A similar article appeared in the May 2014 issue of the Aurora Youth Soccer Club magazine Blades of Grass.
Green Smoothies for the Young Athlete
Winter can be a season of weight gain and hibernation for some, as snow and icy conditions can put a damper on one’s fitness activities. Food choices in winter can also revolve around heavier, thicker, fattier food that tends to help us stay warm and contribute to weight gain. Now that Spring is here, tough, it’s time to think about eating more plant based foods that grow above the ground, such as leafy greens including romaine lettuce, chard, kale, collards, and spinach, etc. These foods are high in chlorophyll, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that help support regeneration, detoxification, healing, energy production and numerous other important bodily functions. These foods are important for children, since they are growing and need a high amount of tissue-building minerals. Green smoothies have become an important part of my life and I include them in my food prep classes. In fact, an entire class is devoted to the “art and science” of the green smoothie.
The Power of the Green Smoothie
In my humble opinion, there is no better way to increase consumption of these amazing greens than through a few glasses of tasty sweet green smoothie! When I say “green smoothie” though, I don’t mean a glass of almond milk with some green powder blended in…my green smoothie contains several cups of very ripe fruit, lots of deep leafy greens blended in a high powered blender with about 2 cups of filtered water. These beverages are nutritional powerhouses and are perfect for young soccer players. Leafy greens are perfect for athletes generally, because they contain high amounts of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, and help support recovery. In addition, they contain numerous kinds of antioxidants or phytonutrients, particularly , the yellow class of carotenoids. This class includes zeaxanthin, kaempferol, beta carotene, quercetin, sulforaphane & indole-3-carbinol, and lutein. Numerous studies show that these antioxidants are beneficial in numerous ways, from cardio, cancer and eye protective, to immune enhancing, and anti-inflammatory. There are many benefits that are too numerous to mention here. Some leafy greens also contain complete protein.
Introduce Green Smoothies To Your Kids
Since kids generally shy away from leafy greens, green smoothies are a great way to introduce them into your child’s diet. But don’t encourage resistance by forcing them down!!! The best way to teach kids a good habit is to start one yourself! Start drinking green smoothies several times every week, or one or two every day, and pretty soon your kids will be asking you for them. Make sure you start them on a sweet great tasting smoothie made from milder tasting leafy greens such as spinach or kale. Later you can introduce them to smoothies made with beet greens, chard, bok choy and collard. Eventually they will even try arugula, water cress and parsley, but start with the milder ones first!!
Green Smoothies for Warm Up and Recovery
If your child needs to prepare for a high endurance event, you can make your child a smoothie that contains more fat. This can be done by blending in half an avocado or some flax oil. Green smoothies are great for preparing for endurance events when they are consumed about 2 hours prior to the event. For recovery, they can be consumed an hour or so after. A blender full of green smoothie can contain enough leafy green to fulfill the daily required servings of vegetables, so get drinking!! If your whole family regularly drinks these smoothies, you will probably find that they will feel more energized, more calm, and will also sleep better, get along better and do better in school!!
Recipe for a Children’s Smoothie – the Laughing Gorilla
(taken from V. Boutenko’s book, Green Smoothie Revolution, North Atlantic Books, 2009.
Large bunch of washed spinach
2 ripe bananas (okay if banana is speckled brown)
2 peeled oranges, seeded
1 mango, pitted and peeled
2 cups filtered water
Blend in a high powered blender for several seconds until smooth. Serve with garnish of an orange slice.
For more information about how green smoothies support athletic performance, please see www.rawfamily.com. Serge Boutenko, Victoria’s son has completed a documentary of this subject, entitled Powered by Green Smoothies.