Smoothies can boost fruit, calcium intake

photo: Hemera

photo: Hemera

My teenage daughter has a sudden affinity for smoothies. She is making them all the time. Is this something I should encourage?

Smoothies can be a great way for anyone to consume more produce, and even additional calcium if milk, yogurt or calcium-fortified juice is part of the mix.

And most teens need more fruits, vegetables and calcium in their diets. A 2006 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that less than 1 percent of boys and less than 4 percent of girls aged 14 to 18 years ate the recommended amount of produce. (For girls 14-18, the recommended amount is 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables per day. Boys that age need an extra half-cup of each.)

Both boys and girls from 14 to 18 years need 1,300 milligrams of calcium a day — about the amount in 4.5 cups of milk. A national nutrition survey in 2005-2006 found that 42 percent of teen boys and only 10 percent of teen girls consumed enough calcium every day.

So, in a word, yes! If your daughter’s smoothies help her consume enough produce and calcium day to day, by all means encourage her on her smoothie craze. But it’s important to make sure they’re healthy beverages, not sugar-laden frozen slushies or milkshakes in disguise.

When prepared healthfully, smoothies can provide a big boost in nutrition. According to a study published in Health Education and Behavior in 2015, when smoothies were introduced as an option at school breakfasts at a middle school and high school in Utah, students eating a full cup of fruit during breakfast increased from 4.3 percent to a whopping 45.1 percent.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Nutrition and Management in 2015, showed that 68 percent of high school students who chose yogurt as a breakfast option didn’t choose milk, suggesting that yogurt products — including many smoothies — may offer an appealing calcium-rich alternative for non-milk drinkers.

The smoothies made for the Utah school study included milk or juice, vanilla yogurt, and fruit — usually bananas, strawberries, pineapple and mandarin oranges, but sometimes cherries and pears — and even spinach for green smoothies. No extra sugar, frozen yogurt or ice cream was added — a good guideline for keeping the nutritional profile of a smoothie high. Adding ice will provide a nice chill and help lower the calorie count. Using frozen fruit — even frozen bananas — helps keep a smoothie thick with or without ice cubes.

For healthy recipe ideas, try the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website Click on “Recipes” and choose “Beverages and Smoothies.” You will find 16 pages of recipes for everything from an Orange Banana Frosty to a Watermelon Strawberry Shake (no ice cream included).

In addition, consider introducing your daughter to This website encourages teens to adopt healthy food and activity habits to last a lifetime.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043,

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carol Smathers, Youth Nutrition and Wellness specialist with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Time is ripe to eat more fruits, veggies

chow_071715_460407859I was hoping I would begin to eat more fruits and vegetables during the summer, but I have to admit I haven’t gotten into the habit yet. Any ideas to help get me started?

It’s easy to get into a rut when it comes to what we eat day in and day out. If you’re not accustomed to snacking on fruits and vegetables and including them in meals, you might feel — just as with any new habit — a bit stymied on how to start.

That could be why a new study found that only about 1 in 10 Americans eats enough produce. That’s right — not only are you not alone in your produce-deficit diet, you’re in the vast majority.

According to the study, conducted by researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 13 percent of Americans consumed the recommended 1.5-2 cups of fruit a day in 2013, and less than 9 percent consumed the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables a day.

The report also provided a state-by-state analysis, and it showed Ohioans faring even worse, with only 11 percent eating enough fruit and 7 percent eating enough vegetables. If you’re interested in the details, you can read more by searching for “State Indicator Report on Fruits and Vegetables” on The results are disheartening, given that research shows over and over that eating plenty of produce provides protection against heart disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and other chronic illnesses.

An easy way to adopt eating new foods is to make them readily available. Buy some easy-to-consume produce such as baby carrots, apples, peaches, plums, bananas, or any “grab-and-go” fruit or vegetable, as well as bagged salads or microwaveable steam-in-the-bag frozen veggies that you enjoy eating. Store them in a place where you can easily see them to give yourself a visual reminder. Incorporate them into your dietary routine throughout the day: If you pack your lunch, include a piece of produce. If you normally grab a granola bar to eat on the way to work, take some grapes or berries instead.

Be sure to congratulate yourself at every step of the process: when you buy the produce, when you take it from the fridge, and when you eat it. Even a very simple internal “Good for you!” is helpful to ingrain a new healthy habit into your daily routine.

For fresh ideas, go to the “Fruit and Veggies: More Matters” website at Among its recommendations:

  • Eat produce first. One study showed that serving produce first makes it more likely that people will put it on their plates than if it’s served last.
  • Incorporate fruits and vegetables into your regular dishes. Add grapes to chicken salad. Add a can of vegetables to your favorite soup.
  • Build meals around fruits and vegetables instead of serving them on the side: Think stir fries, stuffed peppers and cauliflower casseroles.

The website offers plenty of other information, including recipes, lists of produce in season, and ideas to getting more fruits and vegetables. Check it out and get inspired.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, Ohio State University Extension’s food security specialist.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Spark interest in fruit, veggies on the Fourth

chow_070215_184369301I want to rev up the healthfulness of our Fourth of July cookout. I always make a veggie platter or fruit salad, but they get bypassed for burgers, hot dogs, potato salad and chips. What can I do to draw more attention to healthier fare?

Why not take your cue from Old Glory and focus on red, white and blue fruits and vegetables this weekend?

Too often, people at parties and holiday gatherings treat fruits and vegetables as the Debbie Downer of dining. But with a little thought and effort, you can make produce the star of the show:

  • Put strawberries, sliced bananas and dark grapes (not quite blue, but close) on skewers.
  • On a rectangular platter, arrange raspberries and cut apples in red and white stripes, and put a bowl of blueberries in the corner.
  • Layer red, white and blue fruits in a clear glass straight-sided bowl and let it show its colors.
  • Keep it simple and just line up three bowls of red, white and blue fruits or vegetables on the buffet line. You can use watermelon, berries, cherries or red peppers; cauliflower, cole slaw, bananas, apples or white grapes; and blueberries or purple grapes.

Focusing on the colors of fruits and vegetables isn’t just a gimmick. The color of produce often indicates what sort of phytochemicals it provides. Phytochemicals are plant chemicals that aren’t essential nutrients but still appear to provide health benefits.

There are many different types of phytochemicals. Some are antioxidants that help limit damage to cells resulting from oxidation, which is a normal process in the body. Some are carotenoids, which offer many benefits including lowering the risk of age-related sight problems. Some phytochemicals appear to have anti-bacterial or anti-inflammatory properties. And some have been linked with improved blood flow, anti-cancer properties and even other benefits.

Research is still nailing down precisely the effects of phytochemicals in the body. In the meantime, you not only want to get a good variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet, but you want to make sure you regularly consume produce of all different colors — dark green, yellow, purple, orange and, of course, red, white and blue — to make sure you’re getting a broad range of these nutrients.

The Produce for Better Health Foundation offers a wealth of information about phytochemicals on its website. Arranged by color group, you can find out what fruits and vegetables contain which phytochemicals and what health benefits they offer. It has information on flavonoids, from anthocyanidins to flavonols; carotenoids, from beta-carotene to zeaxanthin; and other phytochemicals, from indoles to resveratrol. If this sparks your interest, learn more at

For more information and fruit and veggie recipe ideas, see Ohio State University Extension’s “Maximize Your Nutrients” web page at

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or