Friday, April 26, 2013

Cheese for Little Ones 乳酪与小宝


Do you or your little ones like cheese? How much do you know about cheese like what cheese to offer to little ones and when is the right time to introduce cheese? To be honest, I knew so little about cheese all these while until I decided to spend sometime to read and learn more about it. This post is all above cheese. So if you are not a cheese lover or have no intention of introducing cheese into your little one's diet, you may opt to stop here...

World of Cheese. Photo originally from http://gizmodo.com


I introduced cheese to my duo after they turned 1 year old as I wasn't quite into cheese. I baked cheese crackers using natural cheddar cheese block for my girl when she was 14 month old, she liked it and so is the elder brother. Both of them showed no sign of allergies at all.

So I thought, she is fine with cheese.



However when I baked her Japanese cream cheesecake a month later, no doubt she loved it, for it's soft texture and light tangy taste with the added lemon rind, she developed allergies and rashes the next day and it lasted for a month. Poor baby suffered itchy rashes that covered her entire back and I had to help her put lotion, wet hanky so she can sleep at night. I did not used calamine lotion as it dries up the skin, instead I used eczema safe body lotion such as Bud's Organic Baby Everyday cream and QV Skin Repair Lotion which soothes and moisturizes the skin to reduce further itchiness due to dryness.

So then only I realized I know too little about cheese, and I decided to find out more.

Disclaimer: This post is the sharing of my research on types of cheese and their nutrition facts. It was written based on the information gathered from various internet sources, while I made sufficient effort to refer only to reliable websites and made reference to several different websites to confirm on the facts gathered, I cannot assure that all information shared here are 100% accurate. If you have doubt, do inquire with a nutritionist, your doctor or a cheese maker if you happen to know one.

When is the Right Age to Introduce Cheese to my Little One?

I believe many parents have this question, me included.

According to Baby Center and Wholesome Baby Food, generally you may introduce cheese to babies without allergy history between 6 - 10 months of age as it is a good source of calcium. However if there is allergy or asthma history in the family, do consider starting it later.

When feeding cheese for the first time to your baby, remember the 3 days rule apply - avoid introducing other new food during the 3 days period so you can identify the allergy reaction, such as rashes, swelling, vomiting, diarrhea or in more severe cases, difficulty in breathing. Call your doctor immediately if your baby have severe allergic reaction.

Selecting the Right Cheese for Toddler

most of us know that cheese are good source of calcium and protein but do you know that not all cheese the same? Some cheese have higher content of sodium and lactose which should be consumed moderately. The level of these nutrient contains are different in all the different types of cheese depending on its source (cow, buffalo,goat, vegetables etc), aging (1 month to few years) and processing methods.


While there are over 2,000 thousand types of cheese available, I'm only going to cover the common cheese that we often found in local super markets (I am and will not attempt to be cheese expert!)

Parmesan Cheese

This looks like among the best choice of cheese of whole lots with it's high calcium and low sodium, low lactose content. Consider buying block Parmesan cheese and shred them when serving pasta or salads for your little ones for that added calcium.

Nutrition facts on Parmesan Cheese according to Daily Mail:

Parmesan Per 100g: calories 452, fat 32.7g (20.5g), calcium 1,200mg
RICHER in protein than many cheeses and contains about the same amount of fat as Cheddar. It is amazingly high in calcium and just 10g grated over pasta supplies 15 pc of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).

Health rating: *****


Check out the recipe using Parmesan Cheese:


Cheddar Cheese
Usually comes in block or shredded form, cheddar cheese is probably the most popular cheese well known to all. Good news is it has high level of calcium and on the downside it has high fat level, so perhaps we may consider going for low fat cheddar cheese or serve moderately.

However, processed sliced cheddar cheese that is commonly used for making sandwiches usually contains higher level of sodium and may not suitable for daily consumption. Check out this chart from the National Dairy Council of USA, the content of sodium is nearly 2x of a natural cheddar cheese!
Info source:  National Dairy Council, Cheese Nutrition article (reference #1).
However, not all sliced cheddar cheese are bad. Just make sure you read the content and choose the right ones with lower sodium content. My personal favorite is Bega High Calcium cheese, Emborg Natural Cheese slices and Emborg Sandwich Cheese Slice.

Check out the recipe using Parmesan Cheese:


Mozzarella Cheese

Commonly used for making pizza, looks like a good choice base on nutrition facts on Daily Mail:

Mozzarella Per 100g: calories 301, fat 25g (19g), calcium 515mg 
THIS is a medium-fat cheese which can be disproportionately high in undesirable saturates. However, has a good calcium content and its stringy nature means a little goes a long way.

Health rating: ***

Check out the recipe using Mozzarella Cheese:


Cream Cheese
It's shocking to read this from the Nutrition facts on Cottage Cheese according to Daily Mail's article - The Good Cheese Guide:

This is about the unhealthiest cheese of the lots,it has the level of fats and saturated equals to double cream, but a calcium content only a seventh of a Cheddar.

