Last weekend, debilitated by a stomach virus, I watched Fed Up, a documentary that follows the role of sugar in the childhood obesity epidemic. The film sought to prove that in a diet with an excess of sugar and carbohydrates, exercise is futile in the fight against weight gain. If you’ve watched Food, Inc., Fed Up will provide you with similar feelings of anxiety.
Kids are picky eaters who tend to hate nutritious foods like vegetables. Most American children are addicted to processed foods, engineered to tickle all of their cravings with excessive levels of salt and sugar. Furthermore, they are brainwashed by commercials advertising these junk foods. So how do we get them to eat vegetables?
While Fed Up offered multiple encouraging solutions to this epidemic, it fails to address what I feel to be the most important and engaging tool in the fight to get kids eating vegetables: Cheese.
By themselves, vegetables can be boring, bitter, and watery. Moreover, without a little fat and protein, the body can’t even absorb all of their precious nutrients. And it’s tough to feel satiated on vegetables alone. But what if you pair them with a little cheese love?
In a study conducted by Cornell University, a diverse body of over 200 elementary school students were given one of two snacks while watching cartoons on TV: a nutrient-dense snack consisting of vegetables with cheese, and a non-nutrient-dense snack of potato chips. The research found that the children given the combination of cheese and vegetables ate 72% fewer calories compared to the kids given potato chips, yet also required significantly fewer calories to feel full. The authors concluded that kids should be provided with nutrient-dense foods such as cheese and vegetables due to their nutrient content as well as their ability to help control calorie intake.
The findings in this study are unsurprising when you consider that cheese is an almost nutritionally perfect food, lacking only Vitamin C and dietary fiber, which vegetables can provide. As I said before, however, kids are picky eaters. How do we know that they’re going to eat cheese, much less the vegetables hiding behind it?
The answer is all in your approach. Kids are very tactile, so it’s best to serve them interactive finger foods like dips and even snacks they can put together themselves. It’s also important to find the right cheeses, but I’ve got you covered on that front. Scroll down and take a look at these five delicious, kid friendly cheeses and my healthy serving ideas.