Anyone who knows my family, knows we are obsessed with smoothies. I began making smoothies for my son when he was a year and a half. Back then, we didn’t know he had a wheat allergy and he was a very poor eater and very thin. I tried everything to get him to eat, but I couldn’t consistently get nutrient rich foods into his diet without a fight. I began experimenting with smoothies as a way to “sneak” fruits and veggies into his diet. To my delight, my son really loved smoothies. I could finally get some comfort knowing that every day he got some fruit and veggies into his belly, even if the rest of the day consisted of goldfish crackers.
Now fast forward to today and both my kids are smoothie masters. I can easily load their smoothies up with fresh greens like kale or spinach, raw seeds and nuts, extras like goji berries, and only a date for sweetness. They will gladly skip their Udi’s bagel for a smoothie at breakfast time. That said, there are days when they don’t feel like drinking a smoothie or they don’t like my ingredient combination, but I’ll take a day like that knowing that most days they get a powerhouse smoothie filled with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and healthy fats.
I started making smoothies daily for both my husband and me almost a year ago and I’ve never looked back. I use the smoothie as my breakfast. I feel energized and refreshed after drinking it and it keeps me full until my mid-morning snack time (~3-4 hours). It also sparks my creative juices (no pun intended). Every morning I get to create something special by combining what I have on hand.
I started out making smoothies using a regular $30 blender, then about 9 months ago we upgraded to a Vitamix (best money I ever spent!!!). I think you can easily create delicious and nutritious smoothies with a basic blender, but if you have the money, the Vitamix or other high-powered blender is fantastic. The biggest advantage of the high-powered blender is the ability to pulverize pretty much everything. It gives you a much wider range of ingredient options and combinations. If you want to experiment making smoothies, start with your run of the mill kitchen blender and see how you like it. If you really enjoy including smoothies into your diet, I suggest upgrading to a high-powered blender.
One final note before I get to my first smoothie recipe. When I talk to people about including smoothies in my kids diet, I always get asked how I serve it. My kids are 2 and 4, so giving them a giant glass cup filled with a fruit/veggie concoction ready to stain my rug, is not an option. I use kids sippy cups with a straw that don’t leak when they get tipped. My youngest likes the Explora Easiflow bottles and my oldest uses the Playtex sippy cups with the straw. If your child is sensitive to the color of the smoothie, a kiddie cup that you can’t see through works great. One draw back with these cups is the straws are narrow and can easily get clogged with smoothie clumps. This is a non-issue with the Vitamix blender, but when I used my old kitchen blender I had to be more meticulous about making sure everything got blended, and de-clog on occasion.
My first smoothie recipe for Family Gluten Free is…
Orange Cream Smoothie
I picked an orange-based smoothie for this month because I feel like I always have oranges around the house this time of year. I think we are all yearning for some seasonal fruit and what is available is sparse. All the varieties of oranges at the grocery store give a little ray of sunlight into these bleak dreary days. Also, oranges store great in the fridge and they are cheap!
This smoothie recipe makes 2 large servings, but you can easily cut it down as needed. Smoothies aren’t like baking, you don’t have to be precise and you can adjust per your individual taste. For example, you may not have to add extra sweetness if your banana is really ripe.
For this smoothie, I typically use a navel orange, but if you are not using a high-powered blender, you can use a less fibrous orange, like a clementine or even some fresh squeezed orange juice (~1/2 cup). One side note: bananas freeze great. I always stock our fruit bowl with bananas because if they get too ripe before we eat them, I just peel them and place them in a Ziploc in the freezer. They will get a little brown, but they are perfect for smoothies or baking.
I always add seeds to my smoothies. They don’t really have much taste and they really boost the nutrition value of the smoothie. For this recipe, I use chia seeds. Chia seeds have healthy fats and few people know that they are full of calcium. I think they compliment the smoothie, but feel free to use what you have (flax, sesame, hemp seeds all work great). Also, my go-to sweetener is medjool dates. If you haven’t tried them, please do, they are fantastic. You can find them in the produce section of any grocery store. Not only do they have a ton of potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin B-6, and magnesium, but they give a soft overall sweetness that I really enjoy. If you don’t want to use dates or you are not using a high-powered blender, you can use any other natural sweetener, such as honey (raw is better), maple syrup (Grade B is better), or agave nectar.
Any greens work great in this smoothie, but baby spinach is always a winner. However, you can use any greens on hand, such as kale or lettuce. Frozen kale also works great or sometimes I just take a handful of mixed salad greens I have in the fridge. If you use kale, I recommend baby kale or the flat leafed kale. The curly kale tends to make the smoothie pulpy. My kids usually won’t go for it.
I love coconut water. I don’t enjoy it on its own, but in a smoothie it will not add any flavor, while boosting it with potassium and naturally occurring electrolytes (great alternative to Gatorade). However, coconut water is expensive. If you don’t want the added expense or if you don’t have it on hand, you can use regular water. I like soy milk in this recipe because it is creamy and I love orange and cream together. There is a lot of controversy over soy milk and you may be avoiding it for health reasons or because of an allergy. If this is the case, feel free to use any non-dairy milk (coconut, almond, rice, oat, etc.). I try to avoid dairy in my smoothies because it is hard for me to digest. However, if you prefer, you can certainly use milk or even add a scoop of plain yogurt. I provided liquid measurements in my recipe, but you may need more or less depending on your thickness preference.
Now, ready, set, blend, enjoy!
- 1 small banana or ½ large banana
- 1 navel orange (peeled and hard top removed)
- 2-3 ice cubes
- 1 tbsp raw chia seeds
- 1-2 medjool dates (remove pit)
- 1 handful of baby spinach
- ½ cup soy milk, or other non-dairy milk
- 2 cups coconut water
- Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth and enjoy!