk and Cream, Organic Whey, Cheese Culture, Salt, Organic Locust Bean Gum.

Organic Valley offers a more health-conscious alternative with the use of organic ingredients, including organic milk, cream, and whey. The lack of additives and preservatives may appeal to those who prefer natural and non-GMO products. Except for locust bean gum which is a stabilizer for spreadability. Additionally, they feature pasture-raised milk with no antibiotics, no synthetic hormones, and no toxic pesticides. For lite versions, they also have the ⅓ less fat Neufchatel cheese.

#3 Kite Hill Cream Cheese Plain

PER SERVING (33g): 70 calories, 6g fat (no saturated), no cholesterol, 200 mg sodium, 2g carbs, 2g proteins, calcium 2%, potassium 2%

INGREDIENTS: Almond Milk (Water, Almonds), Salt, Enzyme, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Mushroom Extract (to help preserve freshness), Lactic Acid, Citric Acid, Cultures.

The all-time favorite of many vegans but is slightly more expensive. This cream cheese by Kite Hill is a non-dairy alternative made from almond milk with clean and natural ingredients. It has a unique flavor reminiscent of cream cheese and is also low in calories and has no cholesterol, making it a healthier option compared to regular cream cheese brands. It contains no GMOs and has no gluten.

The downside is that it has a higher sodium content than other brands, which can be a concern for those who are monitoring their salt intake. One thing to point out is its shelf life, people have reported seeing it spoil and grow molds quicker than expected. Also, it contains a blend of gums for texture.

#2 Miyoko’s Creamery Classic Plain Cream Cheese

PER SERVING (28g): 90 calories, 8g fat (2.5g saturated), no cholesterol, 115 mg sodium, 4g carbs, 3g proteins, iron 6%, potassium 2%

INGREDIENTS: Organic Cashews, Filtered Water, Organic Coconut Cream, Sea Salt, Cultures.

Miyoko’s Creamery Classic Plain Cream Cheese is another vegan and dairy-free option, made with cashews and coconut cream. It is made with just 4 natural ingredients that are also organic without any additives or stabilizer gums — ideal for those seeking a more minimal and healthier ingredient list. It’s no GMOs and no gluten. This cream cheese has slightly higher protein and a lower amount of saturated fat compared to regular cream cheese is a big plus.

Miyoko’s cream cheese has a slightly higher calorie, carb count, and fat content compared to Kite Hill but has friendlier pricing and much lower sodium. The cashew and coconut base may affect the flavor for those who are used to traditional cream cheese.

#1 Green Valley Creamery Cream Cheese

PER SERVING (30g): 110 calories, 11g fat (7g saturated), 35mg cholesterol, 70 mg sodium, 2g carbs, 1g proteins, vitamin A 10%, calcium 2%

INGREDIENTS: Organic Pasteurized Cultured Cream (Milk), Lactase Enzyme, Sea Salt, And Live And Active Cultures.

Green Valley Creamery Cream Cheese tops our list with its clean and simple ingredient list, consisting of only four organic ingredients. This makes it a better option compared to cream cheese with artificial ingredients and preservatives. The brand offers lactose-free options with added lactase enzymes, making it suitable for lactose intolerant individuals. The milk used is of grade A and pastured raised, without any stabilizers. With the surprisingly lowest sodium content and high Vitamin A, it’s a clean option and not too expensive. The only drawback is a slightly higher calorie and fat content.

Other Brands: Least Healthy?

The cream cheese with lower fat content is generally perceived as healthier. While most brands do offer reduced fat options, below we have compiled and ranked some of the popular cream cheese brands based on their fat content. We use the “original, plain cream cheese spread” and data from the USDA’s FoodData Central:

TILLAMOOK 32%, CRYSTAL FARMS 30%, 365 EVERYDAY VALUE 30%, WEGMANS 30%, ORGANIC VALLEY 30%, GREAT VALUE 26%, BEST CHOICE 26%, PHILADELPHIA 25%, KROGER 23%, FOOD LION 23%, HANNAFORD 23%, GOOD & GATHER (TARGET) 23%, HARRIS TEETER 23%, CHALLENGE 23%, ESSENTIAL EVERYDAY 23%, MARKET PANTRY (TARGET) 22%, ARLA 17%

*Some cream cheese varieties (such as strawberry, brown sugar & cinnamon, etc) may have different values.

It’s worth noting that a lower fat content may result in a slightly different taste compared to a higher-fat version. Most brands fall within a similar range of 23-30% fat content. Tillamook original farmstyle cream cheese spread and several other brands like crystal farms and 365 everyday value show to have higher fat content. In other words, they may not be the healthier option when it comes to fat, cholesterol, calorie, & saturated fat content.

Most Flavorful and Spreadable Cream Cheese

Flavor and spreadability are the other two things that people often look into besides health value. Some of the brands especially vegan cream cheeses like Miyoko’s will you a less velvety but creamy hummus-like grainy consistency. While Kite Hill’s cream cheese can be slightly more sour and tangy from the acids used.

When it comes to flavor, it’s a thing of personal preferences and subjective opinions. However, many people seem to agree that the classic brands of cream cheese have a more rich and tangy flavor.

The most flavorful cream cheese according to the Taste of Home: Philadelphia for tanginess, Dutch Farms for mildest, and Prairie Farms for firmest texture (best for no-bake desserts).

So, Philadelphia is the winning brand if we take flavor into account. Eat This Not That also suggests Philadelphia as their best testing.

What is the Most Spreadable Cream Cheese?

One aspect of cream cheese which can be considered good and also bad, is the spreadability. It have to be easy to smear on bagels or toast, but not too runny. Meanwhile it should also be firm enough to use for cheesecake frosting. It actually depend on the quality of stabilizer used. Read how to fix your cream cheese if runny.

Some brands produced a slightly thicker or firmer consistency, while others are thinner. It’s up to consumer’s preference. For instance, according to the media Taste of Home (food blog/magazine) they (reviewers) prefers a firm texture from Prairie Farms brand cream cheese for cheesecake, while Eat This Not That mentioned that Happy Farms cream cheese could be too thick for crackers.

Overall, most of the brands are doing a pretty good job when it comes to spreadability and consistency, so it’s hard to come up with a clear winner here.

Cream Cheese Best for Baking and Frosting?

Baking with cream cheese can be a delicious experience, but it’s important to know which type of cream cheese will work best in your recipe. Generally, dense, lower moisture and slightly thicker cream cheese are preferred.

For recipes that call for whipped cream cheese, you’ll want to use the regular fat versions. You don’t go low fat so they don’t become too thin while baking.

For cheesecakes and other baked goods, we recommend Philadelphia cream cheese with higher fat content.

The best type of cream cheese for baking is the one that will produce the desired outcome, whether it’s a fluffy cheesecake or a dense and creamy pound cake.

So, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

Alternatively, you can try mascarpone which has a higher fat content and a smoother velvety texture. Read Cream Cheese vs Mascarpone.

 Is Aldi or Meijer as Good as Philadelphia Cream Cheese?

Each brand has its lovers. For example, Philadelphia cream cheese is notoriously smooth and creamy, while Aldi’s version has a slightly more cheesy taste but grittier. Meijer’s brand is somewhere in the middle – it’s not as cheesy as Aldi’s, but it’s also not as smooth or tangy as Philadelphia.

A food blogger Hannah from the UK also scores Philadelphia higher in a blind taste – even though the nutrition facts are different from the US Philadelphia. Followed by Aldi.

Reference:

  1. Quescrem – Goat cream cheese
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