Juices and Smoothies: My Best Tips

Green Juice

I have been the proud owner of both a juicer and a blender for a while now. I’ve had a bit of a learning curve with both and I imagine I’m not alone, so let me pass along some of my best tips for juicing and smoothie-making.

If you want to report back on your own experience and share tips of your own, I would love for you to do so in the comments! I’ll be interested to compare notes with you, and other readers will benefit as well.

When is a good time to drink juices and smoothies?

My initial resistance in adopting juices and smoothies was this: I couldn’t quite see how they would fit into my daily eating habits. I wasn’t really looking to consume more food than I already was, and wasn’t too keen on trading any of my favorite eats (vegan lunch bowl, anyone?) for a tall glass of anything.

But! Those tall glasses quickly won me over and they are now most welcome, on three occasions in particular:

  • Smoothies as a standalone breakfast, which I can sip on while getting ready for work, or sitting on the couch watching my kids punch each other — mostly in good fun — with my boxing gloves. (I took up boxing, people! It’s so fun! Have you tried it?) Because I add filling elements (see below), a 7am smoothie holds me over until lunchtime, even through pretty active mornings.
  • Cold-pressed juices as a complement to my lunches. I love my weekday lunch bowls and they are typically vegetable-heavy, but some days it’s faster to make myself a quick sandwich, and round it out with a green juice.
  • A smoothie or a juice is an amazing afternoon pick-me-up. It’s energizing and refreshing, and serves the double purpose of feeding and hydrating me.

I don’t, however, make it an obligatory or daily thing. Some weeks I crave them every single morning, other times I feel like eating other things instead. Or my schedule gets busier and I can’t get my act together to prepare them. It’s all good.

Pink Smoothie

Do you need recipes for juicing and smoothie-making?

Let’s be clear: I don’t follow recipes.

I get a weekly basket of vegetables from a producer, so I just wing it using what I have and what’s in season, shooting for a 2-to-1 or 3-to-1 balance between vegetables (the focus is on them) and fruits (just enough to sweeten and round out the flavors).

In terms of produce, I typically draw from the following:

  • Greens: kale, baby spinach, lettuce, beet or radish greens, various salad leaves
  • Easy wins: carrots, beets, cucumbers, zucchini (these can do no wrong)
  • Use sparingly (strong flavors, don’t overdo it): celery, radishes (pink, black, daikon), fennel, cabbage
  • Herbs: parsley, chervil, mint, cilantro
  • High-flavor roots: a tiny knob of fresh ginger or turmeric
  • Fruits: apple, pear, kiwis, berries, stone fruits, grapes, banana (for smoothies only)

I also like to add some freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice, but that’s an extra step I don’t always take.

For smoothies, I also add a thickening ingredient or two to make the texture smoother: a banana, an avocado, or a big spoonful of nut butter or coconut butter.

I use chilled water as the liquid in my smoothies, and find the other ingredients are flavor-dense enough (especially the nut butter or coconut butter, and powdered superfoods, see below) that the result doesn’t taste watery at all. Coconut water or non-dairy milks are good options, but it’s rare that I use them.

Should you peel and trim the produce for juices and smoothies?

I use organic produce and don’t peel them; I only wash or scrub as needed. I do remove the stems and cores for smoothies, since they won’t be filtered out, but I leave them in for juicing (except for the stones and pits of stone fruits!).

As an organization trick for juicing, I clean all the fruits and vegetables before I begin, but only cut them into chunks as I feed them into the chute. This saves a little time, and also prevents me from overstuffing and jamming the juicer, which I tend to do otherwise because I am Jack’s complete lack of patience.

Green Smoothie Bowl: Toppings

Can you use superfoods in smoothies and juices?

I got interested in superfoods through the excellent French company Sol Semilla, which imports high-quality and ethically traded superfoods in dehydrated and ground form. I always have a few of my favorites on hand, such as lucuma, açai, purple corn, carob or nopal.

I combine equal parts of the ones I have with some raw cacao nibs (or raw cacao powder) and chia seeds, shake to combine, and add a tablespoonful or so to my smoothies as a booster of texture, flavor, and nutrition.

(Note: If you want to try Sol Semilla‘s superaliments, use promo code CANDZ15 to get 15% off your order until November 1, 2016.)

Ugh, do you really need to save and reuse the pulp from juicing?

