By Jessica Thiefels of Honest Body Fitness
Did you know the percentage of children and adolescents affected by obesity in the U.S. has more than tripled since the 1970’s, according to the Center for Disease and Control? In fact, CDC’s data from 2015 to 2016 show that nearly 1 in 5 school age children and young people (6 to 19 years) in the United States has obesity.
Staying healthy is essential to your child’s happiness and it starts with eating a well-rounded diet filled with fruits, vegetables, healthy fat and plenty of nutrients. A healthy diet gives them the fuel and energy they need to learn and play and instills confidence and mental well-being. Maintaining a healthy diet, however, can be difficult. With minimal time to grocery shop and cook healthy meals, it can be the first thing that falls to the wayside. That’s why smoothies are a must-have in your house. Not only are they fast and easy to make, but there’s minimal clean up and your kid will get a much-needed boost of nutrition.
That doesn’t mean that every smoothie is healthy, however. Before you blend up some fruit and water, check out these simple ideas to make your child’s smoothies more nutritious, while still tasting great.
- Incorporate Leafy-Green Vegetables
Many parents struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables, especially nutrient-rich greens like kale, spinach and lettuce. Blending a couple of servings of vegetables into a smoothie helps your child meet his or her suggested daily intake of nutrients like iron, vitamin C and vitamin A. If you’re not sure how many servings of vegetables your child is supposed to have, head to Choose My Plate to find out.
If you’re worried that vegetables will ruin the taste or the weird color will turn your child off, Sally Kuzemchak, of Real Mom Nutrition shares one simple idea: “For some kids, drinking something green can be a tough sell. I know it was for mine. But all it took was a silly name–The Incredible Hulk Smoothie!–and a little a bit of sweetness. After that first sip? Sold.”
Borrow this idea from Kuzemchak, and give her Healthy Green Smoothie for Kids recipe a try too.
- Add Healthy Fats
In addition to vegetables, add some healthy fat. Fat helps nutrients absorb within the body, allowing your growing child to get the most from their smoothie.
Keep in mind, however, that fats are high in calories. "Even small amounts of fat are high in calories. For example, one tablespoon of almond butter has 9 grams of fat and one half of an avocado has about 15 grams of fat,” explains the guide, Secrets to Make the Best Protein Shakes for Kids.
To keep it in check, refer back your child's recommended daily intake of fat:
- 1 year: 30-40% of caloric intake
- 2-3 years: 30-35% of caloric intake
- 4-13 years: 25-35% of caloric intake
The same smoothie guide shares a helpful example and equation you can use to make sure you’re not adding too much fat to your child’s smoothies. An 8-year-old girl has a daily caloric intake recommendation of 1,200 calories. Her daily fat intake, then, should not exceed 420 calories, or 46 grams of fat. The equation to do this math yourself is:
- Total caloric intake x percentage (25-35%) = daily calories in fat
- Daily calories in fat / 9 (total number of calories in 1 gram of fat) = grams of fat per day
- Avoid Too Much Sugar
Smoothies are great for boosting nutrient intake, but be careful not to add too much sugar. It’s easy to toss handfuls of fruits into a blender without thinking about how much sugar you’re adding.
This is exacerbated if you toss in added sweeteners, or food with added sweeteners in them, like flavored yogurt for creaminess. According to the American Heart Association, kids ages 2 through 18 should have less than 25 grams of added sugar each day. That’s equal to six teaspoons.
Your kids are likely getting a lot of sugar from other foods throughout the day, so keep it to a minimum in their smoothie. To do so, keep an even ratio of fruits to vegetables and don’t add extra sweetener if you can avoid it.
Make Your Kids Smoothies More Nutritious
Smoothies are the perfect way to add more healthy foods into your child’s diet. Use these tips and ideas to make each one more nutritious and don’t forget to try Kuzemchak’s “Incredible Hulk Smoothie” if you’re child tends to be a picky eater.
BIO: Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than ten years and is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition specialist. She's also the founder and Editor-in-Chief of, Honest Body Fitness and loves using her writing to lift other women up and help families stay healthy. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.