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Stealth health: Smoothies put more nutrients into breakfast

A frulit-and-kale smoothie kids might like. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

A frulit-and-kale smoothie kids might like. (Chris Walker/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

We’re normally all for involving kids in food prep, but we’re going to ask that you go ahead and bar the kitchen door for this one.

Del Sroufe, the man behind “Forks Over Knives — The Cookbook,” is going to get your kids to start their day with kale.

They just can’t know it.

Sroufe, like the documentary his cookbook accompanies, touts the benefits of a whole-foods, plant-based diet. His mean green smoothie is a nutrient-rich, fiber-filled, antioxidant-packed dream. But Jamba Juice it ain’t.

How do you turn your child’s morning smoothie — a relatively healthy option — into a breakfast powerhouse? You sneak stuff in. Sroufe’s recommendations, with tips for making them palatable:

∎ Kale: If it’s not the world’s healthiest food, it’s at the top of the list. Cancer-risk lowering, packed with 45 flavonoids and rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamins B6, A, C and K, kale is a wise addition to all of our diets. Worth breaking out the surreptitious moves, in other words.

“You really don’t notice the taste,” he swears. “The thing is, you see it.”

So prepare it behind their backs and serve it in a stainless steel container with a tight-fitting lid and a colored straw. Oh, the actual prep: Remove the ribs of the raw leaves, chop it finely and toss it in the blender. (This works equally well with spinach.)

∎ Dates: Almost all of Sroufe’s smoothie recipes call for Medjool dates. (Medjool are the larger, sweeter variety.)

“They’re a fiber-adding sweetener with a bunch of vitamins and minerals, versus sugar, which is just empty calories,” he says.

Swap out your smoothie’s sugary yogurts and juices for unsweetened almond milk and ½ cup of pitted, coarsely chopped dates or 2 tablespoons date syrup.

∎ Chia seeds: These little guys are all the rage, celebrated for omega-3s, omega-6s, calcium, protein and 11 grams of fiber per ounce.

“You’ve got to grind them really well,” Sroufe says. “With kids, especially, it’s all about texture.”

He recommends using a good-quality spice mill or, if you’re flush with cash, a Vitamix.

∎ Coconut water: Proponents push this stuff for its electrolytes, potassium and magnesium. It’s also low in sugar, which makes it a good substitute for fruit juice.

Sroufe pairs it with other tropical flavors like pineapple and mango. One cup will provide plenty of liquid to juice up your smoothie.

Mean Green Smoothie

Makes 1 drink

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 cup frozen berries

1 banana, peeled

2 cups coarsely chopped kale (ribs removed)

½ cup pitted, coarsely chopped dates

Combine all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth and creamy.

Nutrition information per serving: 483 calories, 4 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 119 g carbohydrates, 8 g protein, 181 mg sodium, 15 g fiber.

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