When juicing fruits and vegetables, the bulk of the nutrients go into the juice, and the pulp that remains is mostly fiber. There are many ways to make use of it — muffins, soups, pancakes… I commend people who do, or at the very least compost it, but so far it’s not happening for me. Some day perhaps. I don’t stress about it.

Is it okay to experiment? How do you deal with fails?

Because I don’t really use recipes and try new formulas every time, I try to note (in my head or in a notebook) my most successful combos so I can reproduce and build upon them.

Being willing to experiment also means that occasionally I make misguided decisions, like the time I insisted on adding ALL THE LEAVES from a full bunch of celery to my green juice. The result was barely drinkable. But it was so full of good stuff I didn’t want to throw it out. What did I do? I just used it as a base for a smoothie the next morning, with a banana and some raw cacao powder. Best smoothie ever! (PSA: make celery salt with celery leaves instead!)

Can you prep for juices and smoothies the night before?

If I want to pave the path for a morning smoothie, I prepare all the ingredients the night before. I wash and trim the fruits and vegetables, cut them into biggish chunks, and place them in an airtight container in the fridge.

I measure the superfoods powder, scoop out the nut or coconut butter I plan to use, and put them directly in the blender, since they’ll do fine at room temperature overnight. In the morning, barely awake, all I need to do is tip the contents of the container into the blender, add some chilled water, and pulse until smooth.

As for juices, the day-before prep simply involves selecting the produce I will use, washing and scrubbing as needed, and placing in a container in the fridge for easy access the next day.

The ingredients for my Immune-Boosting Green Smoothie Bowl.

The ingredients for my Immune-Boosting Green Smoothie Bowl.

Can you make a big batch of smoothie or juice?

I always make more than I will drink right away, but no more than I can consume within a day or two at the most. I realize there is some loss of vitamins when a smoothie or juice has to sit around for a little bit, but they are still nutritionally beneficial (also: still delicious). And it’s the only way I can make it work in my life, so there’s that.

For smoothies, I make a double portion and use a container such as this one to store and refrigerate the extra serving.

As for juices, I pour the extra into a glass bottle, and use this vacuum pump (originally meant for wine, a fabulous little tool) to remove the air in the bottle, and limit oxydation.

Let’s talk cleanup!

I won’t lie. Cleanup isn’t the most seductive part of juicing. But I have found my own model (more about it below) to be fairly easy to clean. I have timed myself (sorry, is that dorky?) and, now that I’m used to the task, it takes me a little under 5 minutes to disassemble, wash, and set the different components out to drip-dry. Reasonable, no?

Cleaning the blender after making a smoothie is a much quicker process. To get as much as I can out of that tall jug, I use one of my beautiful tasting spoon from Earlywood, which have a long handle but a small bowl, and are therefore perfect for the job. Then, I just press a drop of dish soap into the jug, half-fill it with hot water, and run the blender on high for a few seconds. Pour out, rinse — you’re done!

My Optimum blender from Froothie, and my Whole Slow Juicer from Kuvings.

My Optimum blender from Froothie, and my Whole Slow Juicer from Kuvings.

About my high-speed blender

After years of yearning for a high-performance blender — to make really smooth soups, quick sauces and marinades, nut butters and milks, and of course smoothies — I finally got one. Based on my research, I picked the Optimum 9400 blender, distributed by Australian company Froothie, as an alternative to the better-known Vitamix or Blendtec. It’s a vortex blender that’s just as high-performing, if not more so, and the 2-liter (2-quart) jug works for both dry and liquid ingredients.

(I have been so happy with it I entered into a partnership with the brand and have a discount to offer. If you’re interested in buying a Froothie blender for yourself, use promo code CD-Optimum-Blender-20 to get $20 off your purchase of the Optimum 9400 or 9200A on the US store. The same code will get you 20€ off on the French site, the Belgian site, or the Luxembourg site. For my Canadian friends, the code is CD-Optimum-Blender-25 and you’ll get CA$25 off on the Canadian site.)

See also my detailed review of the Froothie Optimum 9400 blender.

About my cold-press juicer

After careful deliberation (sensing a pattern here?), I decided to invest in the Whole Slow Juicer, manufactured by Korean company Kuvings.

It is among the most performant “masticating juicers” of the market (commercial models notwithstanding), which means it yields a very high amount of juice, leaving behind pulp that is almost dry. It is super easy to use and pretty fast, with a chute that is wide enough to take large pieces (= less time spent cutting the produce = so important).

And because it is a vertical model, it takes up minimal space in our small kitchen — less than the average food processor would — so we can justify keeping it there and available for quick, near-daily access.

