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Is Cottage Cheese Healthy?

Simple cottage cheese packs in a lot of nutrition

Cottage cheese has a reputation as a diet food that's, frankly, pretty boring. But cottage cheese's many health benefits mean its worth the effort to serve it in interesting, kid-friendly and downright tasty ways. From high-quality protein to calcium for growing bones, cottage cheese deserves a place in your family's nutritious diet.

High in Protein but Low in Calories

Cottage cheese got that "diet" reputation for a reason – if you pick up the low-fat varieties, you'll get plenty of nutrition for relatively few calories. An entire cup of the stuff has just 104 calories, which makes it a good choice to help your whole family maintain a healthy weight. And a cup of cottage cheese supplies 15 grams of high-quality protein, which not only nourishes lean muscles to support an active lifestyle, but also promotes good immune function (buh-bye, cold season!). Each cup of nonfat cottage cheese also has about 10 grams of carbohydrates for energy, and, as the name suggests, it's virtually fat free.

Calcium for Healthy Bones

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The biggest benefit of dairy products is their calcium content, and cottage cheese won't let you down. Calcium famously helps nourish healthy bones, which is why it's especially important for growing kids, but it's also crucial for muscle and nerve health. A cup of nonfat cottage cheese has 125 milligrams of calcium, which supplies about 13 percent of the daily needs for moms, and between 10 and 18 percent of your children's calcium needs, depending on their age.

One Potential Drawback: Sodium

While cottage cheese is healthy, it's important to seek out low-sodium or no-sodium varieties whenever you can. A cup of regular cottage cheese has 539 milligrams of sodium, which is roughly one-third of your daily limit, and up to one-half of the daily limit for your child. While controlling sodium intake is important for adults to help manage the risk of heart disease, the same holds true for children. Kids who consume too much sodium can also develop high blood pressure, notes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and this may increase their risk of cardiovascular disease later in life. Check the label to opt for the lowest-sodium variety available to keep your sodium levels in check.

Serving Cottage Cheese to Your Kids

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Chances are, a few simple substitutions will be all it takes to include cottage cheese in meals your family already loves. Whipping up a multigrain vegetable lasagna? Use strained or solid cottage cheese in place of ricotta for added protein. If your child loves tuna, egg or chicken salad sandwiches, try subbing cottage cheese in for mayo to replace a high-fat ingredient with a lower-fat one. And if your child gravitates toward savory-and-sweet meals, try stirring a drop of vanilla extract and cinnamon into cottage cheese, and then use the mixture to top fruit salad.