Smoothies for Babies + Toddlers

…and their parents + grandparents, too

Throughout my life, smoothies have been a lifesaver. You put a bunch of things in the blender, then turn it on – it really is that easy. Done right, they are that old cliché – delicious AND nutritious. And reasonably inexpensive. And very little to clean up after, too (especially if you drink from the blender!)

But then you have a kid, and everything changes. Or, does it?

We actually started making smoothies for our daughter when she was less than a year old. It seemed like a great first step towards expanding her taste horizons, and an easy way to introduce fish oil, vitamin D, probiotics, etc. At the same time, I was a little apprehensive about introducing strong flavors and “grown-up” nutrients. So, the first few weeks, I’d make bland “baby food” smoothies just for her – mostly bananas and yogurt. That didn’t last long. Soon enough, was pouring her the same stuff as the grown-ups, and she was thriving on it.

Our smoothies are still mostly what I’ll call “culinary,” i.e. made from real food ingredients that taste great. But they are also a vehicle for “sneaking” all sorts of nutrition into the diet without being too sneaky about it. Not just the usual protein, fats, and fiber, but also nutrients for brain development, immune function, regularity, etc. We’ll talk about some of those below.

Each smoothie is named (by our daughter) after its color, who will occasionally express a strong preference for one over the other. However, most important in our household is matching the color of the smoothie with the color of the reusable silicone straw.

What do I need to have – and need to know – before I start making smoothies?

First, you’re going to need a powerful blender. We use nuts and seeds in our smoothies. We use tough fresh ginger. So, a $5 garage sale blender won’t cut it – literally. Although I suppose you could get around it by using nut butters instead of fresh nuts…

Second, you are going to need to spend some money on ingredients. Smoothies are not expensive on a per diem basis. But your startup costs – when you buy a 2-pound sack of protein powder, 5 pounds of frozen fruit, chia seed, probiotics, nuts, oils, etc. all at once — will be significant.

Third, you need to understand frozen fruit is better than fresh. If you’ve got fresh, freeze it overnight.

Finally, you need to embrace creativity. More than any other “genre” of food, smoothies are about improvisation and using what you’ve got. Take these recipes as suggestions only. Follow the format of some sweet, some fat, some protein, some fiber, and whatever comes out will be good.

Ingredients that go into Every Smoothie:

Vitamin D drops. Myriad benefits around immune function, bone health, and even mood. We make vitamin D when sun hits our skin. So, if we’re out getting sun a few days a week, this is not really necessary. When we’re not, 5,000-10,000 i.u. per blender (3,333 iu per person) is a good, robust target dose.

A probiotic. Helps you stay regular. Keeps the immune system on an even keel. Myriad benefits beyond that. I switch around brands. Most days, I open up a capsule somewhere in the 50 billion strength range, usually from Jarrow or Garden of Life.

Medicinal mushrooms or other sources of immune-stimulating polysaccharides. I put around 2 big squirts of liquid extract in the blender every day. Right now, I’m using an immune-building herb called astragalus, which tastes like nothing. Historically, I’ve used a mushroom blend. When my daughter has eczema flareups I switch to a mushroom called reishi, which is a little better at redirecting inappropriate immune responses, but also had a woody taste that peeks through.

Lecithin. Lecithin is a phospholipid (sort of a kind of fat) rich in choline, which is crucial to brain development. We find choline in fish, in egg yolks, and in some nuts and seeds. The link between choline in pregnancy and brain development is clear and compelling. The link after birth isn’t very well elucidated yet. But I’m thinking, why not throw some in? First, it is an emulsifier, so it keeps oil and water from separating. (And helps mom and dad with their cholesterol). It makes the smoothie creamier. It tastes like nothing. It’s reasonably priced. I use 3 tablespoons per blender. Add it to the blender towards the end, as it tends to froth up. (My grandmother, Beatrice Stark, used to use Fearn liquid lecithin and drizzle some into the vortex as the smoothies she made were blending.)

Protein Powder: I don’t use milk or other protein-containing liquids. Here’s where I get my protein. You can use plant proteins. (The Debra’s brand is pretty good). But I use whey protein. First, dairy is more in line with a growing child’s nutritional needs. There are health benefits. And I like the taste. I use a plain, unsweetened, grass-fed undenatured whey, either the Debra’s brand, or the Native Whey from John’s Killer Protein. I shoot for around 60 grams of protein per smoothie (usually around 3 scoops, depending on brand), maybe less if the smoothie has lots of nuts in it.

Sweetener to taste. Most of our smoothies are fruit-based or have built-in sweeteners. So, you don’t “need” to add sweetener. But sometimes you want to. Maybe the fruit is tarter than average. Maybe you simply have a sweet tooth. I say “sweeten to taste” in all my recipes. The sweeteners I have at home are raw honey, jaggery (the most unrefined of unrefined sugars, redolent of molasses, caramel, and apricot), and stevia. Use what you want. But don’t overdo it. Remember, this is not dessert!

