I’ve written about this before, but, getting healthy food into my kids is kind of an uphill battle. With one child that is brought to tears at the sight of veggies on his plate, and another that will eat them willingly unless she sees her older brother balk (which happens ALL THE TIME), getting vegetables into the kids is an ongoing effort with limited success. One of the things we can do, though, is give them juice. With veggies in it. That they actually drink.
I’m not talking about store-bought juice, which can certainly be an option. I’m talking about fresh juice, that you make from fresh produce and drink right away. It’s a lot different than the juice you buy in stores, and although the kids will now slurp it right down (and even ask for it!), there was definitely a learning curve as started juicing for ourselves…and especially for the kids.
I’ve got some tips to share regarding juicing for kids…if you’re looking for creative and healthy ways to improve your child’s diet, hopefully this will help you get off to a good start!
Equipment You Need to Start Juicing
Juicing is not the same as making a smoothie. You make smoothies in a blender, and when you make a smoothie, you are drinking everything you put into the smoothie. Smoothies are great because you are drinking the whole fruit, meaning you are getting all the fiber from the fruit.
When you juice, you send the fruit and veggies into your juicer and your juicer separates the juice from the “meat” of the fruit…so basically, in my very non-technical terms, it spits out all the fiber-y parts into a bucket, and the juice into a pitcher. This means that juicing is both messier and more expensive than making smoothies, which is why we don’t juice everyday. The upside is that the juice that is extracted from the fruits and veggies is really, really healthy – and you can get a very concentrated amount of it, very quickly, by juicing. Also, my kids will drink juice made primarily of carrots…but I don’t think I’ll be making them carrot smoothies anytime soon!
This all means that you need a juicer. Juicers are available in all price ranges. When we decided to start juicing (about 18 months ago), we went with a mid-range juicer, and it’s been great for us (we use the Breville BJE510XL).
A Few Juicing Tips I’ve Learned Along the Way
I’ve learned a lot about food through juicing. For instance, I learned that apple juice from an actual apple, served right after it’s extracted, does NOT taste like apple juice from a bottle you’d buy at the store. And at first, my kids drank it and looked at me in confusion, because it didn’t taste like any apple juice they’d ever had before!
Here are a few things to know if you’re new to juicing, and picky kids are going to be the recipients of your juicing labors:
- Good fruits to start with are oranges (peel them first), pineapple, and berries (berries are very expensive to juice because it takes a LOT of berries to get a LITTLE bit of juice, but their flavor is also very strong…so a few strawberries can really sweeten up the juice and make it more kid-friendly). Mangoes and papaya are also mild-flavored fruits that my kids like in juice.
- For apple juice, start off with the best-tasting apples you can afford. It will make a big difference in the flavor of the juice, and you can buy cheaper ones when the kids get used to the taste (which is a just thicker, less-sweet version of bottled apple juice).
- Carrots are a great veggie to add, as they are inexpensive, produce a lot of juice, are very sweet, and you can add them to orange juice without changing the color of the juice. I don’t peel the carrots when I juice for myself, but I do peel them when I juice for the kids (the juice is sweeter if they’re peeled).
- Spinach is also a great food to add, as it doesn’t affect the taste of the juice. The downside is that it takes a lot of spinach to make a little bit of juice, and it will instantly give the juice an odd (greenish) color, which can be challenging for picky kids. If your kids are going to be weirded out by the color, add it to darker juices (for example, one that also has blackberries). I really do love juicing spinach because you can’t taste it, and the health benefits are great. Those giant bags of spinach they sell at Costco are *perfect* if you are into juicing!
- Certain foods, like celery or lettuce (yep, you can juice lettuce) taste pretty mild when you eat them – but are super intense when you juice them! My kids smell celery in the juice a mile away and refuse to try it. You might experience with any questionable fruits/veggies before offering it to the kids.
- Drink the juice right away. Fresh juice isn’t really meant to sit around, and the only juice I’ll put in the fridge and save for later is orange juice (I have no idea about the science behind any of this, I just know that most juice seems to taste different if you let it sit, so I don’t). I have frozen extra juice and used it later in smoothies, though.
- To keep juicing economical, use fruits/veggies with a lot of juice as your main ingredient and then add smaller amounts of the more expenive/less juicy varieties. Some ideas: oranges, apples, carrots, pineapples, pears, watermelon.
- The great thing about juicing is that you don’t need to follow a specific recipe…in fact, we often use juicing to get rid of produce that’s near expiring. A favorite of my kids is apples, oranges, and carrots all thrown into the juicer. So good!
But if you do want recipes, I’ve got some for you!
Kid-Friendly Juice Recipes
- Kid-Friendly Carrot Juice
- Jolt Juice (apple and orange-based)
- We Got the Beet (carrot, pear, beet)
- Apple and Grapefruit
- 3 Tasty Kid-Friendly Recipes
- Tickled Pink (pink veggie juice!)
- Green Smoothie (NOT juice, but very green and something my kids love anyway!)
And here are some fun recipes for other foods you can make using fresh juice:
- Crazy Carrot Pops
- Homemade Fruit Chews
Juicing is, if I’m being honest, kind of a pain. But I always feel great about giving my kids healthy, fresh juice…I know I’m giving them something that not only tastes great, but is also teaching them that veggies are A-OK. So, I’ll continue to break out the juicer a couple times every week and clean up the mess with nary a complaint (hahaha just kidding, I totally complain when I’m cleaning it), knowing my kids are getting healthy and real foods.
What are your favorite foods to juice? Do you have any recipes your kids love to drink?