Health rating: *

Cream cheese is a common ingredient used in making cheesecakes, with this nutrient fact it seems cheesecakes made of cream cheese will not be a good source of calcium. So parents take note. However, despite these disappointing nutrition facts, cream cheesecakes are really tasty and I won't mind to give it a go once in a blue moon as my little boy and myself really enjoyed them. Perfect to go with a cup of hot latte.

Check out these recipe by these experienced food bloggers (tried & tested!):

Cottage Cheese

I have never introduced cottage cheese to my baby, but after reading the nutrition facts this is one of the light tasting cheese that is suitable for baby (read on more on Wholesome Baby Food)

Nutrition facts on Cottage Cheese according to Daily Mail:

Cottage Cheese Per 100g: calories 98, fat 3.9g (saturates 2.4g), calcium 73mg
THE only truly low-fat cheese, with about the same fat content as skinless chicken breast. The reduced-fat version is even more virtuous, with only 78 calories per 100g, making it ideal for slimmers. But cottage cheese is very low in calcium compared with other cheeses.

Health rating: ***


To serve, you may puree the cottage cheese and mix it with the puree vegetables or fruits. (I have not really tried this myself, so do let me know if your baby do likes it, will you? ;)

Any Cheese that Should be Avoided for Little Ones?


Brie, Feta, Camembert, Roquefort, and Bleu Cheese are typically "Soft Cheese" that are not cultured and are not made from pasteurised milk (also known as raw milk), raw milk has the risk of carrying Listeria bacteria which can be deadly to infant and pregnant lady, so do avoid offering soft cheese to young infant!

Understanding the Food Label

The safest way is ensure we know what we feed to our little ones (or even ourselves for that matter). It will be a good habit to check out the food label, instead of judging the product based on its packaging and price (I must confess I did that sometimes).

I found this dietician blog that has pretty good guide on what to look out for on food label... Here's an abstract of the label reading guide from the site:

Info source: Diet of a Dietician ,Trick or treat : Get Smart : Read the Food Labels (reference #3)

Sample comparison on nutrition content of processed slices cheese, cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Do take note that the serving size varies.

Info source: Diet of a Dietician ,Trick or treat : Get Smart : Read the Food Labels (reference #3)

Conclusion?

Blah blah blah blah... So, with all the facts sharing, what is the conclusion from this lengthy post?

I would say: Go for cheese with lower fat, sodium, lactose content and with higher Calcium and minerals. Of course this is subject to the serving method of choice, you need mozzarella for making pizza for that long springy cheese, but you can always add some shredded Cheddar or Parmesan cheese for the added nutrition and flavor.

An Update on Fat for Infant...

Thanks to a reader's feedback, where she correctly pointed out that low fat may not be the right option for children under 2 years as the dietary fat is required for the development in the early years, specifically for the brain development, so please take note.

As explained in the HealthyChildren.org article on Low Fat Diets for Babies:


Here’s a very important recommendation to keep in mind — do not restrict your child’s consumption of dietary fat and calories in the first 2 years of life. In other words, don’t put a baby younger than 2 years on a diet or give her low-fat or skim milk.
Here’s why: the early months and years of your child’s life are critical for the normal development of her brain and body. Specifically, she’ll need calories from dietary fat for her brain to grow and mature normally.

Eventually, from 2 years old onward, you may gradually reduce the dietary fat consumption by switching to low fat version of milk or dairy products depending on your little one's overall diet and temperament. If your little one is a fussy eater, he or she may benefits from the extra calories from the extra fats.


I hope you find this post useful. At least I now know what cheese I should serve to my family and which to avoid. Choose wisely and, Cheese! :)


Reference Sites

Information from this blog post are abstracted or based on reference from from these websites:

  1. http://www.nationaldairycouncil.org/SiteCollectionDocuments/education_materials/cheese/Health%20Professional%20Cheese%20Nutrition%20Brochure%20Final.pdf
  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3033/The-good-cheese-guide.html
  3. http://dietofadietician.blogspot.com/2011/11/trick-or-treat-get-smart-read-food.html
  4. http://wholesomebabyfood.momtastic.com/feedingcheesetobaby.htm
  5. http://www.babycenter.com/408_when-can-my-baby-eat-cheese_1368504.bc
  6. http://www.babycenter.com/404_should-i-monitor-the-fat-in-my-babys-food_9153.bc
  7. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/feeding-nutrition/pages/Low-Fat-Diets-For-Babies.aspx



2 comments:

  1. What about sodium guidelines? I think that should be an important consideration.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the suggestion, I was thinking to add that but on the broader picture sodium exist in many other food LO consumed and not just cheese, so one should look at the daily sodium consumption knstead of on cheese alone. anyway i intend to have that shared as a separate post. I would suggest to cmpare the different brands of cheese displayed on shelves and go for the ones with lower sodium / lactose and higher calcium / protein.

    ReplyDelete