When I bought my Kuvings juicer, it came with two extra attachments: one to make smoothies (I use my blender for these, but it’s a good option if you don’t have one), and another to make instant sorbets from frozen fruit — think instant banana sorbet, but I’ve also used mangoes, berries, and even ice cream custard frozen in an ice cube tray.

Top 3 Resources

If you need to look at set formulas to gain confidence or to get your creative juices flowing, here are a few recommendations:

– The “Simple Green Smoothies” Instagram and recipe book,
– Cassie’s staple smoothies,
– Vanessa Simkin’s hot-off-the-press Big Book of Juices, and her website All About Juicing.

Green Smoothie

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and make a purchase, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions expressed are my own.

  • mbs

    What do you think about how quickly the sugar in juices goes into your bloodstream vs eating actual fruit? It’s not usually a recommended way to get your fruit and veggie servings.

    • Thanks for the question. As I noted, my juices are more focused on vegetables, so they are not actually very sweet. I myself am pretty sensitive to blood sugar fluctuations (I get these super subtle palpitations o_O) so I am on the lookout for that.

      Just like you, I wouldn’t recommend juices as the *only* way to get fruits and vegetables in, just a complementary way. And anyone with blood sugar issues should definitely discuss with their doctor, or test themselves with a self-tester if they have one (which I do, due to glucose sensitivity during my pregnancies!).

  • ellenwillmott

    I drink no juices, fruit or vegetable (well, maybe just a small fresh cider in season). Why throw out all that filling, digestively valuable fiber? I never gave apple juice to my kids as children, and felt vindicated when a scandal came to light: “The Beech-Nut Nutrition Corporation pleaded guilty yesterday to Federal
    charges that it had sold phony apple juice intended for babies and
    agreed to pay a $2 million fine….Beech-Nut had been marketing as 100 percent apple juice was actually
    made from beet sugar, cane sugar syrup, corn syrup and other
    ingredients, with little if any apple juice in the mixture. Prosecutors
    said at the time of the indictment that the bogus apple juice cost about
    20 percent less to make than real apple juice.” (NY Times, Nov. 14, 1987) What tasted like sugar water with caramel coloring turned out to be exactly that!

    An apple or a serving of leftover kale salad with a glass of water are far more filling and hydrating than bothering to make and clean up after juicing.

    • Thanks for the info about Beech-Nut, I am horrified and also happy that I have never bought their juices and definitely never will.

      • Shudder-inducing for sure! We occasionally have on hand bottles of apple juice, but we buy them from the grower, it’s organic and unfiltered, so I feel we know what we’re drinking. But I definitely see it as a treat for my kids, not a daily thing, and I don’t fool myself that it’s a proper source of nutrition.

    • I think the nutritional reasoning behind green juices and other vegetable-heavy juices, is that you can absorb in a single glass way more nutrients than you would trying to *eat* those same vegetables in raw form. It would be a lot of munching!

      That said, I am absolutely not saying that everybody should drink them. I like the flavor and how they make me feel, but if you’ve tried them and they’re not your thing, that’s fine too.

  • Thanks for the post Clotilde. Lots of nice tips. I haven’t done any juicing as I don’t have a juicer. But I do make a lot of smoothies in the blender and it’s easy to get the nutritive value you want when you add the right ingredient mix. For me, they make a great healthy snack. Here is a post of one of my smoothies along with the nutrition info. http://www.lifeisbetterwithtea.com/simple-mixed-berry-tea-smoothie/

  • Rebeca

    Favourite tip I need to follow? Prep the night before!
    I know a thing or two about misguided decisions when it comes to smoothies! Experimentation and mistakes led to a few horrible ones (ever thrown a piece of ginger as big as your index finger in the blender without realising? Boy, did that wake me up!), but also some tasty concoctions.
    I’m still so-so on juicing… Which I suppose it’s a good thing if we consider how long it took me to choose a blender!

    • Ah yes, most definitely. I think we all make that rookie, overenthusiastic ginger mistake. (“But I *love* ginger!” “Yes, but no.”)
      What’s your resistance or hesitation re: juicing?

      • Rebeca

        The ginger incident happened when I was too asleep to be making a smoothie. Lesson learned!
        My reservations re: juicing are sugar content, waste, and price. I know you talked about the first two, but I wouldn’t want to spend that much money on an appliance not being sure I’d use it often. Oh, and space! Though the model you have seems very reasonable in that department!