Chia Seeds and/or Jarrow Brand Prebiotic Fiber. Soluble fiber promotes regularity, gentle detoxification, and feeds your probiotic gut bacteria – which in turn promotes healthy immune function. Plus, these fibers thicken smoothies – especially the chia. Especially when I’m not using a banana, they add “body.” I use around 3 Tbsp combined per blender.

Water: once everything else is in the blender, top it up with as much water as you want, depending on your preference for thin vs. thick.

Fish oil used to go into every smoothie. Now, less so. Since our family eats so many other sources of healthy omega-3 fats (pastured eggs, canned sardines, wild fish), I no longer focus on it. I still do throw a teaspoon in most days. If my daughter’s eczema ever flared up again (or our diet changed), I’d up it.

How Big Are these Smoothies?

One way to put it is, they feed 2-and-a-half people generously. Another way to put it is this: We have a 64-oz blender. Normally we top off the water to around 55 oz, and then let it foam up from there. You get 3-4 pints total.

The Pink Smoothie (Pictured)

I use the frozen organic cherries from Cascadian farms which are semi-tart. This smoothie, more than most, often benefits from a little extra sweetener. Pomegranate foams like crazy, so you’ll want to add it at the end.

  • 2 C frozen pitted tart cherries
  • 1 C red walnuts
  • 1 banana
  • 1 hefty glug pomegranate concentrate
  • “What Goes in Every Smoothie” Ingredients

The Brown Smoothie

I used to be worried that chocolate was bad news for a toddler. That it would be overstimulating, or simply that, once I unleashed the beast, she wouldn’t want anything else. So far, so good. This smoothie is not especially sweet and uses only unrefined sweeteners. The molasses, dates, tahini, and cacao are all decent sources of minerals, especially magnesium. The tahini and dates add a slight Middle Eastern inflection, only deepened by an (optional) splash of orange blossom water or orange peel.

  • 6 pitted Medjool dates
  • 1/3 C raw cacao powder
  • 2 Tbsp blackstrap molasses
  • 2 Tbsp unhulled tahini
  • Pinch of salt
  • “What Goes in Every Smoothie” Ingredients

Yellow Smoothie

First, this smoothie isn’t actually yellow. It’s sort of dark yellow-ish rusted beige. Bosc pears are a wonderful smoothie ingredient, equally suited to fruity, chocolatey, and nutty smoothies. Plus, they’re available year-round.

  • 3 bosc pears, cored, skin on
  • 1 C pecans
  • 3 servings golden milk powder, any brand (may substitute with a 3 fat pinches cardamom for a milder, beige-er smoothie)
  • “What Goes in Every Smoothie” Ingredients

Purple Smoothie

  • 2 C frozen mixed berries (I like the Asiago brand from Italy)
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • Fresh ginger to taste, amount depending on spice tolerance
  • “What Goes in Every Smoothie” Ingredients

Orange Smoothie

This one is rich and sweet and super-fatty and kind of decadent. Almost a dessert, and the adults at least usually have a smaller portion than normal. That’s okay. If there are any leftovers, you can make popsicles.

  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 can (850 g) organic Kesar mango pulp
  • Squeeze of lime
  • “What Goes in Every Smoothie” ingredients

Potato Salad with Herbs, Olives & Artichoke Hearts

I always share a potato salad recipe in summertime because I love potatoes, and potato salad says “summer has arrived!” Even in 2020 with the coronavirus. Like all my potato salads, this one is doused with rich, golden or green extra virgin olive oil, not mayo.

Made this way, this salad keeps for days. Refrigerate, of course, but bring to room temp to enjoy.

Serves 4

4 medium Yukon Gold potatoes4 medium red or purple potatoes
1.5 C artichoke hearts, sliced*2 C thinly sliced cabbage
1 C pitted black Niçoise olives1 C thinly sliced onion
1 C chopped dill weed1 C chopped flat parsley
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil*3 Tbsp red wine vinegar*
2 cloves garlic, smashed2 tsp unrefined dark salt
1 tsp black pepper

*I love the artichoke hearts preserved in extra virgin olive oil by the Tunisian brand Les Moulins Mahjoub. If you use a brand preserved in brine instead of olive oil (don’t! but if you do…), you may want to increase the added olive oil, and decrease the added vinegar.

Place all ingredients except potatoes in large bowl, and mix well. Use your serving dish as the mixing bowl — it’ll be one less dish to clean.

Scrub potatoes, but do not peel, and put whole in a pot with water to cover. Slowly bring to a boil, turn down heat, cover, and simmer 10-15 minutes, until tender when poked with a knife. Time depends upon size of potatoes. Drain. Let potatoes cool until they are just warm.

Dice warm potatoes into mixing/serving bow. Toss everything together. Taste, adjust seasonings. There’s so much in here you won’t need to garnish. But if you want to, there are umpteen ways. Think cherry tomatoes, goat or feta cheese, salami rounds, hard-boiled egg, tuna ventresca, Fakin’ Bacon crumbles, avocado…

Sign up For updates

Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

We don't sell Spam™, and we don't send it either. Sign up to get our newsletter, sales & events. We never share your information, and you can opt out at any time.