So we’ve all been there – we know we should be eating as many veggies (and fruits, too) a day, especially the dark, leafy greens that offer so many vitamins and minerals. However, if you’re anything like me (and my child), there are days when the thought of chowing down on a pile of kale or spinach is as appealing as banging your head against a wall. Now don’t get me wrong – I love my veggies and greens, but there are some days where it just gets….well, old. Or you don’t feel like eating or tasting them. And now my son (who used to love eating cooked greens) will spit them out and act like he became possessed by some ungodly creature that is trying to exit his body through animated gagging tongue motions and spitting sounds. In many cases, it would be easiest to just let it pass and not “force” my child to eat anything (obviously, this is not recommend, nor will you get very far…in addition to scarring your children for life about wanting to eat veggies and fruits). I know there are theories out there that really discourage “hiding” food in other forms to get kids to eat it, etc. While I understand this concept and definitely agree to it to an extent, as a former teacher, I also know there are “accommodations” to employ to meet a child’s needs (in this case, nutrition) in a way that works for him/her. Um, not to mention that I feel on most days lately, I need to disguise fruits and veggies for myself to make sure I get what I need without getting bored or tired of eating “healthy.” I have really found smoothies and juices to be an excellent way to pack a super nutritious punch while making it tasty, mobile, convenient, and well, easy to get into difficult eaters. Sometimes, we just need to pull out the big guns to get the job done. As a health coach, I’d rather see children (and adults, too!) getting their nutrients from whole food sources in a creative way like a smoothie rather than trying to force them to eat foods they may not like in the individual form.
Smoothies are perfect ways to:
– Incorporate many healthy foods into one serving.
– Get your kids involved! Kids (and adults, too!) think it’s fun to partake in making them. Let them pick out ingredients, experiment with their own recipes (with your guidance, of course), put the ingredients in the blender or mixer, and create their own healthy masterpiece. Studies show kids are way more inclined to eat more healthy foods if they are part of the preparation and decision-making process. My toddler LOVES to hit the “on” button and turn the speed dial up on our Vitamix each day I make a smoothie.
– Make “healthy ice cream”! You can even freeze smoothies to make what I like to call “ice green” – my corny take on ice cream (my toddler thinks he’s eating ice cream, so I’ll be as corny as I want as long as it works!). Freezing the smoothie for about an hour or so until it’s semi-frozen, but still “moveable” enough to scoop with a spoon really tastes like a great frozen treat! You can even freeze smoothies into ice pop molds and freeze until solid to make an awesome and healthy alternative to conventional ice pops.
– Try new recipes and not get tired of the same thing day-in and day-out.
Some tips when considering smoothies (especially for kids):
– Drink your smoothie, too! Not only for the added health benefit for yourself, but children learn from our modeling behavior.
– When getting kids on board with trying these new concoctions (if they are not used to them…or the color!), make the description fun or name them: “Monster Juice” or “Super Slushie” (you get the idea; heck, it worked back in the day with Ecto Cooler! Look how many kids drank that green juice because it carried the name of something from Ghost Busters…)
– Try to use organic produce whenever possible, especially when choosing fruits and veggies off of the Dirty Dozen list.
– Try a different smoothie recipe each day to vary things up and keep taste palettes craving the healthy stuff without getting bored.
– Serve smoothies in fun glasses or containers to get the kids excited about their “special drink.” We even use those little drink umbrellas at times (when I’m desperate…hah!) or “straw clips” – find something like a trinket or charm you can attach to a straw to make it entertaining to drink out of.
– Prep smoothie ingredients ahead of time to make committing to having one each day that much quicker and easier! Berries and fruits like bananas, pineapple, and mango freeze very well and act as the ice/”slush” component in your smoothie. You can use glass mason jars to put all of the dry ingredients in ahead of time and keep in the fridge or freezer so all you’ll need to do is dump in the blender and add your liquid. I prefer using glass containers over plastic (even if BPA –free) because there is no chance of anything leaching into your foods. Wash and cut up greens, fruits, veggies in one large batch and portion out. This also makes it easy for kids to get involved!
– When considering which liquid to use, I always recommend using clean, ultra-filtered cold water as a base, but if you are looking to add healthy fats and/or flavor to your smoothie, you can choose coconut water, nut milks, seed milks, dairy milk, etc. Just please read labels on prepared items and check for unwanted ingredients like carrageenan and additives or preservatives that you don’t want to be ingesting each day.
– Switch up and “rotate” your ingredients to a degree every day. Eating the same foods day-in and day-out can actually be taxing on your digestive system and the enzymes required to break these foods down. Rotating greens like kale for spinach, collards, etc. is a good idea, in addition to switching up the other fruits and veggies you use. Eating the same foods every day can also create a type of allergy response in some people as well, which is another reason why “rotation diet” behaviors are important. (This is a topic I can cover in a future article)
– Try to have a higher veggie to fruit ratio, as you do not want to spike your sugar levels too much with too much fructose. Yes, fruits are awesome and beneficial… but you want to balance those natural fruit sugars out with enough veggies (which have lots of water and fiber to slow the sugar metabolism, too!).
