One of the best ways to raise healthy eaters is to consistently offer up real, whole, healthy foods. Although I’m not in favor of pureeing vegetables and sneaking them into meals and baked goods, for example, serving up smoothies can be a great way to make sure your kids are getting the nutrition they need. If they also learn how to make smoothies, they’ll know exactly what they’re eating and you don’t have to be so sneaky.
In this post, I’ll cover:
- The history of smoothies
- Health benefits of smoothies for kids
- What is the green smoothie project?
- How to make smoothies for kids + my favorite blender
- Smoothie recipes + cookbooks
SMOOTHIES HAVE BEEN AROUND FOR 100 YEARS OLD
We’re in the midst of a smoothie craze, but it isn’t actually all that new.
From what I could find, smoothies date back to the 1920s when Julius Freed developed a frothy, orange juice drink for his boss that he could stomach, which eventually launched the Orange Julius brand.
With tons of dedicated smoothie companies, bottled versions on store shelves, and tons of smoothie recipes (don’t forget smoothie bowls!), suffice to say, they’re here to stay.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SMOOTHIES FOR KIDS
Smoothies seem like a healthy choice for your kids, but are they really?
When done right, smoothies can be a healthy, nutritious option. The health benefits of smoothies for kids are the same as eating real, whole foods:
- Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables.
- Higher levels of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
- Better digestion and less constipation.
- May prevent weight gain and childhood obesity.
- Can encourage healthy eating and healthy habits.
THE GREEN SMOOTHIE PROJECT: ENCOURAGING KIDS TO EAT HEALTHY
Serving up smoothies may encourage your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables.
For several years, the researchers at the Center for Childhood Obesity and Research at Penn State have been conducting the Green Smoothie study, an ongoing project meant to encourage kids to consume more dark, leafy green vegetables.
For their Green Smoothie Taste Test, preschoolers were offered 5 different smoothies made with leafy greens vegetables, whole fruit and 100 percent fruit juice.
Of all of the children, 84 percent tried the smoothies, and all who did rated at least one as “yummy.” Then, when they were offered the smoothie they liked at snack time, they consumed, on average, 8 ounces of it.
Of course, getting kids involved in making healthy smoothies is a great way to get encourage healthy eating.
In fact, a 2019 study in the journal BMC Nutrition found kids who felt confident in their ability to cook were more like to consume fruits and vegetables and have a healthier diet overall.
HOW TO MAKE SMOOTHIES FOR KIDS: THE INGREDIENTS
Most mornings I make a green smoothie with almond milk, spinach, and banana for myself and my kids.
My older daughter usually prefers to have spinach in her eggs or have pumpkin puree instead. But my younger one is much pickier about eating certain vegetables, so I feel good that she’s getting a serving of leafy greens in at breakfast.
One thing to think about when you make smoothies are the ingredients. Add too much fruit or even healthy-add ins like peanut butter, and your so-called healthy smoothie can be a sneaky source of calories and sugar in your kid’s diet.
Store brands are some of the worst offenders. Take one of Smoothie King’s “kids’ blends,” the Apple Kiwi Bunga. Apple, kiwi, and kale sound really healthy but with apple juice and an “apple juice blend,” the smoothie has a whopping 30 grams of sugar.
If you want to know how to make smoothies for your kids, it’s super-easy, but it starts with the right ingredients in the right ratio.
1. Choose your liquid.
Start with one cup of liquid and pour it into your blender first. Choose from:
- Non-dairy milk: almond, coconut, rice, oat, or soy
- Cow’s milk
- Coconut water
2. Pick your vegetable(s).
Next, choose 1-2 cups of vegetables, and try to include some leafy greens. Choose from:
- Bok choy
- Swiss chard
3. Pick your fruit(s), fresh or frozen.
Then, add 1 cup of fruit. Choose from:
4. Pick your healthy fats (optional).
5. Pick your healthy add-ins for extra flavor (optional).
- Vanilla extract
ADDITIONAL TIPS FOR MAKING SMOOTHIES
- Banana is a good fruit to choose because it makes smoothies sweet and creamy.
- Have fun trying out different liquids and flavor combinations.
- Consider adding more fruit than vegetables at first until your child gets accustomed to it and then gradually increase the number of vegetables.
- Try using some frozen fruit or a few ice cubs if your child likes it very cold.
- For more protein, you can add plain, Greek yogurt or protein powder but read labels carefully for artificial ingredients and added sugars.
- Serve smoothies with colorful straws to make it fun for kids.
HOW TO MAKE SMOOTHIES FOR KIDS: THE BEST BLENDER
When you make smoothies for your kids, the blender you already have is probably just fine.
Yet if you intend to make smoothies several times a week, or every day, AND you want an appliance that does more than just smoothies, I recommend the Vitamix.
When my husband bought this for me two years ago, I didn’t understand why I needed another blender, but I instantly became a Vitamix fan.
Unlike the small blender I was using, I love that you can put several types of fruits and vegetables in at once and it blends everything into a super-smooth consistency, much like a juicer, but you don’t lose any of the fiber.
The other great thing about the Vitamix is that it isn’t just for smoothies. You can use it to make:
- Flours and dough
- Non-dairy milks
- Nut butters
- Salad dressings
- Seed butters
HOW TO MAKE SMOOTHIES FOR KIDS: BEST COOKBOOKS
If you’re looking for a book of recipes, I also recommend The Smoothie Project, by Catherine McCord, founder of Weelicious.com. McCord was one of my inspirations for starting this blog and so I’ve always been a fan. Inspired by her own journey to help her son heal from health problems, her book is designed for kids and adults alike. It has more than 100 smoothie recipes, ingredient charts and helpful tips.
Check out these great smoothie books too:
The Art of the Smoothie Bowl, by Nicole Gaffney
Vitamix 100th Anniversary Cookbook, by Dr. Jodi Berg PhD and Bryn Mooth
4-Ingredient Smoothies + Juices, by Dee Dine
Smoothies & Juices: Prevention Healing Kitchen, by Frances Largeman-Roth
Healthy Quick & Easy Smoothies, by Dana Angelo White MS RD AT
Super Green Smoothies, by Danielle Omar