Nothing says “Hello, summer,” quite like a smoothie. Smoothies are also a great way to engage kids in some culinary play. Offering ample room for choice and creativity, taking very little time, and yielding a sweet treat that can give the ice cream truck a run for its money, smoothies are prime for playing with.
Spin off from the basic template.
We’ve got a great batch of smoothie recipes in our recipe database, but let’s talk budget: smoothies can be expensive. If you have to go out and purchase a long list of unique items you don’t usually have on hand, the costs can add up quickly. Consider these notes on how to build a smoothie around a template and look for inspiration at home.
Budget tip: Any fruit that’s gone too soft for eating fresh can be peeled, chopped, and frozen. That super ripe frozen fruit is perfect for smoothies.
The best smoothies for kids are going to be on the sweet side, which means packed with fruit. The great thing is that tons of fruits work together to make awesome combinations. This is a wonderful chance to let your kids pick 2-3 fruits to personalize their smoothies. To keep the recipe budget-friendly, choose in-season fruits that are on sale, frozen fruits, or canned fruit packed in 100% juice. Look for packaged products that earn Guiding Stars to avoid products with surprising added sugars.
You can add leafy greens for a better-rounded nutritional profile. With most kids, greens with a neutral flavor will go over better. Baby spinach works well, as does kale. My favorite thing to do is to buy a big bag of chopped, washed kale and toss is right into the freezer. I crunch off handfuls for my smoothies: pre-frozen greens mean colder smoothies.
Whether you’re having a small portion of a smoothie for a snack to bridge you between meals or a full smoothie as a light, easy meal, you want fiber and protein to help you feel full. These are a few of my favorite mix-ins:
- Rolled oats
- Plain yogurt
- Nut or seed butters
- Ground flaxseed
All of the above is going to require some liquid to come together. Personally, I get enough calories from other ingredients for my purposes, so I just use water to mix. Milks, dairy and otherwise, might be appropriate, depending on the needs of the person you’re feeding. Plain coconut water can be a nice smoothie liquid, if a pricey choice. Juice is generally best to limit.
Mess with your form.
Drinking a great smoothie straight can be akin to drinking a milkshake or slushie: sweet, cold, maybe creamy. Great stuff. Variety, however, is the spice of life, and one easy way to get variety with your smoothies is to serve the malleable liquid up in different forms.
Pour any smoothie mix into a popsicle mold and freeze. Note that higher sugar content and larger molds require longer times in the freezer. If you can plan ahead to let the popsicles freeze overnight to be eaten the next day, you’ll have better luck.
This is the fastest freezing method. It’s also the messiest to eat, which can be a bonus for some kids. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, wax paper, plastic wrap, or a silicone baking sheet: whatever you have. Pour the smoothie mix in an even layer and freeze. Lift up the lining and break the mix into chunks.
Smoothie mixes do not generally make great ice cream when frozen in a solid hunk. I know. I’ve tried. They might work okay in an ice cream freezer if you happen to have one, but I haven’t tested that. (I will report back if I get a chance to.) What does work, however, especially with fruit-heavy mixes, is the granita technique. Pour your mix into a pan so you have a fairly shallow layer and stir it every 30 minutes. Once it’s frozen solid, you scrape slivers off, ending up with a texture similar to shaved ice.