Blended meals are a must for anyone who have trouble chewing their food -- including younger toddlers -- or who need a soft-food diet for health reasons. Blended meals are also convenient: They can give you a quick burst of nutrition when you don't have time for a sit-down meal. This is especially valuable when you're a busy mom or you have teens on the go. The best blended meals are not only healthy, but delicious as well.
The health benefits of blended meals are numerous, as long as you start with the right ingredients. The fresher the food, the more nutrients it will contain. Use fresh, unprocessed ingredients for your blended meals, and use healthy liquids such as organic milk, olive oil rather than vegetable oil, and all-natural fruit juices with no added sugar. If you are making a smoothie, chill the ingredients first to make it taste even more delicious. If you are making a meal that has cooked ingredients (including meat), cook the meat first very thoroughly in a slow cooker over four to six hours. This will ensure that it is as tender as possible.
Cut the food into small pieces before putting it into the blender. Most fruits and vegetables will blend well if you cut them into 1-inch cubes. If you don't have a powerful blender, you might need to cook the vegetables a bit to soften them up. Blend the solid foods first, then slowly add your liquids. For soups, add chicken or beef broth, milk or cream. For smoothies, add orange juice or pineapple juice. Olive oil works well to thicken and add flavor to blended salads or meals with meat or nuts. Just drizzle it in as you blend the ingredients.
Fruit smoothies are a must for anyone with children or who enjoys a sweet treat. They make a healthy breakfast meal and are a time-saver as well. Use your favorite fruits for fiber, and add some plain vanilla yogurt for a shot of protein. Sweeten with orange juice. Salads can be blended for lunch. Use fresh romaine lettuce, spinach leaves, pine nuts, tomatoes and any of your favorite vegetables. Add a creamy dressing or lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. For dinner, whip up a warm, comforting soup. Fresh pumpkin (use small "sugar" pumpkins), cream, chicken broth and your favorite spices (try cinnamon for sweet or curry for spicy) is sure to be a hit with your family -- especially if you serve it in a large pumpkin and let the kids clean it out first. For most blended meals, one serving equals 1/2 cup.
You can add nutrition without sacrificing taste. The great thing about blended meals is that they camouflage the healthy foods that many children won't touch if they see it on their plates. Most children love fruit smoothies, for example, but they don't love spinach. What they won't know (and you won't tell) is that you've added a few fresh spinach leaves to their banana-strawberry smoothie; they won't even be able to taste it. Or, sprinkle some flax seed into the blender. Flax seed is a great way to add omega-3 acids and fiber to any blended meal -- nutrients that are important and very beneficial.