Cheesed off?

Jo Nicholas

A new survey out this week highlighted that cheese can often contain more salt than you might think. Read a good summary of the response in the Guardian. Most kids love cheese, so what’s the best way to use it in a healthy diet for them?

Here are my top facts and tips:

For 1-5 year olds:

  • Cheese and other dairy foods are a good source of energy, protein, calcium and Vitamin A. A portion of cheese can be one of the three portions of milk and other dairy foods that children of this age should have every day
  • You’ll find pictures of healthy cheese portion sizes for under-fives on P23 of our guidelines for nurseries, children’s centres and childminders here. It’s easiest to see with the pictures but as a guide, a good portion size for hard cheese is about 15-20g grated (that’s about 1-2 tablespoons of grated cheese). For soft cheese, it’s about 20-25g
  • Don’t forget – cheese can be high in saturated fat, which is why you need to watch portion sizes carefully
  • For under-fives, it’s best not to give them unpasturised cheese, mould-ripened cheeses like brie or camembert and soft blue-veined cheeses like Danish blue or gorgonzola – they can cause food poisoning in very little ones
  • It’s recommended that 1-3 year olds don’t have more than 2g of salt a day. This rises to 3g for 4-6 year olds.

For school-aged children:

 

  • Cheese is still a good source of protein, calcium, and vitamin A, and school cooks meeting the national school food standards use it carefully to help children get enough of these nutrients
  • Children of this age start to need less of their energy from fat (it’s the same for us as adults). So it’s really important to keep an eye on portion sizes, use lower fat versions of dairy products where you can, and to look at how much salt they contain by reading the nutrition information on the food label
  • It’s recommended that children from 7-10 years old don’t have more than 5g of salt a day. This rises to 6g for 11 year olds and over. There are good tips on reading salt information on food labels here
  • Cheese sandwiches are often a bit of a staple in children’s lunchboxes. But variety’s the trick for making sure kids are getting a healthy diet with all of the nutrients they need – so you might want to try some of our packed lunch menu ideas or these ones from Change4Life.

Jo’s one of our senior nutritionists. Email Jo.

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