So, I’m going to level with you. One of my least favorite things about feeding finger foods to my baby is that I sometimes feel like I spend hours of my day with a cutting board and knife, chopping all kinds of food into little baby pieces. Enter one of my favorite healthy treats: a smoothie. Just add the ingredients to the blender, calm your children’s fears that nothing bad will happen from the loud, loud noise (and tell your toddler that, no, we can’t go buy a “quiet” blender), blend it for a couple minutes, and voila! You now have a delicious healthy meal that works for moms, toddlers, and babies alike.
Then, I discovered something else. You can actually sneak in those taboo vegetables that a toddler isn’t interested in touching with a 10 foot pole, and they’ll never be the wiser. I can honestly say both my kids regularly eat spinach without complaint. Do they know they’re eating it? Well, no. But, they’re eating it nonetheless. And, when they go through picky stages, I can just smile and say, “Okay. That’s fine. I’m not going to battle with you over it. Want another popsicle?”
Popsicle?! Yes, y’all, it gets even better. Sometimes, I freeze my smoothies in popsicle molds so that – as an extra special treat – my children can eat 3 servings of spinach, kale, blueberries, banana, and peaches. And, they think I’m a super fun mom to boot!
As I make my smoothies (and popsicles), I tend to just mix whatever I think sounds good together, but I’ll include a couple sample recipes below to get you started.
First, though, comes the art of making a sneakily healthy smoothie. There are 4 main ingredient categories:
- Vegetables. I use anything from spinach or kale to carrots or broccoli. How much you add will depend on how sensitive your children are to the vegetables’ taste and color; I’d recommend starting small and increasing it as their taste buds accustom to the flavor.
If your children are especially wary of anything green, you’ll want to start by adding only the veggies to the blender. Blend that until it is in teeny tiny pieces before you add anything else. By the time you blend in other ingredients, they’ll hardly see a trace of green. If they’re really opposed to greens, make sure to add blueberries, strawberries, or another darkly colored fruit to hide the green flecks.
- Yogurt. I use whole milk plain yogurt because I want my kids to have the good fats and probiotics without the added sugar that comes with most flavored yogurt. The added fruit makes the smoothies sweet enough, so I start with the healthiest yogurt base possible.
- Fruits. This is the fun part and what most kids will actually want to see going into their smoothies. You can even let your kids choose what they want (and add it in themselves). Sometimes, I get out all our frozen and fresh fruits and let Beach Girl add in what she’d like. Really, nearly any combinations and proportions work well and it’s fun to experiment with all different flavor combinations. To make it easiest (and cheapest), I use almost entirely frozen fruit.
- Water. This is just to help make the smoothie easier to blend and to drink through a straw. I usually add a little bit in the blender and then extra into their sippy cups so that their smoothies are more runny and easier to drink than mine. You also could add fruit juice, but with the high concentration of sugar in juice (even if it’s pure fruit juice), I’d rather just add water.
To help you get started, here are two of our recent favorite combinations (Disclaimer: I don’t really measure these anymore; I just eyeball it and go with personal preference. But, I think these proportions should be yummy!):
1 avocado, peeled and pitted
1/2 cup pineapple
3/4 cup mango
1 whole orange, peeled and checked for any seeds
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, added as needed to make it blend well
1 handful of spinach
1 cup of strawberries
3/4 cup blueberries
1 – 1 1/2 cups yogurt
Water, as needed to make it blend well
Do you have any favorite green smoothie recipes or other ways to help your kids eat their vegetables? I’d love to hear them!