Cheese & Children's Nutrition

Among children between 6 and 11 years old, 44 percent of boys and 58 percent of girls do not consume enough calcium, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Not only is cheese a good source of calcium, it also provides protein and a number of essential vitamins and minerals.

Beautiful little boy, eating sandwich at home, vegetables on the
A little girl eating a cheese sandwich at the table. (Image: tatyana_tomsickova/iStock/Getty Images)

Types

Different cheeses provide different amounts of fat, calories, vitamins and minerals. The kid-friendly cheeses that provide the most nutritional value for the least amount of fat and calories are fat-free American, fat-free cream cheese, parmesan, part-skim ricotta, Swiss, part-skim mozzarella, calcium-fortified cottage cheese and string cheese, according to "Parents" magazine.

Nutrition Facts

Pasteurized process cheese, or American cheese, one of the more popular cheeses for children, contains 110 calories, 6 g of protein and 10 g of fat, 6 g of which are saturated, for a 1 oz. serving. It also provides 20 percent of the daily value for phosphorus, 15 percent of the daily value for calcium, 8 percent of the daily value for vitamin A, 6 percent of the daily value for riboflavin and zinc, 4 percent of the daily value for vitamin B-12 and 2 percent of the daily value for magnesium.

Benefits

Children tend to like cheese, whether it is in grilled cheese sandwiches, macaroni and cheese, cheese pizza or a piece of string cheese, so serving cheese can make it easier to get your child to eat the calcium and protein she needs. Dietary protein helps to build children's bones, muscles, organs and other tissues. It can be difficult to get some children to eat meat, other than possibly chicken nuggets, so cheese can help to make up for this.

Considerations

Cheese, and some of the dishes that contain cheese, can be high in calories and fat. Choose lower-fat versions of cheese for children over two, since they do not need the extra fat in their diet. Offer cheese in moderation, and along with other healthy foods to limit the overall amount of cheese that is eaten.

Some children may be lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy products, and thus not able to eat cheese.

Expert Insight

Calcium is especially important for children, as they are still building bone mass. Cheese and other dairy products are some of the best sources for this mineral, so it can be a part of a healthy diet for most children as long as fat and calories are taken into consideration.

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