It’s the perfect snack/breakfast/lunch. Ideally, it will displace other less healthy staples that kids often eat for snacks and quick meals: crackers, pretzels, bagels, toast, breakfast cereal. These foods are low in nutrition and keep kids trapped in a cycle of constantly craving processed carbs and sugar…the more you have the more you want! Many kids will be happy with an apple or banana and some nuts, but most will not seek out red peppers and beets and jicama. And here’s the thing: if Smoothies become part of their daily routine, kids will get used to adding some spinach here and some ginger there and they will slowly grow their repertoire.
It’s fast and convenient! Prep in advance and have an instant meal! Locating, washing, peeling and chopping ingredients can take time, so plan for it. Try putting your designated fruits and veggies on a special Smoothie Shelf in the fridge, including a container with washed, peeled and chopped Smoothie ingredients. (Note that some don’t keep well when cut, like avocado and apples). Store shelf-stable ingredients by the blender (nuts, coconut oil, dried berries).
You can hide/camouflage things! If your kids won’t eat celery or avocado or fennel, you can still sneak some into a Smoothie. They may or may not notice, and they may or may not care, as long as they like it. It’s a fantastic way to get nutrients into growing bodies.
Testing the vegetable waters will eventually yield success. If your kid is reluctant to try new things, make a basic kid starter smoothie with familiar ingredients and then add one new thing—ideally a vegetable. Next time try a different one. It’s an effective way to get your kids’ palates accustomed to new flavors. Start with just a hint of something new. If your kids are open to exploring the vast and colorful landscape of produce, you can make it into a game. Set up a competition to see who tries the most new foods in a week. If they create something ambitious and end up not liking it, see if they can “fix” it. Tell them it’s fun to be a Mad Scientist in search of the perfect concoction, and that failure is a stepping stone on the way to success. If something is truly yucky, hold a contest for the most revolting face, laugh about it, and give them an A for attempt.
The Good Food Fighter just designed and produced a card game for kids! It’s a fun family food game where players race to build the best Smoothies. Kids will learn about good healthy ingredients that help them win, and the villains that will penalize them (There may be some surprises!). All the charming fruits and veggie art in this article are part of the game and their friendly cartoon style is meant to appeal to kids and to make vegetables irresistibly friendly and cool! Subscribe to this blog to get announcements and special offers! Find the game here.
Anyone can make one! It’s so simple, even for little kids. You can even come up with a combo that doesn’t require using a knife. Some safe and easy ways to prepare ingredients: use a corer for apples, cut a banana in two with your hands (or use butter knife). Tear off pieces of kale, parsley, fennel and spinach. Peel ginger with the back of a spoon. Berries are ready to go. Just remember to wash everything. There is plenty to work with! Older kids can be trained to handle a knife properly and to operate the blender. For teens, all this should be a snap!
You can customize it! Make it your own! Encourage your kids to invent a recipe and name it after themselves. Or name the mixture for its ingredient combinations, like Carrot Volcano, Electric Berry, Kale Kaleidoscope, Green Lightning, or Flavor Firecracker.
Tips for success:
- If your kid likes a thin consistency resembling juice: use fruits and veggies with more water content: apples, cucumber, watermelon, lemon. Also add more water.
- If your kid likes a creamy consistency: use avocado, nut butters, coconut oil
- If your kid likes a little zing: add ginger
- If your kid rejects anything green: add carrots, beets, jicama, red pepper
- If your kid wants it sweet: include apple, banana, mango, or pineapple. Add cinnamon. Try a date. As a last resort, use a little honey. Never add bottled juice.
- If your kid is okay with the more neutral veggies—those that won’t change the flavor much: try spinach, kale, avocado, cucumber.
- If your kid is adventurous with new flavors: try purple cabbage, celery, and parsley. And if s/he likes spicy food, try a sliver of jalapeño or another hot pepper!
Note: Always try to include berries. Their nutritional powers are legendary and well documented. Luckily there are many kinds to choose from: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry. They’re an optimal Smoothie food because you can find them frozen year round. Produce that is flash frozen at the height of the season usually maintains its vital nutrients so they’re often as healthy as fresh berries. Plus, Smoothies are better cold!
If you like them, keep gojiberries in your pantry. They are shelf stable, wildly nutritious, and can be used when you’re out of frozen berries, or alongside them. Mulberries are another great choice but a little harder to find.
Everyone gets their own! Just like at Jamba Juice (but with better ingredients). My preferred line-up is apple-berry-kale-parsley-fennel-ginger-turmeric-beet-carrot and some leaf from the garden like basil or sorrel. This is the advanced version for Smoothie connoisseurs! My son is the family Smoothie Chef and he starts out with my recipe, then makes come changes (usually leaving out the beets—he likes his beets roasted!). He makes the magic brew, sets aside the crazy-mommy version, then adds a banana to the mixture for himself and his dad. Sometimes I pour mine back into the blender and add beets. Or even garlic! You can make a serving for one or four depending on the size of your blender; it’s a scalable enterprise…who’s hungry? Try having family member take turns each day. Whomever creates the winning recipe gets the Chef of the Week award and everyone has to call him or her Chef ____________.
It’s literally fast food! You can down a Smoothie in just a few minutes. It hits the spot and will satiate you. It’s a win-win if you are busy or running late and want to do right by your kids. The best Smoothies have it all— carbs (fruits and veggies), protein (nuts, yogurt), and fat (coconut oil, avocado). Remember that processed carbs like cereal, toast, and pancakes will give your kids quick energy but will also spike their blood sugar. This matters—a lot. These high glycemic foods create a cycle of sugar cravings and crashes and set your kid on the path to obesity and diabetes. Smoothies are a fast Superfood!
Fosters independence and pride. Start making Smoothies together as a fun family project. Give your kids a small part. Then give them a bigger part. Then set them free and encourage them to do it all. Pretty soon they’ll get up in the morning and make their own breakfast! Or they’ll come home from school and make their own snack. Or they can take a break from remote learning and whip up a hunger buster without relying on you. They can even sip it while they learn online.
The gift of health. All it takes is getting very sick to realize that there is nothing more important than your health. Fruits and vegetables are packed with nature’s most stunning natural medicine. The compounds in these foods have been the subject of extensive research because of their role in a strong, resilient immune system. But they also have incredible healing power and demonstrate an ability to reverse disease in lab and animal studies. Your kids may complain as you wean them off simple carbs. But the reward is that their taste buds will slowly change and they will come to like plants and enjoy trying new ones. And you will be setting them up for a life of good health.
Drink to your health!
(But what should I drink, you ask?)