Here are some of my favorite recipes and variations (kid tested and approved!) to use when making smoothies:
- Feel free to substitute any ingredient for allergy or taste-preference reasons
- Parents like adding about a teaspoon of fresh ground flaxseeds and/or chia seeds to each smoothie to get added Omega and fiber benefits.
- I personally don’t use juices (like apple or orange juices) as ingredients in my smoothies, as I’d rather you use the actual fruit because it’s full of fiber and its whole-food nutrients are intact versus being processed and full of sugar (which kind of defeats why we’d be drinking the healthy smoothie in the first place)
- 1. Krazy Kale
– about 3-4 leaves of fresh, washed, organic kale
– handful of frozen organic berries like blueberries, raspberries, blackberries
– 1 organic banana (you can even freeze it… but take the peel off first before freezing!)
– 1 organic orange (any variety), peeled
– 1 tablespoon of organic coconut oil or butter
– About 12 ounces of fresh, cold, filtered water
Blend in a blender and kids love the naturally sweet, creamy taste!
- 2. Orange Creamsicle (Remember Orange Julius shakes when you were a kid?!?)
– 1 or 2 organic oranges, peeled
– 1 peeled, frozen banana
– If no dairy allergy, you can use 1 cup of plain yogurt, milk, or kefir
– If preferring not to use dairy, you can use 1 cup of a nut or seed milk
– I cup cold, filtered water (if using just yogurt…this will add liquid so the smoothie will blend better)
– ½ tsp. of pure vanilla extract or scrape the inside of 1 vanilla bean
– Add some ice cubes if you want a more thick or frozen-type smoothie
Blend well in a blender and enjoy! This also makes an awesome healthy ice-pop or “ice cream”
- Super Sweet Super Spinach Smoothie (a perfect way to pack a ton of healthy ingredients into something picky eaters normally wouldn’t touch!)
– 1 cup frozen or fresh pineapple cubes
– 1 or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
– About 2-3 handfuls of fresh, organic spinach
– 1 peeled banana (preferably frozen)
– 1 teaspoon organic coconut oil or coconut butter (which is a little creamier than coconut oil)
– For an added zing and vitamin c power-punch, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
– 1 cup cold, filtered water
– If not using frozen fruit, add ½ cup-1 cup ice to make it more thick and “frozen” (about 5-10 ice cubes)
Blend all ingredients together on high in a blender and enjoy! Spinach is surprisingly sweet in smoothies and is easily disguised when combined with fruit.
- 4. Avocado Apple Awesomeness – This is a perfect way to deliciously get healthy fats and fiber into a glass!
– 1 or 2 cored and sliced organic apples (it doesn’t matter which type; you can even combine different varieties!). Leave the skin on for added fiber and antioxidant boost.
– 1 peeled and pitted avocado
– 1 cup plain, unsweetened almond milk (preferred; or you can use another type of plain, unsweetened nut or seed milk). You can also just use 1 cup of cold, filtered water!
– About 2-3 cups/handfuls of loosely-packed organic spinach
– 2 teaspoons (preferably raw) organic honey (local if possible to help with allergy-fighting/immune-boosting properties) OR coconut sugar **DO NOT USE HONEY IF CHILDREN UNDER THE AGE OF 1 WILL BE CONSUMING
– You may want to try this variation if your kids will like it, but you can add a dash of fresh ginger for a flavor zing and digestive and immune-boosting aid.
– You can also try adding the juice of a small lemon to add some citrus zing and vitamin C
– If you prefer your smoothies thicker or icier, add about 5 ice cubes
- 5. Berry Blast
– ½ cup frozen organic strawberries
– ½ cup frozen blueberries
– 1 frozen banana
– 1 cup organic spinach or 2 organic kale leaves
– 1 cup of any liquid you prefer: nut milk, seed milk, dairy milk, water, coconut water, etc.
Blend all ingredients together on high in a blender.
What are some of your favorite smoothie recipes or ideas? What are some funny smoothie stories (or disasters!)? Please share below! Perhaps challenge yourself to making and drinking as many smoothies this week or month as possible. You’d be amazed at how great you feel once you incorporate these healthy staples into your daily diet routine.
Megan Monday articles are written by Megan Kalocinski, a Certified Holistic Nutrition and Health Coach and Owner/Founder of Empower Nutrition & Health Coaching, LLC. Megan educates and empowers women, men, and children of all ages to learn the true ins-and-outs of “feeding the brain with knowledge about the best foods, products, and habits for one’s body” in order to reach optimal health and wellness potentials. Visit her website today to learn more: http://www.exponentialhealthandwellness.us or feel free to send her an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Megan on Twitter and like her on Facebook!