My clients often ask me for suggestions about what kinds of smoothies they should be giving to their kids, and I think my go-to answer might surprise you: the same smoothies you drink yourself. My 2-year-old daughter, Wynnie, and I love to share the same SWW smoothie. I pour her a four- to six-ounce cup after she's had her little gymnastics class or as a filling breakfast because it has everything for her nutritional needs.
There are three key components that I consider when making smoothies for anyone in my family, kids included: that they're low in sugar, contain a balanced amount of protein, and are loaded with fiber.
As any parent knows, kids go through phases of not eating protein or fiber-rich vegetables, although they almost always want to eat carbohydrates. Smoothies are a great way to sneak foods they're not eating — and the associated nutrients they're missing, like protein and fiber — into their diets.
Smoothies can also be an easy way to make sure kids are eating enough of the right things. If your little one tends to dawdle over breakfast, adding a smoothie helps you know that they got enough nutrients to start their day off right. Or, if they're craving something sweet, I love to make a chocolate smoothie and call it a chocolate milkshake, knowing that the fiber I added will help mitigate any glucose spike.
And lastly and most importantly: smoothie time is a great opportunity for fun. Have your kids help put the ingredients together. You'll find they'll be asking for smoothies every day, and you can relax a little knowing their nutritional needs are set.
One note: since my kids often don't get enough protein, I'm a fan of adding some protein powder or collagen to the smoothies I share with them — but that isn't the right move for all families.
"Protein powders can be a good option for children who are picky eaters or for those who are underweight, but it's always best to check with your pediatrician first," says New Jersey–based registered dietitian Lauren Torrisi-Gorra, MS, RD. In kids, too much protein has risks, including dehydration, GI issues, and even kidney damage, notes the Cleveland Clinic. If you do get the go-ahead, make sure to run the brand you're using by your kid's doctor too. "Choose brands that are third-party tested, as some brands can contain heavy metals in trace amounts," Torrisi-Gorra says.
But since kids don't need that much protein — about 13 to 19 grams a day for kids ages 1 to 8, but it depends on their weight — you can easily get enough from sources like dairy or nut butters instead.
These are five of my favorite smoothie recipes. Let's get to blending.
Sarah Wragge is the chief holistic nutritionist and CEO of Sarah Wragge Wellness and a mom of two.