Cheese as part of a healthy balanced diet

Parents have got the healthy eating message according to research carried out by the British Cheese Board (BCB) as part of its national "Choose Cheese" campaign. In a nationwide survey, 65% of parents state that they try to ensure that kids eat a healthy diet with 63% attempting to introduce their children to healthy snacks.

However, analysis of the Government's 'National Diet and Nutrition Survey of Young people aged 4 - 18years' (NDNS), undertaken by Kings College London, shows that 44% of boys and 50% of girls still consume less than the recommended amount of calcium whilst nearly 2/3 of boys and 61% of girls have diets that contain less than the recommended amount of vitamin A.

This clearly reveals that something is going vastly wrong and the British Cheese Board puts this down to two elements.

Primarily, pester power is reaching alarming proportions, to the extent that whilst parents try to encourage their kids to eat healthy food, in reality it becomes too much of a struggle with the kids clearly winning. 46% of parents surveyed admitted to buying the foods that their children ask for, 55% find it a constant battle to avoid crisps, biscuits and sweets and 63% put crisps in their children's packed lunch every day.

Added to this, the Government is not tackling a fundamental health and diet issue. Despite its own research highlighting the nutritional deficiencies in the diets of young people in its guidelines to school caterers across primary and secondary schools the Government actually advised them to cut down on cheese.

The BCB has officially challenged these guidelines, saying that cheese should not be attacked when it is a primary source of the key nutrients - calcium and vitamin A - that school children are lacking. The DfES response focused purely on the issue of fat, when in fact cheese contributed less than 5% of total fat and saturated fat in school meals.** The DfES also failed to address how it intended to counter these calcium and vitamin A deficiencies amongst this core age group.

The school age years are a vital period for optimum bone growth, and deficiency at this stage in life can lead to crippling and debilitating illnesses, such as Osteoporosis, which currently affects one in three women and one in twelve men over the age of 50.

Whilst the British Cheese Board agrees that it is important to achieve the recommended level of 35% calories of food derived from fat, it is concerned that the Government advice is misleading as it advises reducing or excluding densely rich nutrient foods, such as cheese, to achieve this.

The UK already has the lowest cheese consumption in Europe with the NDNS survey showing that 20% of children actually eat no cheese. These children have the poorest diets and suffer from the lowest calcium and Vitamin A intakes.

In addition the Government is spending £52 million on free fruit for schools, but has failed to address the dangerously deficient amounts of calcium and Vitamin A in children's diets, revealed by its own research. What's more, 73% of parents want to give their children food with extra calcium and vitamins.***

As a result the British Cheese Board launched its "Choose Cheese" campaign to turn parents and their children back on to cheese. NDNS research shows that children who eat as little as 1oz of cheese a day (the size of a matchbox) are more likely to reach the required daily amount of calcium and Vitamin A.

Click through to see the Research .

Additional Information:
** 7 other product groups came above cheese as contributors of total fat in children's diets:
- Buns, cakes and pastries - 13%
- Chips - 12%
- Meat pies and pastries - 6%
- Sausages - 6%
- Pizza - 5%
- Coated chicken and turkey - 5%
- White fish, coated or fried, including fish fingers - 5%
*** The Government has the ability to subsidise cheese usage in schools under an EU Scheme.