Smoothies are a great way to get your kids to eat stuff they normally wouldn’t. From nuts and seeds to kale and spinach, if you can put it in a blender, you can sneak it into your kids. When the kids get choosy, the tough make smoothies!
Nutrition for kids can be complicated. Knowing the rules isn’t enough. Getting the kids to eat what you put in front of them is the hardest part of the job. (You know what I’m talking about if you’ve ever put a mushroom on a skewer and called it a ‘mycological lollipop.’) With smoothies, you can stop pretending that unicorns like broccoli, and just slide veggies in right under their nose. It’s the ultimate parent hack. (More parenting tips here.)
Like all good things, there is a catch: smoothies are not good for you unless you make them right. If you’re thinking a dash of milk, some strawberry yogurt and some banana, think again. Most flavored yogurts have more sugar than a Snickers bar. You can cut the sugar in a smoothie by a whopping 30% just by swapping coconut milk for cow’s milk.
The best choice to add a milky consistency to your smoothie is ground almonds (not necessarily prepared almond milks which have varying levels of sugar). Almonds are great for balancing blood sugar, and they contain high levels of copper, manganese, magnesium, vitamin E and biotin. Their fat content increases satiety, and this is surely not the first place you’ve heard that good fats are not bad for you. Check out this course on food for health, if you want to learn more.
Let Them Eat Kale
Banana Almond Smoothie Base Recipe
- Two ripe bananas
- ½ cup ground almonds
- 1½ cups of milk (coconut, soy, unsweetened almond or regular)
- Dash of vanilla extract
Add all ingredients and blitz until smooth
If you add frozen berries, you may have to add a bit of honey to balance out the acidity. Go ahead, try adding a few kale leaves and see if your kids even notice. And don’t forget, by not using flavored yogurt you’re saving seven teaspoons of sugar, so if you have to add a teaspoon or two, you’re still way ahead.
A smoothie is a great way to slip in supplements that your child may need. If he’s constipated, magnesium powder can help. Kelp powder, with its high iodine content, can boost metabolism and help improve brain function. A smoothie easily masks strong tasting iron supplements. But you should never give your kids supplements without talking to your pediatrician first. Instead, sub in superfoods like avocado to pack more nutrients into each sip. (For more on safe supplementing, consider this course.)
If there are no lactose issues at your house (lucky you), plain yogurt adds a lovely creamy texture to a spinach smoothie:
- One ripe banana
- One cup spinach leaves
- One cup plain yogurt (or sub an avocado to go dairy-free)
- One cup of frozen blueberries
- 1½ cups of milk (coconut, almond, soy etc.)
- Honey to sweeten if necessary
Using avocado is the only way to get a rich smooth texture when using more acidic fruits like orange or pineapple, which would curdle cow’s milk. Obviously, you should feel free to sub in carrots, bell peppers or other veggies, but it’s probably best to stay away from things in the cabbage family unless you’re a real smoothie guru. If you don’t think the kids will go for greens, start them out on herbs. Mint is chock full of calcium and magnesium as well as vitamin K and most of the other nutrients you’d expect from something green and leafy. Tarragon plus apple is a match made in heaven. Basil with strawberries or oranges is another fashionable culinary combo of the moment. To make everyday gourmet, get more tips here.
Gazpacho—the savory smoothie
This is the best after school snack for ravenous kids waiting for dinner. Give it to them in a cup with a swirly straw and watch them suck down one of the healthiest soups ever invented.
- 2 cups tomato or V8 juice
- One carrot
- One red bell pepper
- Half a cucumber (seeds removed)
- Juice of half a lemon
- Four tablespoons of olive oil
- Half an avocado
- Salt and pepper to taste (or pitted cured olives for salt)
Happy Hour Hit
If the kids are hounding you for a milkshake, try this alternative: the seemingly decadent, but actually healthy, chocolate peanut butter and banana smoothie:
- Two ripe bananas
- Two tablespoons peanut butter
- Two teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 ½ cups milk or milk alternative
- Dash of vanilla extract
- Maple syrup to sweeten
When it comes to smoothies, the world is your oyster. You can customize them to be raw, vegan, paleo, gluten-free, etc. You can fill them up with hemp seeds, chia seeds, protein powder, flax oil, spirulina, or the latest greatest superfood. Just remember: when it comes to kids the key is in the sales pitch. The ‘Pink Princess Smoothie’ sells better than the ‘raspberry smoothie with iron supplements and kelp.’ A swirly straw or a cocktail umbrella gets them excited. It doesn’t take much. Personally, I’m not above adding some green colored sugar sprinkles to the top of a kale smoothie to get my kids to drink it. With some careful preparation, and a bit of trial and error, your smoothies may be the healthiest thing your kids eat all day. What a quick and painless way to optimize your childrens’ diet (optimize yourself here.) Your only advantage as a parent is that you are smarter than they are (for now). Disguise! Divert! Blend!