Fresh Juice at Snap Kitchen

I've been on a juice kick for the last few months. A good green juice is great for busy days and stressful times, and a far better alternative to my other stress food: Jack In The Box tacos.

Mind you, I don't have the required appliances to do the juicing myself -- I rely on places like Eat Gallery, Whole Foods and my mother's kitchen (and her amazing Hurom juicer) to get my juice fix. And now I have a new place to add to the rotation.

Snap Kitchen recently sent a seven-pack of juices to my office, part of its new Clean Start juice program designed to provide customers with a one-day juice menu of five different cold-pressed juices that it calls "simple, clean food in a liquid format."

It's rare that I write up any of the many foods and drinks that are sent my way (this is the part where I mention that I didn't pay for the juice). But I was so impressed with Snap Kitchen's juices that I went out to the store and bought three more to try all over again. That's even rarer.

I shouldn't have been so surprised; Snap Kitchen's prepared foods are consistently my favorite of all the healthy, pre-packed foods-type places around town. And the juices live up to the standard set by its prepared foods: With only one exception -- one brought on by my love-hate relationship with cucumber (not Snap Kitchen's fault, obviously) -- I've loved all of the juices I've tried so far.

Four of the juices are entirely plant-based, and cost $8 each:

  • Super Green Juice: kale, spinach, romaine, carrots, cucumber, celery, parsley, basil and lemon juice
  • Energy Boost: papaya, watermelon, lime juice, mint leaves and coconut water
  • Antioxidant Juice: apples, carrots, cilantro, jalapeño, beets, garlic, lemon juice and cayenne pepper
  • Carrot Ginger Elixir: carrots, apples and ginger

Three are nut-based, and range from $4 to $4.50 each:

  • Cashew Protein Shake: raw cashews, water, agave nectar, sea salt, vanilla extract and cinnamon
  • Chocolate Banana Protein Shake: banana, raw cacao powder, almond milk, coconut water and whey isolate protein
  • Vanilla "Latte": almond milk, whey isolate protein, coffee, vanilla and gluten-free oats

By far my favorites are the spicy Antioxidant Juice and Carrot Ginger Elixir options, both of which come with a pleasant kick that wakes you up in the morning and gets you moving. You'd think that cayenne pepper and jalapeño in juice would taste horribly offensive, but you'd be wrong. The Cashew Protein Shake is also fabulous, tasting more like a fancy (if very loose) milkshake than anything else.

But although the juices are all vegan and gluten-free, they're not for everyone. If you have food allergies or sensitivities to any of the ingredients, you're out of luck: The juices are not made to order; you pick them up from the ready-made section of Snap Kitchen like you would an entree or breakfast dish. They're also not ideal for people with diabetes or high blood sugar, due to the inclusion of ingredients like agave nectar.

And even though the juices "keep" for several days -- a Carrot Ginger Elixir juice, for example, that's made on January 22 is good until January 28 -- the juices ought to be consumed as close to the made-by date as possible. Fresh, cold-pressed juices lose much of their efficacy after a day or two, and they simply aren't going to taste as good. So that means no stocking up for the week; you've got to buy daily.

On the other hand, Snap Kitchen has tried to make it easier on those who want to eat or drink their wares every day: In addition to offering curbside pickup and delivery, the Houston-based chain has just opened a second location at Memorial Park.

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Katharine Shilcutt