When you think of superfoods or power foods, what do you think of? Kale? Spinach? Avocados? Those are all great foods, but there’s one food that doesn’t get the recognition it deserves for its many health benefits– cheese. We strive to provide the best dentistry for children, and that includes educating families about foods that are good for their teeth and their overall health.
Let us tell you, cheese is a real powerhouse! It’s a crowdpleaser, too– most of our favorite meals include at least a little sprinkle of cheese. We sometimes think of it as a comfort food, but it turns out cheese has real health benefits, too. If you follow the recommended serving suggestions, that is.
Too much of anything is never good for you, except for maybe too much dental health (there’s no such thing, in our experience).
For starters, let’s get this out of the way: low-fat and reduced-fat cheeses are your best friend. Use other cheeses sparingly. Cheddar, monterey jack, mozzarella, and swiss are the right cheeses to look to when it’s time for something healthy.
So, what are the exact health benefits of cheese? We’re glad you asked!
- Nutrients: Cheese contains vitamin A and vitamin B12, as well as phosphorous and zinc. You can find a full nutritional chart here.
- Calcium: Most Americans of all age groups don’t get enough calcium, and calcium is extremely important for strong teeth and bones.
- Protein: Cheese is also full of protein, which the body needs to build strong and healthy muscles.
- Saliva Production: Cheese also encourages saliva production in the mouth. The University of Rochester Medical Center says, “Next to good home dental care, [saliva production caused by eating cheese and certain other foods] is your best natural defense against cavities and gum disease. About 20 minutes after you eat something containing sugars or starches, your saliva begins to reduce the effects of the acids and enzymes attacking your teeth. Because saliva contains traces of calcium and phosphate, it also restores minerals to areas of teeth that have lost them from the bacterial acids.”
Cheese, the delicious dental defender.
Now that you’re sold on the nutritional and dental-health enhancing power of cheese, it’s time to talk serving sizes. Cheese is delicious, so it can be easy to go a bit overboard. Luckily, your child can still enjoy plenty of cheese every day without going over their suggested serving limit.
The following serving suggestions come right from the US Department of Agriculture, from their Choose My Plate campaign.
Dairy Serving Suggestions:
- Kids 2-3 Years of Age: 2 Cups per day
- Kids 4-8 Years of Age: 2.5 Cups per day
- Kids 9-18 Years of Age: 3 Cups per day
So, you can safely tell your kids one of the benefits of getting older includes adding a little more cheese to their daily food intake.
So, what does one cup of cheese consist of, in USDA terms?
According to the USDA:
- 1.5 ounces of hard cheese (cheddar, monterey jack, etc) is equal to one cup
- ⅓ cup of shredded cheese is equal to one dairy recommended cup
- 2 ounces processed cheese (american) is equal to one cup
- 2 cups of cottage cheese is equal to one dairy recommended cup
For more information, including charts and comparisons between dairy products, click here.
Snack and Meal Ideas
As a parent, you’re always on the lookout for healthy snacks and meals. Luckily, kids love cheese. Working cheese into quick snacks and healthy meals is blissfully easy, and there are almost an infinite variety of ways to serve it.
- Cut hard cheese slices into fun shapes with cookie cutters or a paring knife
- Serve cheese with whole grain crackers
- Combine cheddar cheese with apple slices
- Melt cheddar or jack cheese over low-sodium tortilla chips
- Try these quick little tortilla pizzas
- Kebabs with cheese cubes and pieces of fruit using salt-free pretzel sticks as skewers
- Healthy mac and cheese from MyRecipes.com
- Healthy rotini and cheese from MyRecipes.com
- Healthy loaded twice-baked potatoes with cheese and broccoli from EatingWell.com
- Pizza burger sliders from SuperHealthyKids.com
- Hidden veggie pizza from SuperHealthyKids.com
- Veggie Quesadillas from The Picky Eater
- Wisconsin Oven-Simmered Chili from ChooseMyPlate.gov
Those are just a few suggestions– there are a million more floating around out there. Kids love pizza, mac and cheese, burritos, and quesadillas, and there are tons of deceptively healthy recipes and variations for each one floating around the web.
Cheese is more than a power food, it’s what we like to call a “life saver food.” Kids love it and it’s good for them. Providing the best dentistry for children doesn’t end when you leave our practice– we want to make sure you and your kids have happy, healthy smiles after every snack and meal.
A Healthy Mouth is a Happy Mouth!