Hiding pureed carrots in casseroles... Carefully creating a big smiley face with radishes and celery... Over-enthusiastically chowing down on kale (“mmm.. it’s SOO good, hunny!”)... This mama has tried every trick in the book but getting little ones to eat veggies is hard!
That is until it occurred to me...
I’ve been going about it all wrong. I need to stop trying to get my kids to EAT their veggies. Instead, I need to try to get them to DRINK their veggies!
Enter veggie smoothies.. Easy and fun to make, healthy, as well as super delicious.
Here are all the secrets and tips to making kid friendly smoothies with vegetables - including super yummy recipes.
Special Considerations When Making Smoothies for Kids
It goes without saying that if a smoothie doesn’t taste good, don’t expect your child to drink it. A good starting point is to ask yourself if it tastes good to you. If not, then it most likely will not taste good to them.
Some kids do enjoy the taste of veggies but unfortunately many do not. The vast majority of kids prefer sweet tastes (okay, and probably the vast majority of adults, too!).
Certain vegetables like carrots and beets have a natural sweetness. However, many do not (chard, anyone?).
This is where fruits come into play.
The natural sweetness of fruits are often very much prefered to bitter veggies. “But won’t fruits add a ton of sugar to my kids smoothies” you may ask...
Here's the deal:
The key is to focus on maximizing vegetable content and adding just enough fruit to make the smoothie palatable for kids.
One thing you can try is to start with a smoothie on the sweet side and each time you make it, add a little less fruit or sweetener and you will gradually shape your child’s taste buds to enjoy less sweet foods.
Be sure to decrease sweetness gradually or you can bet your little one will call you out!
You can look at it as a gradual process, which would take its time, rather than a quick “fix” to your child’s preferences. The results would be worth it.
Sweeteners like honey, agave, or maple syrup can also be added in small amounts to increase palatability. However, these are super concentrated sources of sugar so use them sparingly.
Texture is another key element to success in smoothie making for kids and adults alike. Most kids won’t drink a smoothie that is chunky, grainy, too thick or too thin.
Using a high performance or bullet blender is the easiest way to achieve an ideal texture. However, if this isn’t an option for you, there are a few other ways to alter texture.
Cooking vegetables can make them softer and easier to blend. The only downside to this is that cooking vegetables can cause the nutrient value to drop - especially if the veggies are cooked too long or at too high of a temperature.
If nut or seed additions are making your smoothie grainy, try grinding them into a fine powder in a coffee grinder before adding them.
If your smoothie is too thin, try adding nut butters such as peanut or almond butter, bananas, greek yogurt, or an avocado. These ingredients can turn a thin, watery drink into a thick and creamy smoothie.
While a murky brown colored smoothie may not be a big deal for veteran smoothie lover, it may be a deal breaker for a kid.
There are a few ways to deal with ugly smoothies.
The first is obvious - make prettier smoothies!
Smoothies often end up brownish when multiple colors of fruits and veggies are mixed together. So stick to one color scheme per smoothie and you should be able to get a nice hue.
Beets, berries, oranges, and mango all give a natural but strong color to smoothies.
Adding a strongly colored fruit or vegetable to a smoothie might sometimes save the day. Berries, mango or watermelon are good candidates.
(Many thanks to our reader Noline for this tip)
But, let’s be real, not all smoothies are going to be pretty colored. So, if your smoothie does end up brownish and unappealing try a colored cup!
You can buy your child a fun cup with a lid and straw and use it just for veggie smoothies. This way the color of the smoothie is a non-issue!
Throw in a cute garnish like whole pieces of fruit, a little umbrella, or even a curly straw! Spending a few extra minutes to make the smoothie look nice is really worth the effort with kids.
I do not recommend using food coloring. Many artificial coloring agents are common allergens. Some studies have also linked them to cancer.
Bottom line? Keep it natural and use natural coloring (or covering up!) to make your veggie smoothies appealing to kids.
Giving a smoothie a fun, kid-friendly name is a great way to encourage them to try it.
You can make the name relate to the ingredients or color, like “Bunny Blues” for a smoothie that contains blueberries and carrots.
