I try to stay away from processed and packaged foods, but wrapped American cheese and shredded mozzarella offer great convenience. Should I refrain from giving them to my toddler on a regular basis?
Dairy is one of the 5 food groups featured on USDA’s MyPlate. Kids love cheese, and this dairy source provides protein, calcium for strong bones and teeth, plus an assortment of other vitamins and minerals.
Pre-wrapped and pre-shredded cheeses are OK in a pinch—just make sure to read the ingredient list and look for the natural stuff and go organic if that’s your preference. Organic Valley makes organic cheese slices that are made of real cheese, and not just “cheese product” and preservatives. This is a great compromise between convenience and real food!
Perhaps the more serious challenge is that cheese tends to be high in fat, especially saturated fat, which is not good for the heart. At HealthBarn USA, we use cheese in many recipes but in amounts that stay within the heart healthy guidelines. One of our “secret weapons” is Cabot Sharp Light Cheese, which tastes great, cooks well, and has only 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving, as opposed to the 9 grams in full fat cheddar cheeses.
Whole wheat, veggie pizza is also super popular at HealthBarn USA, so when we make pizza, we use shredded low-fat mozzarella. It is also a good choice to be sprinkled on top of pasta or added to recipes for the gooey factor! Shred lightly with the whole milk mozzarella because it’s very high in saturated fat and sodium.
My general recommendations are to stick to low fat, natural cheeses—avoid the pre-packaged stuff where possible, as it’s often packed with preservatives. It’s ok from time to time, but getting out the grater will serve you better in the long run!
– Stacey Antine, MS, RD, author, Appetite for Life, founder, HealthBarn USA, co-host, Family Food Expert Internet Radio Show, and recognized as top 10 dietitians nationally by Today’s Dietitian magazine for her work with HealthBarn USA
What puzzles you about keeping your family healthy? Tell us what’s on your mind by emailing [email protected]. Stacey will answer those questions here weekly.