The making of cheese is thought to have occurred more than 4,000 years ago. Cheese is made by adding starter cultures (‘good’ bacteria) and coagulants to milk, which curdles and thickens it until it creates curds. These are then cooked, drained and pressed, becoming the cheese we see in the supermarkets. Cheese can be made from the milk of many animals like cows, goats, sheep, buffalo and even camels.
There are different types of cheese including cheddar, brie, gouda, camembert and parmesan, and they all have different nutritional values. Cheddar is likely the most popular cheese for children, because it can taste quite mild and holds lots of health benefits. Cheese is an excellent source of protein, fat and carbs. It’s also a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin B12, sodium, phosphorus, selenium, zinc, riboflavin, vitamin A and vitamin K2. Eating cheese can support healthy bones and teeth, and may reduce the risk of hypertension and heart disease.
Similar to yogurt, cheese contains probiotics that can help regulate the bacteria in the gut and support a healthy digestive system. Cheese can be quite high in fat, so it’s best to eat in moderation. It also contains lactose, which may affect your child if they appear to be lactose intolerant, and it can cause flare ups in those with milk allergies, so be aware of this when first introducing cheese to your children.
The recommended daily serving of dairy depends on the age of your child, and one serve of dairy is equivalent to two slices of cheese. For younger kids aged four to eight, the serving suggestion is 1 ½ to 2. For those between nine and eleven years, aim for 2 1/2 to 3, and for children between 12 to 18 years old, aim for 3 ½ each day.