Protein smoothies for kids: four ways to cram protein into their little mouths.
We’ve got a little problem on our hands. What you’ve been seeing on the outside is not what’s going on inside.
On the outside (in my social media channels, lol), it appears my Camille is a great eater. Her favorite foods are broccoli, plain yogurt, garlic-dill sauerkraut, carrots, raw orange bell peppers, etc. All of that is true.
What you don’t see is that she hates meat. Protein is a struggle for us. Camille spits out red meat like it’s the devil, obliges to eating chicken once a month max, and firmly believes that any brown crispy coating on meat is repugnant (yep, she won’t eat fried chicken). Oh, and then she kicks me while I’m down and has ambivalence towards beans.
There are exceptions to the rule, though: Camille loves salmon and shrimp.
I know I shouldn’t get mad about the fact that my kid would rather grab fistfuls of Brussels sprouts, hoover Castelvetrano olives, and pop cherry tomatoes like grapes—I’m just worried about her getting enough protein. And worrying is a Mom’s easiest job in life.
If left to her own devices (and I feel very strongly that children should not tell us what they want to eat, we should teach them (be a parent!)), she would only get her protein from milk and yogurt. The kid loves milk of any kind–almond, coconut, cow, walrus. Kidding on the walrus part. (but remember my walrus milk latte?)
I limit her consumption to about 1 cup a day, and hope that will encourage her to seek protein elsewhere. It hasn’t.
I’m finally willing to accept that my kid is a vegetarian.
Now, I’m going to keep serving her meat. But, if I take a step back, I see why this happened. I don’t eat a lot of meat, and I never really have. I definitely didn’t eat it more than a time or two a week while pregnant or nursing. I feel like she just maybe didn’t develop a taste for it?
And then there’s the fact that I’ve been making excuses for her. She’s pretty late at getting her teeth (I talked about it in my nut-free granola post), and so I thought she just couldn’t chew the meat. But when I see her chowing down on pretzels and crispy homemade graham crackers, I know it’s just an excuse.
All I can do is try to meet her protein needs in other ways. Plant-based protein ways. So, I developed these smoothies for her over the last few months, and she absolutely loves them. I can’t express how good it feels after your kid downs a healthy smoothie. It almost makes you wanna get a ‘world’s greatest mom’ coffee cup. Almost. Until they pull their diaper off and pee behind your arm chair.
O N E: Strawberry-Banana Tofu Smoothie. Look, I realize there’s a special level of hell for people like me that hide tofu in recipes, but at nearly 3 grams of protein per ounce, I’m doing it for the kids.
Into the blender goes 1 1/4 cups of filtered water, a 4 ounce chunk of sprouted tofu, 1 1/2 cups frozen strawberries, 1 sliced frozen banana, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract. Blend and add more honey if you think your kid needs it. (~ 11 grams of protein)
T W O: Chocolate-Coconut Hemp Smoothie. Hemp seeds are my freaking favorite. And not just because I swear they calm me down (probably wishful thinking), but I’m also very into their nutritional profile! Just 3 tablespoons have 9 grams of protein! And since Camille will literally eat anything with chocolate in it, she loves this smoothie.
I use: 1 cup full-fat coconut milk from a can, 2 tablespoons cocoa powder, 1/4 cup dried (unsweetened) coconut flakes, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 3 tablespoons of hemp seeds. (~11 grams of protein)
T H R E E: Piña Colada with Peas! I realize I’m lucky that my kid loves the color green and will drink this just because it’s pretty. But here’s the thing: I tasted this before I gave it to her and was seriously surprised by how good it is! I put the blender back on the base and made myself one, too! Admittedly, peas only have 4 grams of protein per 2/3 cup, which is less than what I was hoping for, but since they’re green, we get bonus points for that.
It’s nothing but: 1 cup full-fat coconut milk from a can, 1 cup chopped fresh pineapple, 2/3 cup cooked peas. (~6 grams of protein)
F O U R: Peanut Butter & Jelly. My kid had never tasted a peanut butter and jelly sandwich until last week. She didn’t love it. But, she loves this smoothie because it has frozen grapes in it.
It uses: 1 cup 2% milk, 2 tablespoons natural peanut butter and 1 cup frozen grapes. (~16 grams protein)
I make these smoothies in double batches and freeze them. The night before I want to serve one, I move it to the fridge to defrost. In the morning, I pour it into a sippy cup–sometimes I have to add more water or milk to thin it out. The smoothies with coconut milk need to be slightly warmed since the fat tends to solidify on top of the jar. Give it a quick stir and serve for breakfast or at snack time.
A few other fun additions to your protein smoothies for kids:
-cashews soaked overnight in water (extra protein!)
-freshly ground flax seed (grind it in the blender by itself before adding the rest of the smoothie ingredients)
-chia seeds (these don’t freeze well, so only add them to the smoothies you’re serving right away)
-local bee pollen (during allergy season)
-moringa (google that one. I fell in love with it when I lived in Costa Rica)
-a pinch of Himalayan sea salt (for extra minerals)
-powdered ginger (if Camille’s tummy has been upset lately)
We all have our own problems we face when it comes to feeding kids. I happen to think that feeding kids and molding eating habits in a child is such an honorable, overlooked job. The way I see it, you have the power to give your kids a firm foundation to stand on for the rest of their lives with a healthy diet. I know that diet can’t prevent all health problems, but it certainly helps.
If you even remotely care about what your kid eats, know that it is more than enough. You’re a good Mama. Your kid will be fine. In the meantime, let’s have a playdate and drink wine while the kids play, ok?