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Kids & Cheese: Health Benefits of Cheese

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In this blog series, Erica discusses ways introducing children to the diverse flavors of cheese. Starting with the challenges of new and unfamiliar cheeses on a young palate and moving through ways to make try new foods fun, Erica will explore expert advice, nutrition facts, and a world of recipes with the goal of making cheeses of all kinds accessible to kids. Last week, we talked about the challenge of having kids that are picky-eaters, and some of you shared your stories in the comments below. Last week, Mary was the winner of a free issue of culture–read on to find out how you can win a copy, too!  Follow along and try some of the tips in these post to see if we can get your child from string cheese-lover to stinky cheese-lover. 


We know that children who are picky can be problematic for your stress levels (imagine tantrums and the strain their threat will cause as you plan and prepare meals). It also turns out that picky eaters often don’t receive the same nutritional value as their more flexible counterparts. According to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, kids perceived as picky eaters had less diverse diets. This can lead to nutritional gaps; a big problem for anyone, but especially for a growing child! 

Fortunately, cheese can be a perfect route to getting your child back on the right nutritional track. Cheese contains natural fats that can cause weight gain, but according to Doctor Solve Health Solutions, if you are trying to gain weight, cheese is the healthy way to do it because of the rich amounts of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Cheese is a good source of calcium, magnesium, sodium, and potassium and contains smaller amounts of  iron, zinc, copper, and manganese. Plus, cheese is a great source of fat soluble vitamins. Depending on what sort of milk the cheese is made of cheese is an excellent source of  vitamins A, B(1), B(2), and B(12). You can see why when added to a diet cheese can lead to a balanced metabolism. 

What if your child is on the opposite side of the picky-eating spectrum? A tendency towards eating anything and everything can put a child at risk for childhood obesity, which is a growing issue, especially in the United States. In 1980, 7% of children aged 6-11 were considered obese. By 2012 that percentage had more than doubled to 18%. But cheese can help with that, too. In a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, 201 children from 3rd-6th grade were randomly assigned one of four snacking options: cheese only, potato chips, vegetables only, and vegetables and cheese. The subjects were allowed to freely snack during a 45-minute television program. The study found that children who ate a combined snack, like vegetables and cheese, consumed 72% less calories than children who consumed potato chips. “The effect was more pronounced among children who were overweight or obese and children from low-involvement families,” the  article stated. 

The combination of vegetables and cheese is an effective tool in reducing children’s caloric consumption, so try serving a snack of cheese dip and a mild, kid-friendly sliced vegetable, like carrot. This Aligot French Cheese Dip recipe is sophisticated enough for your palate but approachable enough for jr’s, so you can snack together. Plus, it’s an easy-to-make recipe that you can do together with your child.

Cheese is not only a great way to introduce your kids to different, more challenging foods – it’s also a way to sneak some extra nutrition into their diets. The high calcium content in cheese means that it reduces your child’s likelihood of getting cavities. Eating certain varieties of cheese, such as Gouda, Swiss, aged Cheddar, American cheese, and Brie, is proven to prevent tooth decay. For you, that means a lower dentist bill!

Next week, we’ll talk about how to introduce different, stinkier, and more distinctive cheeses into your child’s diet. Share your healthy, cheese-related recipes and snack ideas in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of our summer issue! Comments must be posted by 11:59 p.m. EDT on Thursday, 6/19/2014 to be eligible to win. So comment today and stay tuned for next week’s post!

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