        • Do you mean price of the produce or price of the juicer or both? Re: the former, my weekly vegetable basket tends to have a little more than we can use in a week, so juices are a way for me to make use of the extra — so no real additional cost for me.

          As for the juicer, it’s definitely an investments, not something I would recommend as a must-have to someone on a shoestring budget. But if you get pleasure and energy out of juicing and don’t have to put it on a credit card, then it’s something to consider.

          • Rebeca

            I meant the juicer. Funnily enough, a friend brought me hers yesterday because they’re remodelling their kitchen. I’ll take it for a spin and see if it’s worth it for me!

          • What a perfect arrangement! Let me know how you fare.

  • I don’t do any juicing, I would much rather eat a big salad or a bowl of roasted veggies. When it comes to smoothies, I’m more like you Clotilde, I go through periods when I want smoothies most days and then other times when I don’t want one at all. My son, who is 7, is a different story, he is happy to have a smoothie every single day. My son is a big fruit eater, but not much for veggies, so I add some spinach or chard leaves or carrots to his smoothies along with some banana and mixed berries. I’ve also started adding in some hemp seeds as a nice mild tasting boost to my son’s smoothies and he loves when I use my homemade coconut milk too, plus a little yogurt for added protein.

    I’ve also started sending my husband to work with a container of greens and fruit plus another with assorted boosts and he blends them up at his office where they have a nice Blendtec blender in the office kitchen. He doesn’t eat a lot of veggies when he’s outside the house so this is a great way for him to get some good greens in. For my husband, I add in ground flax seeds, shredded unsweetened coconut, hemp seeds or walnuts and some grass fed whey protein powder and sometimes a little maca or green coffee powder.

    • Thanks for sharing your own tips and practices, Jen. As for the office blender, what a nice perk! (Do people keep it clean though? :)

  • janinchina

    Thanks for the summary. I will definitely be trying a smoothie soon – I’ve never ever made one!

  • Judith Greene-Corvee

    Forget Juicing, go Nutribullet!! I am an American who lives part time in US and part time en Bretagne. I started using a Nutribullet about three years ago in US. Same company as Magicbullet , but a completely different product. It super super macerates so you do not toss the vitamin rich fiber and the clean up is as easy as the promo videos. Really! Just rinse under running water. I was finally able to purchase a Nutribullet this summer in France using Amazon.fr. I tried for months to find in a store and asked local boutiques if they could special order one for me ( I prefer to keep € local). I use the Nutribullet to make hummus, baba ganoush, gazpacho and tons of other things. It is my go to kitchen appliance. Alas, I have my Nutriblast now, on both sides of Atlantic and am healthier, happier year round as a result!

    • Thanks for the recommendation Judith! A friend of mine swears by hers, also.
      I wanted a blender with a bigger jug so I could process batches of soup.
      Also, what do you put in your “nutriblasts”?

      • Judith Greene-Corvee

        I usually do 1/2 to 3/4 greens- spinach, arugula, kale or swisschard. Then add some fruit– whatever is in season. Top it off with a sprinkle of superfood such as cacao bits, Gogi berries, chia seeds or a few nuts. Sometimes I grate in a bit of ginger root or tumeric ( which I keep on hand in the freezer). Then sometimes just a splash of almond milk or soy milk but generally , mostly water. That’s my morning blast. During the day if a blast is what I crave or fits the schedule I do only veggies as described in many of posts below. My favorite recipe, recommended by my doc is: arugula, melon, pear, a spoonful of peanut butter. Whenever I have fruits or veggies that are very ripe and I can’t use them up fast enough, (usually because I caved at the market for the bountiful whatever is in season) I cut up in chunks and freeze. A few pieces helps give the blast a bit of creamy thickness. I have the standard model, which is smaller than most juicers, so when I use to make soups, etc, I have to do in batches. But being smaller it takes up much less room on the limited counter space.

  • Katie Lilley

    Thanks for the inspiration Clotilde! I’ve never been one for smoothies as most seem to contain the devil’s food (bananas), but I’m hungry and desperately trying not to snack so I’ve just made a clementine, mango and carrot smoothie. And it’s not half bad. I shall be rummaging through my organic veg bag to see what else I can have a go at, as I’m pretty sure there’s spinach and beetroot and I’ve got some lovely local apples too. This could be the beginning of a new me!

    • So happy to have given you the nudge you needed, Katie, and the combo you tried sounds lovely! Katie’s Orange Smoothie, we can call it. :)

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