My kids have always been great about eating lots of fruits. They have even been pretty good about veggies, as long as they are cooked. They will eat broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, asparagus, and the like, with very little probing. However, green leafy vegetables have always been a problem.
I blame myself. I like hot food and also prefer my veggies hot. Salads have never been my favorite but I force myself to eat leafy vegetables because I know how good they are for me. But I am an adult and can force myself to stomach something I do not prefer for the sake of my health. My kids do not have this conviction, yet. They are still hung up on taste and preference. In an effort to get more leafy vegetables into my diet and the kids, I tried a variety of methods.
I found the best way (and only way for us) was with a smoothie.
I found a smoothie recipe that works through a lot of trial and error. My three ‘secret’ ingredients that I cannot leave out (for now) are whole milk greek plain yogurt, a banana, and a straw. The straw is vital. They prefer to drink out of a straw and if that’s what it takes, let them have it. I keep a hefty stock of straws on hand at all times. I can play with the rest of the ingredients based on what I may have in my fridge, but it has to contain the greek yogurt and the banana or the kids will not drink it. The Greek yogurt adds the fat my kids need with little sugar. It also makes the smoothie creamy and the tartness of Greek yogurt does a good job covering the greens I put in (and I put in a lot!). I also realized when I leave a banana out my kids do not like the taste. The banana does a good job of covering the vegetables and has a familiar taste my kids are used to and like.
I would love to get rid of these two ingredients because they do add sugar but the idea was to get more leafy vegetables into their diet and I plan to pull back slowly on the items I would rather not have in the smoothie over time. My recipe is fluid based on what I have on hand but I will give a breakdown of the most common ingredients.
1 cup leafy green vegetables. I mostly use spinach and kale or both.
1/4 cup chopped and peeled beets
3/4 cup whole milk Greek plain yogurt
1/2 cup berries (any kind)– Sometimes I use frozen, sometimes I use fresh. Any berries work, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries sometimes all of the above if I am trying to use them up before they go bad.
1 cup water and ice- My kids like their smoothie a little more watery than I prefer or I think most people prefer. Add water and Ice to taste.
Liquid Children’s Omega 3- OPTIONAL. Add According to package directions and always check with your pediatrician before using supplements or vitamins for your kids, needs vary. I often use smoothies as an opportunity to add probiotics or liquid vitamin boosters (like vitamin D or C, or right now, Omega 3).
PB2 or natural Peanut Butter- OCCASIONALLY, I put this in sometimes as a little treat, especially on days they will be very active. My kids like the nutty flavor. I do not want them used to always having it in their smoothie, so it’s a sometimes treat. Of course, do not add if your children have a nut allergy.
I put optional next to some of the ingredients, but besides the vegetables, all the ingredients are optional based on your taste and needs. You may need to adjust this smoothie to match the taste of your kids. I put in a good month or two of different amounts and ingredients before I found one that would work consistently for everybody.
My goal was more leafy veggies and I did not want to give up.
It was important for me to remember this was (and is) a process. In the very beginning I added honey to sweeten the smoothie, the kids seemed to need it at the time to drink the smoothie. Over time, I slowly used less and less honey, and now I use known at all. It was temporary to meet the long term goal of more veggies. I used to have an all or nothing approach to vegetable eating, they just didn’t like it, so why keep trying. Then I realized we could work towards this goal, it did not have to be all or nothing. I hope to continue to tailor it back little by little so the kids can get used to a more purely vegetable smoothie taste and maybe even eat some leafy vegetables that are not in a smoothie!