I was given a really nice blender as a birthday gift a while back, and then received a really nice juicer for Christmas later on. Did I need both? Seemed extravagant at first, but it turns out I’m glad to have both, because I use either or both every day. You might want these in your kitchen too. Juicing and blending smoothies let you get more whole raw fresh fruits and vegetables into your kids. Which might work best in your house?
First, a blender – a powerful one, like a VitaMix (which you can get at a 25% discount with a licensed health care provider’s letter of need), Bullet, KitchenAid Architect – options abound. This is your smoothie machine, which is great as long as your kids accept that texture. Essential for tube fed kids whose families and providers are working with blenderized whole foods instead of or in addition to commercial formulas. Other bonus points:
– Helpful for kids working on oral motor skills. Ask your child’s PT or OT to supply you with different types and sizes of straws, to help your child practice oral motor skills. Strong flavors can help wake up up taste buds and diminish oral tactile defensiveness, so experiment with additions of lemon or lime juice, ginger root, or fresh leaves of mint, basil, or cilantro. Even whole raw garlic cloves can be used. Years ago, my son’s OT suggested sour gummy worms to jump start his eating at meals. It worked, but you can get the same effect with beneficial nutrients instead of sugar and artificial colors.
– Easy to incorporate protein options for kids who don’t eat enough protein because they are picky, or reject the texture of protein rich foods like meats, nuts, eggs, or beans/legumes.
– Priority tool for texture-picky and allergy kids who need to wean off of triggering dairy sources like milk, yogurt, Pediasure, soy milk or formulas, or Compleat formula.
– You can make your own creamy thick shakes that are heftier for calcium, healthy fats, and protein than milk-based shakes. There are countless protein powder blends out there that may be a win for your child. I prefer a whole food option, but when I do need a synthetic in my practice, I choose powders based on organic rice, hemp, or pea proteins that are enhanced with amino acids (lysine, arginine) to boost biological value. I avoid casein and soy, and only use organic whey in cases where I’m sure the child can tolerate it. Skip complex blends with multiple extra ingredients and sugars if you can.
– Easy to hide supplements, probiotics, elemental amino acid powders (as for some of my patients’ tube feed formulas) or medications your child may not swallow well otherwise.
– Readily works in healthy fats your child might need more of, like ripe avocado, whole coconut milk, olive oil.
– Grinds neutral-flavored, nutrient-rich nuts like raw cashews to a smooth creaminess to deliver protein, fats, and minerals.
– You get the whole fruit or vegetable this way, which gives extra fiber, minerals, vitamins, and phytonutrients. Think kale, basil, spinach, watercress, mint or basil leaves, cucumber (peeled), grapes (without pits), whole raw ginger root or garlic, banana, avocado, berries, or soft ripe cored pears.
The only down side of using a blender is that it doesn’t work for hard raw vegetables like carrots or beets. Foods with lots of pulp or pits, or stringy fibery foods like celery, citrus, or ginger root can be pulverized well in a good strong blender but many kids may balk at that texture, which a juicer avoids. Thick textures can be a challenge too but you are always free to thin with filtered water. Some flavors do best when crushed ice is added. Otherwise, this is where the juicer comes in.
Juicing is a culture in itself, full of pro’s and con’s about what type of machine is best. There are masticators, which are considered best for preserving nutrient value. There are centrifugal machines – more affordable, work fast, and you can put just about anything in them including grapefruit rinds. This is what I was gifted (here’s more from Breville brand). Here’s what I have found:
– Lightening fast. Easy to clean.
– Makes quick work out of whole apples, pears, grapefruit, celery, cucumber, beets, carrots, berries, ginger root, grapes, garlic cloves.
– Not great for greens that make fresh juices really interesting, like basil or mint leaves, kale, spinach, watercress, etc. While I do get a nice flavor and brilliant green color in my glass, a lot of the greens’ fiber and nutrients end up in the pulp bin with a centrifugal juicer like this one. For these, a masticator may be better.
– This machine has gotten my teenage son juicing every morning. He loves a blend of apple, ginger root, celery, and pink grapefruit.
– Makes luscious pulp that is perfect to use in our compost.
For kids new to juicing, better centrifugal machines work so fast that the instant gratification of it might be a good idea. In no time, kids can dump in all kinds of fruits or vegetables, and get a low to no pulp drink. While the heat and aeration of centrifugal machines is not kind to delicate vitamins, a better machine will minimize this with the briefest of bursts through its innards.
Wash everything first, and buy organic if you can, as pesticide exposures are linked to many conditions including ADHD. Let your kids experiment with combo’s of their own (a useful motivator), and it just might bridge them to a wider palate for more of these foods in other permutations. Carrots, apples, pears, and citrus are easy starting points since they are sweet; then sneak in some punch with mint, basil, or ginger root. Garlic cloves go surprisingly well with pink grapefruit, apple, celery, and ginger. A few more ideas:
– Mint, ginger root, parsley, celery, or cilantro are helpful GI soothers. Consider these for kids with reflux or weak digestion.
– Raw organic cashews + crushed ice = a super creamy, neutral flavor base for thick shakes. Add almond or coconut milk (whole canned unsweetened) to expand the calories, calcium, and healthy fats. Banana, natural vanilla flavoring, organic cinnamon, or ripe peeled/cored pear enhance this even more. Add a dash of sea salt to make this more accepting for a child used to processed commercial formulas.
– Employ whole organic coconut milk (unsweetened, minimally processed) as a base. There are ample fats there that are easier to digest than fats in dairy or meats. Tastes surprisingly neutral, plays well with any other flavors I’ve tried so far, easy to enhance with protein powders.
– Don’t hesitate to pair odd choices, like coconut milk + kale + green grapes + basil; or cashews + sesame tahini + cinnamon + almond milk + pear or banana. These taste surprisingly good!
These are just a few ideas I’m using now for kids in my practice, who – for a variety of reasons – struggle to eat the truly nourishing diets they need. Blenders and juicers are great tools to help any kid eat more nutrient dense foods. When they invent their own blends, curiosity can get the best of them for tasting!