You can use your child’s favorite cartoon characters, animals, or sports teams. For example, an orange drink called “The Tiger Energy Smoothie” or a red smoothie called the “Chicago Bulls Blast Off Smoothie”.
Or you can include the child’s name in the title, like “Danny’s Dino Drink” or “Matt’s Muscle Maker Smoothie”.
Use your creativity here. Trust me, it doesn’t have to make sense as long as it is enticing to your child!
Keys to Making Smoothies That Are Actually Healthy
Kids do not need adult sized smoothies!
Serving portion sizes that are too large can contribute to excess calorie consumption and subsequent weight issues.
Serving sizes are typically created with adults in mind. So, a recipe that makes “one large smoothie” may actually have four or more servings for your little one.
If you are making smoothies for toddlers, 4 oz is plenty. For an older child, 5-8 oz is appropriate.
I know that doesn’t sound (or look) like much but it is plenty for your little one’s little tummy.
The Right Amounts of Fruits and Veggies
Again, focus on the veggies! Basically any veggie can be added to a smoothie in fresh, frozen, or cooked form.
Throw in a handful of greens or ½ a cup of frozen broccoli. Use beet or carrot juice as a base. Mix in some steamed carrots or green beans.
Always aim to have more veggies than fruit in a smoothie
- Children 2-3 years old only need 1 cup of fruit per day.
- Children 4-8 years old only need 1-1 ½ cups of fruit per day.
- Children 9-18 only need 1 ½ - 2 cups per day.
It is easy to exceed those amounts in a single smoothie so be sure to take into account how much fruit in smoothies and all the other fruit your child is eating in a day.
The Right Amount of Protein
So many smoothies these days are focused on protein content. And with good reason!
Lots of health conscious adults are now consuming high protein / low carbohydrate diets.
Protein powder sales are through the roof!
But what about protein in kids smoothies? Should you use protein powder?
The answer is one that you will hear me give often - it depends 🙂
Kids do not need nearly as much protein as adults and thus protein powder isn’t often necessary.
However, there are a few situations in which it may be helpful.
For instance, children who are very picky eaters may avoid animal products or other high protein foods. In this instance, throwing a little protein powder into a smoothie may be an excellent way to meet a growing kid’s protein requirements.
Another instance when I think using protein powder in a smoothie is a good idea is for a kid who is trying to gain weight or muscle mass. This may be an underweight child or a very active older child who is in sports.
Just know if you do decide to use protein powder, go easy on it!
A single scoop often contains 20 grams of protein (although this varies a lot by brand). That is more than a 40 pound kid probably needs in an entire day!
And (in my opinion) real foods are always the best option when it comes to protein.
Think greek yogurt, organic milk, nuts and nut butters, seeds, and legumes. Using these foods in smoothies can help you meet your kid’s protein needs without resorting to the powders.
Another factor to keep an eye on is calorie content.
Why does this matter?
If your child needs to gain weight, you can use high calorie foods like peanut butter and avocado to boost both their calorie and nutrient intake.
If your child does not need to gain weight, be mindful of these ingredients and don’t let them contribute to excess weight gain.
There are many foods that can be added to smoothies that have a high nutrient and low calorie content. These include celery, lettuce, cucumber, tomato, broccoli, grapefruit, lemon and limes to name just a few.
To see how many calories your child should be consuming daily check out MyPlate.com
Smoothies for Meals, Snacks, and Desserts
When making smoothies be sure to clarify what type of smoothie this is. What I mean by this is to be sure to let kids know that a smoothie is either a meal, snack, or dessert.
They may not be used to having a liquid meal and may need a little help understanding this at first. You can use the following information to help explain it to them.
Some smoothies are well balanced and include protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. These smoothies are often quite filling and should be thought of as a meal or hearty snack - not as a beverage to be consumed in addition to an already calorie adequate meal.
Having smoothies for breakfast is one of the most common ways to use smoothies as a meal. Protein smoothies for kids can be a great quick meal for kids on the go.
You can even incorporate traditional breakfast items like oatmeal and orange juice to make fun breakfast smoothies for kids.
