Green Bay Packer fans call themselves “Cheeseheads.” Well, they’re not alone. Take a look at this graph. We are becoming a “cheesehead nation,” a country with a cheese addiction.

We cube it, string it, melt it, mix it, add it — and we give it to our kids more than ever before.

So what’s the problem with cheese?

  • Many experts believe that cheese is the leading source of saturated fat in the American diet. One slice has about 6 grams of saturated fat. That’s about 1/4 of the daily allowance for adults.

It’s also not as nutritious as most parents believe. Check out these NuVal Scores (out of 100 for top nutrition)…

  • Laughing Cow Gourmet Cheese Bites Light Creamy Swiss Original…29
  • Kraft Singles 2% American Cheese Slices…26
  • Sorrento Mozzarella Cheese Chunk…19
  • Kraft Velveta Cheese Slices…17

There’s even more bad news. Remember those discretionary calories?

  • According to the USDA, approximately 50% of the calories in cheese are discretionary. That means they don’t count towards your child’s daily nutritional needs.

And finally, your kids don’t need as much dairy as you think.

  • The USDA recommends 2-3 year olds (and many 4-8 year olds) consume 2 cups of milk per day.
  • One grilled cheese sandwich with 2 slices of cheese = 1 cup. Serve that with a glass of milk and your child is done for the day.

So what should you do?

One of America’s top nutritionists, Marion Nestle recommends cheese be eaten, “in tiny amounts – gratings, shavings, slivers and light smears…” This is good advice.

Remember, kids do not have some protected period of time when what they eat doesn’t matter. To the contrary, conditions leading to heart disease are now known to start in childhood.

Habits established in childhood last a lifetime.  Teach your kids to eat cheese sparingly and they’ll be set.

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Sources:www.NuVal.com; www.mypyramid.gov; Gidding, Samuel S., Barbara A. Dennison, Leann L. Birch, Stephen R. Daniels, et. al. 2005. “Dietary recommendations for children and adolescents. A guide for practitioners. Consensus statement from the American Heart Association. Endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics.” Circulation. 112:2061-2075; Nestle, Marion. 2006. What to Eat: An Aisle-by-Aisle Guide to Savvy Food Choices and Good Eating. New York: North Point Press, pp. 95-96.