Give your kids their daily fruit servings in a smoothie

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Smoothies and kids are a natural combination. When made well, smoothies taste great, are easily portable, and can provide some of those five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables kids are supposed to get every day.

Some smoothies contain yogurt, which can boost the nutritional content with protein and calcium, but add fat. Others are more like a fruit purée, thickened with ice and other ingredients, natural or otherwise. The smoothie revolution has hit the grocery store, fast food chains and coffee shops and to many parents might seem like a healthy snack choice. As always, that depends.

Smoothies that are made from 100 percent fruit are nutritious in that they are a natural food, (no added sugar or preservatives). However, they can still be very high in natural sugar, often more than 30 grams of sugar in a small serving. This amount of sugar, even from natural sources such as fruit, can elevate blood sugar levels quickly. This can be concerning for young children, and a definite no-no for anyone with diabetes. The spike in blood sugar can be avoided by combining an all-fruit smoothie with a source of protein or fibre such as a piece of cheese, some yogurt or a handful of nuts.

There are big advantages to making your own smoothies instead of buying ready-made ones.

  • You can make flavour combinations that you know your child likes.
  • You can ensure appropriate portion size.
  • You can offset the high sugar content of fruit by adding protein sources such as plain yogurt, silken tofu, a raw egg, all natural protein powder, almond butter, hemp seeds, rice milk or almond milk before blending your smoothie. These protein sources can also be a great way to deal with picky eaters who aren’t fond of meat. 

The best thing about making your own smoothies for your family is how easy it is to “hide” some very healthy things. By adding dark purple berries such as blueberries or blackberries, you increase the antioxidant content as well as the fibre content. Boost the anti-oxidant level even more by adding acai powder and coconut water on the more exotic end. Even better – up the omega-3 fat content by sneaking in some flax oil or ground flax seed, chia seeds or hemp seeds. 

Once you get your family used to healthy homemade smoothies you can slowly shift them to a smoothie that contains not only fruit, protein, antioxidants and omega-3s, but also, greens! Start by adding small amounts of milk.

Originally published in ParentsCanada magazine, June/July 2011.

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