So many times, I have walked down the organic aisle of a grocery store to look at the green juices. Starting at $8/bottle, I would seriously wonder if they could be worth it. Many times, I’d convince myself they were the ultimate health tonic, and fork over my money for a bottle. It would taste okay, but mostly they tended to be overly sweet or overly tangy for my tastes. (Mostly from apple juice, beet juice, carrot juice, and/or pineapple juice, which are commonly added to ease the “green taste” of green juices.) I even suckered myself into following a juice cleanse sold by a popular brand… it mostly made me feel tired and shaky from the sugar.
Then I’d catapult myself full-force into smoothie-world, blending bananas with kale, spinach, almond milk, and a handful of other healthy additions like spirulina or “green powders” (dehydrated greens like spinach, kale, romaine, etc.). I’d convince myself that THIS was the true health tonic, because I was getting all of the whole-vegetable nutrition by blending it all up and slurping it down. I had some unfortunate incidents where I would try to blend carrots or cucumbers into a fruit smoothie and end up with something totally inedible. Or, I’d end up adding a bit too much honey or maple syrup to my smoothies to counteract that “healthy” taste. For me, smoothies chock-full of greens have not been the cure-all answer to consuming more vegetables, particularly if I need lots of added sugar just to get them down.
Well, I talked about balance last week, and at long last, I think I’ve struck a balance in my confusing quest to unearth the good in smoothies and juices: They both can be an excellent part of a healthy and balanced diet. Knowing how to make a killer green juice doesn’t mean that you have to drink juice daily. Knowing how to make a delicious green smoothie doesn’t mean you have to always drink your greens through a straw. While some treat these beverages as a lifestyle (I'm looking at you, overly enthusiastic Instagram users!), I prefer to treat them as what they are: just one more healthy option in the kitchen.
Last year, I bit the bullet and purchased a slow-juicer for my home kitchen. If I’d seriously consider buying 12 oz of juice for $8-$12, then there’s no reason I couldn’t justify making this purchase and enjoying all the benefits of it for many years to come. (I purchased the Omega 8006, it’s awesome by the way!) Taking juicing into my own hands, rather than paying large sums of money for a product full of relatively inexpensive ingredients, has changed the game. Now I feel that I can honestly compare juices and smoothies by their practicality, flavor, and what I perceive to be the best nutrition for my time and effort, from my own experience. Here is what I have found...
My Smoothie/Juice Rules:
- Smoothies should taste delicious. If I’m choking down thick grey smoothies that taste like dirt, it just isn't worth it. I’ll go ahead and enjoy my hearty greens in salads, sautéed with eggs, or maybe put through a juicer. But, they just don’t belong in my smoothies if they will compromise the taste and enjoyability of it. (That is not to say that a small amount of kale can’t be a fine addition to a smoothie - but it won’t really be a whole serving. I do still love spinach in my smoothies though - so mild and easy to blend!) A naturally sweet fruit smoothie can also make an awesome substitute for an unhealthier temptation like ice cream.
- Juices should be treated like health tonics, not sugary drinks. This is where I’m okay getting a little down and dirty with strong-tasting greens. Juices should not be an excuse to drink high-sugar fruits and vegetables (beets, carrots, apples) without the added benefits of the fiber that this produce offers in its whole form. I like green juices that use up odds and ends of things I might not use otherwise - broccoli stems, extra herbs, and stalks from kale or chard. While these things would be less pleasant to crunch through alone, and certainly would be repulsive in a smoothie, running them through a juicer is an effective way to squeeze that last little bit of nutrition out of them. Since juice won’t really fill you up, I also think it’s a great way to give yourself a little vitamin and mineral kick when you’re sick and don’t feel like eating much.
- Smoothies and juices are great ways to add an extra nutritional boost into your diet, but they should not stand in for eating vegetables and fruits, in their whole form, on a regular basis. There’s no tricking yourself into eating healthy food by blending into a confectionary treat - you just have to hunker down and decide you’re going to like it and do it! When in doubt, bite into an apple, steam some broccoli, or make up a nice big salad. If you manage to eat healthful meals plus squeeze in a smoothie or juice each day, then all the more power to you.
This year I found a recipe from Kris Carr that opened my eyes to the world of healthy green juices. If you haven’t juiced before, these ingredients may sound horrible (they did to me, too!) but I was so pleasantly surprised by how refreshing and clean this juice tasted. I modified the recipe a bit from her site, here’s how I make mine:
Healthy Green Juice
Adapted from Kris Carr
2 large cucumbers
2-3 stalks kale
3 stalks celery
2 big broccoli stems
1 green apple
½ -inch piece of ginger
2-3 leaves romaine
(optional) few sprigs of fresh parsley
Wash and prep vegetables. Run through juicer. Enjoy right away.
What are your favorite juices and smoothies? We’d love to hear from you in the comments, below!
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