Protein smoothies may sound like an adult food option, but they can be perfect for your child as well.
This is especially true if they're an athlete who needs more protein than their sedentary counterpart. Protein smoothies are also perfect for picky eaters. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of protein smoothies for your kids and why they're a great option.
"Most kids are picky eaters—I have two—and it can be hard to make sure they are getting the required nutrients when they don't like veggies and only want chicken nuggets or macaroni. It can be nice to incorporate a smoothie now and again," said Brandi Grimmer, Nutritional Consultant for Keystone Pharmacy.
1. They're a valuable source of protein.
Children need protein to help their bodies grow, but it can be hard to give them enough. Especially in their younger years, when they may only want one or two foods and refuse to eat anything else. This is when nutritional gaps happen, and protein smoothies can help you eliminate or reduce that gap.
Start by determining if your child needs more protein by checking the current USDA recommendations:
- Ages 2 to 3 need 2 ounces
- Ages 4 to 8 need 4 ounces
- Girls ages 9 to 18 need 5 ounces
- Boys ages 9 to 13 need 5 ounces
- Boys ages 14 to 18 need 6.5 ounces
If you're not sure whether your kid is getting enough protein, keep track for a week using a notebook or an app on your phone. If you find they're coming up short, protein smoothies can be the perfect supplemental option. Before you start serving protein smoothies, make sure you choose the best protein powder. Grimmer suggests:
"Protein powders can come from a variety of sources. The most popular is whey, but that might not be ideal if you have a milk sensitivity. Other options are soy, rice, pea, and hemp. Ideally, the protein powder should not have an added sugar or artificial sugars. It also won't do you any good to add in protein and it is sourced from GMOs and not organic."
Finally, Grimmer noted, the total amount of protein in your child's smoothie should not exceed 10 grams.
2. They'll make your busy life easier.
You live a busy life that never seems to slow down. Protein smoothies are a convenient food option for your busiest days. First: They're they easy to make—toss everything into a blender, pour and go—and clean up is minimal. Second: You can take them on-the-go, whether you're heading to school or soccer practice. Just pour it into a cup with a lid and straw and head out the door.
To make your life even easier, prep smoothie bags every Sunday, adding chopped fruits and veggies, and toss them into the freezer. When you're ready, pour the bag into the blender with your liquid and protein powder, and blend.
3. You can sneak veggies in.
Picky eater or not, it can be hard to get your kids to eat their veggies. Protein smoothies make that easier than ever because you can sneak them in without your kids knowing:
"Boost the fiber and nutrient value of protein shakes for kids by blending in some vegetables—and if you know your little one will protest, keep this as a secret ingredient. While adding vegetables significantly increases the health value of their protein shake, it doesn't change the flavor when added with fruit, a natural sweetener or just tasty protein powder," according to the guide Secrets to Making the Best Protein Shakes for Kids.
The veggies to add without sacrificing flavor include:
- Roasted sweet potato
- Canned pumpkin
When choosing ingredients for your protein smoothies, focus on veggies the most. Ideally, you want your smoothie to contain far more veggies. Most times, smoothies are all fruit. Fill at least half of the blender or container with greens. Then add the fruit, maybe one or two fruits, Grimmer suggested.
What's even better: Kids love weirdly colored foods, so they may be even more excited to indulge in their bright green or orange smoothie.
4. Your kids will eat more whole foods.
Smoothies inherently encourage eating whole foods, but you can eliminate the one ingredient that's not a "whole food" and still reap the benefits. If you're not sure about protein powder, boost the nutritional value with whole foods that are high in healthy fats and protein.
"People are often surprised that you can get plenty of protein from a plant-based diet; it just takes a little more," said Grimmer. "For example, spinach contains 5 grams per cup. You can certainly 'beef up' your smoothie by adding in various nuts and seeds. Almonds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds can all add protein, 5 to 8 grams per serving."
Play with different protein options to find out what your kid loves best and then use that as your go-to.
5. Smoothies can help with constipation.
One way to help constipated children find regularity in their bowel movements is to boost their fiber intake, according to the National Institutes of Health. Smoothies are a great way to do that without arguing about eating peas, lentils and kale. Instead, blend these high-fiber foods into your child's smoothie:
- Chia seeds
To find more high-fiber foods for your kid's protein smoothies, check out this list from Today's Dietician.
Protein Smoothies for Your Kids
Are you ready to bring protein smoothies into your child's weekly routine?
First, Grimmer says, it's important to remember that your kid can have too much protein if you're not careful. "There is a danger in getting too much protein. Even the most active kids only need about 20 to 30 grams of protein, depending on age. Too much protein can result in weight gain, since any excess is stored."
That doesn't mean your child shouldn't have protein smoothies. They are important when your child isn't getting enough protein already, whether they're a picky eater or allergic to other common high-protein foods. Extremely active kids do need more protein than their sedentary counterpart—if they're not already getting enough.
To make sure your kid is getting the protein they need, follow the USDA guidelines noted above. If they need more, bring smoothies into your weekly routine. They're easy to make, with minimal cleanup, and can be taken on the go—perfect for your busy life that never seems to slow down.
Jessica Thiefels has been writing for more than 10 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.