Top cheeses for your toddler’s health

Toddler eats cheese with a slice of bread
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Toddlers often love cheese and we have the breakdown on protein, calcium and sodium so you can pick the best cheese for your little one.

When you were a child there were probably just a handful cheeses to choose from, and certainly very few, if any, that were directly marketed at children. Today, the cheese section of the supermarket offers so much variety it can be hard to choose the healthiest cheese for your family.

Why is cheese good for toddlers?

In general, cheese is an excellent food for your toddler. It is an excellent source of high-quality protein and is one of the best dietary sources of calcium. Getting enough calcium is essential for your toddler in order to grow strong healthy bones and teeth. Because cheese is an alkali, offering it at the end of a meal helps to neutralises any acidic foods that may have been consumed; and therefore support long-term dental health.

Nutritional content of cheese

  • Protein per serve Hard cheeses are generally higher in protein than spreadable ones, for example, cream cheese has less than a third of the protein of cheddar. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer ricotta or cream cheese; just don’t count them as the main protein source in a meal.
  • Calcium per serve Calcium levels in cheese vary greatly and the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) for toddlers is 500mg. A 20g serve of parmesan on their pasta delivers 38% of their RDI, whereas 20g of cottage cheese only provides 4%. Individual cheese sticks and mini Babybel are also great sources of calcium, and Laughing Cow cheese is the best of the spreadable cheeses providing 19% of a toddler’s RDI.
  • Sodium content Cheese is also a significant source of sodium and toddlers only need about 200-400mg a day (more than 1000mg a day can be harmful). The sodium content of cheese varies enormously, even between similar products. For example, the Bega Original Stringers have 140mg per stick, whereas the Kraft Dairy Bites Fridge Sticks have a whopping 316mg! Sodium is also the downside of parmesan with 220mg per 20g serve. You can still give it to your toddler, but try to ensure there are no other salty foods on the same day.

Can I give my toddler strong cheeses?

The tastes of some stronger cheeses such as gorgonzola or camembert may be too much for her but if your child is keen, don’t rule it out. Just be aware of the sodium content. Encouraging our kids to taste different foods rather than assuming they will prefer bland foods can perpetuate fussy eating later. Many kids love olives or other seemingly adult tastes, so let them experiment.

The top 4 cheeses for toddlers

  1. Cheddar cheese (tasty, mild or vintage) – these are cost effective as you can buy them as a big block and cut your own slices. This cheese is high in protein and calcium, with moderate levels of sodium.
  2. Babybel and Bega Original Stringers – these are great options for on-the-go snacks and packing in lunchboxes for childcare or picnics. Nutritionally they compare well with cheddar.
  3. Parmesan – it does have a higher sodium level than cheddar, but it tops the chart for calcium and provides a little more protein. Most kids love parmesan too and it encourages a broad taste range.
  4. Laughing Cow – this is my top pick for a spreadable cheese as it ranks well for calcium, and has less sodium than the Bega Original Stringers or cheddar.

Per 20g serve

Energy(kj)

 Protein(g)

 Fat(g)

 Calcium(g)

 Sodium(g)

Cheddar

345

5.2

6.9

145

130

Parmesan

316

6.4

5.6

192

220

Cottage cheese

100

3.1

1.1

18

55

Ricotta

100

1.7

1.6

46

24

Brie

290

3.7

6.1

93

119

Cream cheese

270

1.6

6.4

16

67

Reduced fat cream cheese

160

1.8

3.0

16

69

Babybel - 1 serve (20g)

260

4.5

5.0

136

144

Laughing Cow - per triangle (16g)

200

1.4

4.3

96

112

Bega Original Stringers - 1 stick (20g)

250

5.5

4.1

130

140

Bel Kiri - per square (18g)

227

1.5

5.2

54

97

Kraft Dairy Bites Fridge Sticks - 1 serve (20g)

229

3.4

4.1

160

316

Now you’ve got the lowdown on cheese, find out about the best bread for your toddler.

The information on this site does not constitute advice and should not be relied upon in making, or refraining from making, any decision. The information on this site should not replace the expertise of qualified professionals, and if you have any concerns, you should always consult a qualified professional.

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