While health trends are often changing, the one message that has always remained consistent is how important it is to get plenty of fresh, whole fruits and vegetables for optimal health. Add in some small and notoriously picky eaters to manage and it can often be difficult to make sure that your family is getting the right amount and the right variety of fruits and vegetables that they need to stay healthy and boost immunity. One easy way to get the proper amount is in a green smoothie.
What exactly is a green smoothie?
It is simply a smoothie that combines any combination of raw vegetables and fruits. Many people also use smoothies to add extra “superfoods” to their diets. In truth, there are many nutritious extras that can be great additions, but a diverse diet of whole fruits and vegetables (the darker and most brightly colored the better) are what you need. Green smoothies are quick and easy to make and drink giving your body all the servings it needs in a day.
Did you know?
There are numerous health benefits to eating whole fruits and vegetables. Children especially need the nutrients derived from fresh produce to grow strong and healthy. Eating a wide variety gives all ages the essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber it needs to guard against many chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and two common causes of vision loss: cataracts and macular degeneration.
The average American eats only 3 servings day, but to see the greatest health benefit, you need at least five servings a day. Children need the same number of servings, although their serving sizes are smaller. To see how many servings (now listed as cups) of fruits and vegetables a day you and your family need, use this handy calculator based on age and level of physical activity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Multi-vitamins do not count toward the recommended intake of fruits and vegetables. Fruit juice can, although you will not get the fiber necessary through juice alone. The experts say that the majority of your vitamins and minerals should come through whole foods.
Dark leafy greens are a great source of a healthy combination of proteins, calcium, iron, vitamins A, B12, C and K, beta-carotene, folic acid and fiber. However, these same leafy greens can be hard for the digestive system to break apart and absorb all of the essential nutrients. Putting those leafy greens in a blender for a smoothie breaks the cell walls apart allowing the body access to the good stuff inside.
Green smoothies are an easy way to sneak in some less palatable vegetables because the sweetness of the fruits can help disguise those green ingredients. If you have a picky eater, there is no reason you have to tell them you just put a bunch of spinach or kale in their delicious smoothie! More adventurous eaters may find it fun to see how good those green leafy vegetables really are, especially when you put in a bunch of strawberries or the like.
Want a few tips to get you started?
- High-powered blenders may be helpful, but most household blenders will do just fine, especially when you are just starting out.
- Search online for recipes or get a book from the library to find some tried-and-true recipes, then just start experimenting with ingredients to see what you and your kids like.
- Start with just a few ingredients per smoothie, but try to incorporate a wide variety throughout the week (or month).
- Use a healthy fat in your smoothie to help your body absorb the nutrients better: coconut (milk, meat, or oil), avocado, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed, shelled hemp seed, almonds, cashews, walnuts.
- Colder is usually better. Use frozen fruit or ice cubes to chill your smoothie.
- Shoot for a 50-50 mix of fruits and vegetables to start and see if you can work your way up to 60-40 favoring vegetables.
Sample of Ingredients (opt for organic, local, and in season whenever possible):
apples (remove seeds)
pitted or dried cherries
coconut oil or milk
raw (unroasted) almonds
*I would encourage everyone to learn more about these “superfoods” and their health benefits before adding them to your smoothies. If you have any health concerns, allergies, or are pregnant, please consult your doctor.
A couple of sample kid-friendly recipes:
- 3 cups red chard, 2 cups blueberries, 1 banana, 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1 tbsp chia seeds, and ice.
- 3 cups heirloom lettuce blend, 1 cup spinach, 1/4 cup unsweetened canned coconut milk, 1/2 cup water, 3/4 cup pineapple with juice, 1 tbsp chia seeds, and 1 chunk of ginger.
- 1 stalk celery, 3 cups spinach, 1 tbsp bee pollen, 3 tbsp shelled hemp seeds, 1 cup unsweetened coconut milk, 1 cup water, and 2 cups strawberries.
What do you think you will try first?