Advice Column, Health, Nutrition

Cheese fits into almost any meal plan

  • RediscoverDairy
  • Category Advice Column, Health, Nutrition

Cheese is a tasty, convenient and versatile food and it pairs well with fruit, vegetables and many other foods. Including cheese in a meal plan may help to complement foods from other food groups to optimise total nutrient intake.

Broccoli with a cheese sauce, for example, or sliced apple, pairs well with sliced cheese. Many different types of cheeses can fit into almost any meal plan as a nutritious option:

1.Cheese helps to fill the nutrient gaps.

  • Cheese is a source of quality protein. The protein in dairy and cheese is complete, which means it provides all the essential and non-essential amino acids (building blocks) needed to build the body. Essential amino acids cannot be made by the body itself and need to be acquired from protein-rich foods. Complete protein is necessary for growth and development, especially in children. 
  • The protein in dairy is also a good vehicle of the amino acid lysine, which typically lacks in a diet consisting mostly of starches such as bread and pap.
  • Protein in cheese also makes you feel fuller for longer and can help prevent unnecessary snacking. It can be served as a snack between meals and is a perfect sandwich filling for school lunches.
  • For sports enthusiasts, the protein in cheese helps with muscle recovery and repair. 
  • But cheese is more than purely its protein. It provides many important nutrients that work together to keep us healthy and strong. Most cheese is an excellent source of calcium, important for growing children between the ages of 9 and 19, when most bone growth takes place. The calcium is well absorbed in the presence of the naturally occurring nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium.

2.What about the fat content in cheese?

The average hard cheese (Cheddar and Gouda) contains between 28% and 32% fat, compared to the fat content of other products often used as a snack, e.g. mixed nuts, with almost 55% fat, crisps at 36% fat, or peanut butter at 50%. Although cheese is relatively high in fat, it also provides many other important nutrients. A typical serving size is about 40 g (two tbsp grated cheese) and is just enough to cover a slice of bread. The good news about cheese is that emerging research has shown that the fats in dairy and cheese do not contribute to an increased risk of heart disease and may even have a protecting effect.

3.Other important facts about cheese

  • Sodium in cheese is important as it controls the moisture content of cheese and provides texture and taste. The average hard cheese is not very high in sodium, but take note that cheeses packed in a brine such as feta can have a higher sodium content. Read the labels on the products to make sure you stay in line with your personal dietary goals.
  • Processed cheese also provides important nutrients such as calcium, phosphorus, and protein. It is shelf-stable and can be a convenient product when on the go. It does not age and the flavour, texture, and smoothness are maintained. Processed cheese is a healthy and convenient alternative bread topping to jams and spreads. 
  • For those who are lactose intolerant, cheese is an important source of calcium and can be enjoyed without the negative symptoms associated with lactose intolerance.

4.How much cheese does a child need and how can it be incorporated into the daily diet?

Three servings of dairy per day are recommended. This can be made up of milk, cheese, yoghurt, or maas.

5.Protein requirements for children and the contribution of a 40 g serving of cheese.

As cheese is an important source of good quality protein, it can also replace other protein sources in the diet. Cheese is an affordable source of protein, especially when it replaces meat in the diet.

The protein in two servings of 40 g cheese can replace one chicken drumstick and one serving of cheese can replace the protein of one egg.

Nutrition table: 

Did you know that milk has been part of human nutrition for many years? Evidence shows that humans tamed and started farming with dairy animals 9 000 years ago! The consumption of milk and cheese can be traced back to Anatolia, the modern-day Turkey.

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