February 8, 2019
Phytonutrient Packed Popsicles
I have faced numerous challenges in my life from climbing volcanoes, living in a tent for two weeks in a jungle, to completing a Master’s degree with a one-year-old at home, but the MOST challenging obstacle I have ever faced….ensuring my child eats a healthy diet. Between the age of one to one and a half years, my daughter would eat almost anything.
Around two years old, something changed and I dread saying it, but she became pickier. In toddlerhood, a child begins to come into their own, meaning that they realize that there are things in life that they can control and they start to test the boundaries. While this is a part of normal childhood development, that doesn’t make it any easier for parents to navigate through.
In our home, we follow the approach that it is our job to provide nutritious healthy food and it is our child’s job to decide how much and what to eat. I’ve definitely learned though that there are parenting hacks to work around the so-called “toddler testing.” I’ve tried making so many variations of smoothies for my daughter in an attempt to pack in fruit, vegetables, fibre, vitamins, and minerals in a small package. To my dismay, as she’s gotten older, she no longer will drink smoothies.
One day I decided to turn the exact same smoothie into a popsicle and to my surprise, my daughter ate the entire thing. Since that day she asks for a popsicle on an almost daily basis and this is one request that I am quite happy to oblige.
This smoothie, aka popsicle, the recipe is jam-packed full of nutrition and is whole food plant based, promoting optimum nutrition and health.
One popsicle contains:
As any parent will tell you, kids are full of energy and carbohydrates are the fuel needed to meet the energy requirements of any growing child. The brain itself is solely fueled by carbohydrates. They also stabilize the digestive system, provide food for healthy bacteria in the large intestine, play a critical role in immune function, regulate the metabolism of protein and fat, and are important for bone and tissue growth, healing, and hormone regulation. Carbohydrates have recently received a bad rap in the diet fad industry, but the science remains clear, carbohydrates are our friend, not our foe.
Fibre is a nutrient that is so often overlooked in today’s society yet is so crucial to our health. Both insoluble and soluble fibre plays an important role in:
- Keeping our digestive system working properly and efficiently eliminating waste and toxins
- Promoting a feeling of satiety
- Determining how our body obtains and utilizes nutrients from food
- Influencing blood sugar and cholesterol levels
- Promoting healthy gut bacteria and deterring unhealthy organisms from inhabiting our bodies
- Lowering the risk of gastrointestinal diseases like colon cancer
Fats obtained from plants like nuts and seeds contain high ratios of omega 3 fatty acids to omega 6 fatty acids. This unsaturated fat is so important for growing children and plays a role in:
- Provision of energy
- Protection of vital organs from temperature and trauma and regulation of body temperatures
- Absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, D (and subsequently calcium), E, and K
- The health of skin, tissues, liver, blood, and nervous system
- Reduction of inflammation
Contrary to popular belief, protein is not the panacea it is made out to be, although it does play a crucial role in our health and it is an essential component of the diet. It is however not needed in the vast quantities that are found in the standard American (or Canadian) diet. Protein is essential for the growth and maintenance of the body and plays a critical role as a primary component of:
- The immune system
- Other necessary molecules in our body like hemoglobin, which carries oxygen in our blood
One popsicle contains all of the B vitamins (including B12 if fortified plant milk is used), folate, vitamins A, C, D, E, and K. These vitamins play various crucial roles in the body, including:
- Metabolic and biochemical reactions aka how we absorb and utilize food to live
- Growth, digestion, elimination, vitality, and immune function
- Antioxidant protection and lowering the risk of disease and cancer
- Nervous system and heart function
- Absorption and utilization of minerals like calcium and iron
Calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc, potassium and other microminerals are all found in one popsicle or serving. While calcium and iron are often a concern of parents, other minerals also play an important role in your child’s health. Minerals are crucial for:
- Development and maintenance of bones, teeth, and other tissues
- Regulation of heartbeat and nerve transmission
- Electrolyte and pH balance of the body
- Muscle and blood vessel function
- Production of DNA and proteins
- Metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
While not as well known by the general public as the traditional nutrients, phytonutrients have incredible beneficial effects on the body. They are nutrients that are only found in plants (there are over 100,000 of them!) and they cannot be classified as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals. Phytonutrients include nutrients like beta-carotene and carotenoids, flavonoids, sulphur-containing compounds, and alkaloids and according to Dr. Greger of nutritionfacts.org, the phytonutrients found in whole plant foods can help prevent, treat, or reverse heart disease and diabetes, help maintain a healthy weight, and improve mental health and vitality. Phytonutrients support our health and vitality through properties such as:
- Cancer prevention
- Anti-inflammatory (for example curcumin found in turmeric)
- Immune Support
While this recipe is jam-packed full of nutrients and phytonutrients, the only thing that matters to your child is if it tastes good. I think they will agree that it definitely does and I hope your child enjoys it as much as mine does!
RECIPE: Phytonutrient Packed Popsicles
- 1 cup of water or organic unsweetened fortified plant milk
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2 cups of mild tasting leafy greens (spinach has the mildest flavour but I like to use some kale too)
- ¼ of a small to medium sized cucumber
- 1 stalk of celery
- 1tbsp hemp seeds
- 1tbsp of ground flaxseed or chia seeds (or both!)
- ¼ cup of raw almonds
- ¼ cup of raw pumpkin seeds
- 1 brazil nut
- 4-5 pitted Medjool dates
- 1 cup frozen wild blueberries
- ⅔ cup of frozen strawberries
- ⅔ cup frozen dark cherries
- Add all ingredients to blender in the order listed and blend until smooth. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides or use a tamper to move ingredients around. Feel free to add more liquid if needed, especially if you do not have a high-speed blender.
- Pour into popsicle moulds, freeze, and enjoy!
Optional add-ins or substitutions:
I also like to add 1tsp Organic Amla Berry powder, especially during cold/flu season for its high vitamin C levels
Feel free to substitute nuts for another nut or for more pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds
Add coconut (for a tropical flavour) or avocado if more fat is desired
This recipe also makes a delicious smoothie bowl with added seeds and coconut flakes or pomegranate arils added on top for crunch