Smoothies can also be used as desserts. Instead of uber processed and non-nutritious cookies, cakes, and candy you can serve a vitamin rich smoothie!
You can even make healthy milkshakes for kids! (See the delicious recipe below!) Use banana or avocado (or both!) to duplicate the creamy, richness of a traditional dairy milkshake.
Skip the chocolate syrup and or malt powder and instead use unsweetened cocoa powder, vanilla extract, vanilla or chocolate flavored nut milks to add a little flavor. Or even better, throw in some real strawberries!
Fun with Smoothies
If your child is hesitant to try smoothies, there are a few ways to help them have fun with it.
Making Smoothies with Your Kids
Letting a child help to make their smoothie is a great way to get them interested in trying them and to educate them on nutrition.
You can include them on every step of the process including picking out produce at the grocery store, washing the produce at home, measuring the ingredients and even pushing the button on the blender.
Of course, your child’s safety should be top priority here.
Keep younger kids away from knives, blender blades, cords and electrical sockets.
Be sure to educate them on the dangers of taking the cover off of the blender while the blades are moving and always unplug the blender immediately after you finish making your smoothie.
Preventing food borne illness is also a key priority here. Make sure kids wash their hands before helping and throughout the smoothie making process, as needed.
Remember, safety first!
Check out this video showing how your little one can help make a healthy smoothie:
Rainbow Smoothie of the Day
Utilizing the natural, beautiful colors of fruits and vegetables is a great way to educate kids on nutrition as well as assure they are getting a variety of nutrients.
Try making a different colored smoothie each day of the week and educating the kids on the health benefits associated with each color of produce.
For instance, red on Mondays, orange on Tuesdays, yellow on Wednesdays, green on Thursdays, blue on Fridays, purple/indigo on Saturdays, and kid’s choice on Sundays!
Educate your kids on how the color of produce can give you a clue as to some of the health benefits. For older kids, educate on the individual nutrients in different colors of produce. For example:
- Red produce often contains lycopene which is good for heart health!
- Orange and yellow produce may contain carotenoids which help your immune system and improve your eyesight!
- Green fruits and veggies often contain vitamin K which helps build strong bones!
- Blue and purple fruits and veggies often contain anthocyanins that can improve your memory!
- White produce usually has lots of fiber that is good for your digestion!
For younger kids, keep it simple:
- Red fruits and veggies make your heart healthy!
- Orange veggies help you see better!
- Yellow veggies keep you from getting sick!
- Green foods make you strong!
- Blue and purple fruits and veggies make you smarter!
- White veggies make your tummy feel better!
Where do you find recipes for all these colors of smoothies? Check out our recipe page!
Smoothie Party Ideas
Another great way to spread your love of smoothies is a smoothie party! Smoothies can be a great replacement for snacks or sweets at a kid’s birthday party.
You can really have fun with smoothies and serve them as a fun dessert or a “side-dish” alongside a meal.
Parties are a great time to make a few different colors of smoothies and then layer then in a clear cup making a “rainbow smoothie”.
Kids will love this - and parents will too since the children will be getting a burst of nutrients rather than just refined sugar!
Be sure to find out if any of the children at the party have allergies to any of the ingredients you intend to use before making the smoothies.
Food allergies should be taken VERY seriously.
A child with peanut allergies, for instance, could have a severe reaction even if they have a non-peanut containing smoothie that was made in a blender that still had a tiny amount of peanut residue in it.
And now for my favorite part...
Three Easy Smoothie Recipes for Kids
Moral of the Story
In sum, creating healthy, vegetable smoothies for kids may require a few extra considerations like extra attention to appearance and texture.
But by paying attention to the nutrition needs of kids and tailoring the recipes to your child’s preferences, you can easily create healthful blends your kids will love.
And don’t lose hope if your little one makes a face at your first attempt! Just alter your recipe or try a new one.
Have fun with it and use your (and your child’s) creativity!
Do you have any veggie smoothie recipes that your kids love? If so, please share below.
Be sure to share this article with other parents you know! Let’s all bring home better nutrition that’s so fun and delicious that it easily become a healthy habit.