Home-made smoothies: Can they really help to get fruit and veg into your fussy eater?
“There’s no way my fussy eater will drink a home-made smoothie,” you might be thinking! “They don’t like berries. They’ve stopped eating bananas. And they certainly won’t go near anything with even a hint of green in it!”
But here’s the thing: It’s not about what you put in the smoothie. It’s about how it’s made! Try this with your child. Even children as young as two years old can do it.
#1 HAND THE TASK OVER TO THEM
Tell your child they are going to make a smoothie for everyone in the family all by themselves. Don’t mention drinking it. If they say they don’t want one, just say casually “Oh, that’s okay. It’s up to you if you drink it or not.” The focus should be entirely on the making of it. Children are much more likely to eat – or at least try – something they feel ‘ownership’ of.
#2 PRESENT THE INGREDIENTS
Lay out all the ingredients for them in advance – fruit, veg, yoghurt, milk, fruit juice? – whatever you like. Like an assistant to a Head Chef! If you want to play it safe, you can start by using just fruit and veg they already eat happily. Strawberries? Cucumber? Tinned pear? But if they don’t eat fruit or vegetables at all, just randomly pick one or two. As time goes on, you can gradually introduce new and different fruit and veg. For example, raspberries (their favourite) + a tiny bit of avocado (new)? Some grated carrot? A handful of spinach leaves? Exposure to fruit and veg – seeing it, smelling it, handling it – makes children more familiar and comfortable with it. And this will make them gradually more receptive to the idea of actually eating it. So as well as putting these ingredients in the smoothie, those veg are going to look less ‘scary’ now if they see them on their plate at mealtimes.
#3 BACK OFF!
Let them put all the ingredients in the blender by themselves and press the button. Give as little direction as possible. Let them enjoy the process at their own pace and in their own way – even if it’s messy! It doesn’t matter if they miss a bit of strawberry or don’t put the ingredients in the blender in the same order you would or want to watch it whizzing longer than it needs! You should just be a gentle observer (and safety monitor of course!). If you micro-manage, interfere or judge, it will spoil the fun of it and their feeling of empowerment. The more they feel they are genuinely in control of making it – that it’s their ‘thing’, not yours – the more effective the approach will be. And the more they enjoy it, the more it it will create positive associations with the fruit and veg that goes into it. Guess them to guess what colour it will turn out. “We have red strawberries and yellow pineapple – what dya reckon?!”
#4 LET THEM BE MOTHER!
Now let them pour the smoothie into the glasses by themselves – however slop-happy they are! – and give one to each person in the family (even if that’s just you and them). Start with making small amounts at first – you could even use an egg cup for your child! – so that if they don’t drink it, there’s little wastage. Chink glasses and say “cheers”!
#5 PUT ZERO PRESSURE ON THEM TO DRINK IT!
I mean zero! Not even gentle encouragement to “just try a bit”! Let them enjoy the pleasure and pride of having made it themselves and leave it at that. Otherwise it will undo all the good work. And if they do take a sip or drink it of their own free will, don’t jump in with “Do you like it?”, “Is it nice?” or “Well done”. That’s a subtle kind of pressure in itself – and implies that it’s possible not to like it or for it not to be nice or that it’s a chore to drink it! If they say they don’t like it or want it, just use that sentence again: “That’s okay, it’s up to you if you drink it or not.”
Do it once a week. It could become a weekend morning thing when you’re not in a hurry. It may take a few weeks before they try some. Fine. Be patient! I had a client with a 4-year-old girl who loved making the smoothies for her mum and dad on a Saturday morning but wouldn’t touch them herself for a month. Now she even drinks green smoothies happily!