N o doubt you’ve been deluged with cheesecake recipes for the last few weeks. You’re bound to have questions. Here are the answers to five burning cheesecake questions.

Can I Have Cheesecake?

It’s a machlokes.

There is a reason cheesecake has a reputation for being decadent — a single slice tops 300 calories and has as much fat as a burger. (How’s that for a mental image?)

Still no one food is going to make or break your diet. If one day of the year you eat an extra 300 calories it’s not likely to make a terrible difference to your health or your weight (assuming you’re a typical healthy person). So if you’ve been looking forward to your piece of cheesecake all year go ahead and enjoy.

But that’s one day one slice. (In chutz l’Aretz we get pi shnayim.) If you shave a little bit off again… and again… because it’s sitting in front of you and have a slice when you wake up from your nap and have another piece every day after Shavuos because no one else is finishing it — it adds up.

By the way there’s no mitzvah to eat cheesecake. If you find cheesecake just “meh ” skip it and have a dessert you do enjoy — one portion of course.

Should I Make Cheesecake?

Store-bought cheesecakes are typically higher in calories and fat than one that’s homemade especially if they have a topping. From-scratch cheesecakes afford a lot more control over ingredients. Yet there are certain advantages to store-bought: There’s no licking the bowl or a leftover container of sour cream you now need to find a use for. You may even be able to find cheesecakes you can buy by the slice to make portion control a cinch.

Should I Make Low-Fat Cheesecake?

Ah the low-fat cheesecake question. It always seems as if finding a way to lower the fat and calories is a smart move doesn’t it? But when people hear a cheesecake is low-fat they typically react in one of two ways:

• They shun it because “It can’t be good!”

• They eat waaaaay more than they would of a regular full-fat cheesecake.

For many of us putting the words “low-fat” in front of a dessert item seems to signal “healthy ” “good for you ” or “eat as much as you want .” That’s not the case even for cheesecakes made with yogurt or cottage cheese or whatever your neighbor insists tastes just like the real thing. Same goes for the ones made with Splenda or other artificial sweeteners; they still contain plenty of carbs and calories even if you got the sugar down. And agave honey or other natural sweeteners still have sugar.

All of these modified cheesecakes are desserts and need to be treated as such: consumed mindfully with portion control.

So should you make it? If you like your low-fat recipe and you’ll be able to keep portions in check then yes it’s a go — choosing to make a low-fat recipe can save significant calories and fat. (Maybe don’t tell anyone it’s low-fat.) But if you don’t really like it stick with your regular recipe.

Should I Eat Fruit Cheesecake?

Don’t be under the illusion that cheesecake is ever good for you. Yes it contains protein and calcium maybe even a little fiber. But it’s a dessert plain and simple. Adding fruit doesn’t change that. And a measly raspberry jelly swirl through the cheesecake doesn’t add anything in the way of vitamins and minerals. You know those cherry-topped cheesecakes? That’s actually cherry pie filling. Check out a can of it next time you’re at the supermarket and you’ll likely see corn syrup sugar salt and a variety of preservatives.

The psak: Eat a piece of real fruit with your cheesecake.

What about Pareve Cheesecake?

Again not healthy for you nor low in calories. Tofu-based ones are typically just like regular cheesecakes with the substitution of tofu cream cheese and sour cream. If you would rather have dairy cheesecake go with that. If you’re allergic to dairy and don’t want to feel left out same rule applies — moderation.

I’ve even made cashew cheesecake out of cashew cheese. These “alternative” cheesecakes all have some source of sugar whether it’s from coconuts or maple or dates. The fat may be healthy fat but the cakes will still run up the calories. (Originally featured in Family First Issue 544)