The dairy food group (including dairy alternatives) is important for children to have included in their everyday diet as a terrific source of calcium. Children up to the age of 8 require 1.5-2 serves of dairy each day. A single serve of dairy includes ½ cup of ricotta, 200g of yoghurt, 2 cheese slices (40g) or 1 cup (250ml) of milk. Some children get most of their requirement as milk or yoghurt. I have written a comprehensive blog post on kids drinking milk here. Specialty cheeses also give growing bones a good boost to calcium intake, especially for children that aren’t fond of milk or yoghurt (aka fussy eaters or picky eaters). Including specialty cheeses into your dairy food offerings is a great way to make this food group portable for when you are on the move. I have included the recipe for some zucchini and ricotta bites at the bottom of this blog post.
Typical values for calcium in a range of specialty cheeses and other nutrient considerations
- Camembert has 350mg/100g and a thiamine rich rind.
- Brie has 540mg/100g with the edible rind also being rich in thiamine (vitamin B1.)
- Cheddar has 720mg/100g. However, saturated fat content is nearly 22g/100g (total fat is 34.4g.)
- Edam has 770mg/100g with a lower fat content than cheddar but higher sodium content.
- Parmesan has 1200mg/100g and is richer in protein than many cheeses.
- Ricotta has 210mg/100g and has a lower fat and sodium content than most cheeses.
Note that I don’t usually single out a specific nutrient as I believe in offering a diet full of variety. However, cheese can get a bad reputation for a high fat & salt content. The information is shown here as an example of how some foods have other redeeming properties. Offering these foods is great for children to understand that variety is normal and that there are nutritional benefits here too. A balanced diet is the best for yourselves and your children.
5 more kid approved recipe ideas for using specialty cheeses
I love a sprinkling of parmesan on top of pasta. I specifically use it on top of this recipe for lentil Bolognese.
Creamed cheese also made an appearance on the blog after I attended the paediatric feeding difficulties workshop last year. It is a great introduction to mixed textures for children.
We add a generous amount of grated cheese onto these crumb-free chicken parmigiana too. This parmigiana recipe explains how to make a family meal suited to all taste buds and yet within the “one family one meal” philosophy that goes hand in hand with leading family feeding research.
Why try some different cheese recipes with kids?
Helping children learn to eat, also means getting them accustomed to variety being normal. Trying a new cheese is one way to introduce variety and keep them open to accepting new things. Cheese is relatively easy to pair with a huge range of meals and is also great to pop onto a side platter to go with your meals.
It’s easy to purchase specialty cheese from Aussie Farmers Direct. I was pleasantly surprised to see their fantastic range and flexibility in delivery options. Thanks for sponsoring this informative post for parents about offering specialty cheeses, Aussie Farmers Direct. This post includes all my own opinions and my own family recipe for ricotta and zucchini bites.
These bites are super versatile and we served them as a side dish with a curry. They were perfect for mopping up the gravy as a substitute for (what we commonly use) rice. This opened the girls up to a new experience of eating their curry with something new without changing the curry recipe too much. Variety is the spice of life!
- ⅓ cup ricotta
- ½ cup peeled and grated zucchini (you don’t have to peel the zucchini – the best nutrients are in and just under the skin)
- 1 cup SR flour
- 1 pinch of salt
- ½ - 1 tsp crushed garlic (to taste)
- 1 egg
- Extra virgin olive oil for pan
- Mix the egg, ricotta, garlic and zucchini together in a large bowl. Fold through the SR flour.
- Heat olive oil in a pan so that it covers the whole surface. You will need to top this up as you go.
- Using wet hands, grab balls of the mixture (about the size of an Australian 20c piece) and fry on each side until it is browned. They will probably go a bit football shaped as you move them around your pan.
- Rest each one when it is cooked through on a plate lined with paper towel that can absorb any excess oil.
- Continue making the balls in batches of about 5 at a time. You should have enough mixture make about 3 batches.
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I hope you enjoy making this recipe and introducing your kids to a variety of different cheeses. Tag me on Instagram @playwithfood_au if you do make these and use #happymealtimes or #offerarainbow.
What is your fave specialty cheese? How do you like to eat it?