For babies, eating vegetables is a commonplace, albeit messy, event. Then, as babies become kids, things rapidly go downhill. A recent study by the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston showed children approaching middle school have a marked decrease in vegetable consumption. Adults aren't faring much better.
If your family is on the lookout for easy, palatable ways to squeeze more produce into your busy lifestyle, consider a juice extractor, which can juice vegetables as well as the more traditional fruit.
"One of the great benefits of juicing is that it's full of enzymes that are important for the body. They're needed for many chemical reactions that go on, like digestion and absorption," says Pat Vasconcellos, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. "If you cook vegetables, those enzymes are destroyed."
In addition, it's just plain fun to juice. "Juicing is a great way to tuck things into kids' diets that they would never eat whole -- but things we know they need for their growing bodies," says nutritionist Cherie Calbom, author of The Juice Lady's Guide to Juicing for Health. "You can tuck something like parsley into a juice. It's one of the greatest foods on earth, but there's not a kid around who's going to eat parsley unless he's trying to show off."
For busy parents, the quick preparation and cleanup also make juicing a welcome way to provide nutrition. Whipping up a big pitcherful in the morning provides a refreshing shot of vitamins and minerals and starts everyone's day on the right foot. If you serve a cup and a half in each glass, one drink can provide each family member with more than one serving of their recommended daily vegetable allowance, Vasconcellos says.
If your family is new to juicing, start with a base juice of carrots and apples. Calbom recommends using about one-half of a large cored apple (or an entire small cored apple) and about five washed carrots per person.
Even if you go no further in your juicing adventures, this healthful drink will serve you well because it's packed with such essential nutrients as beta carotenes. "Start with that basic, delicious juice," Calbom says. "After that, maybe add one other item, like a rib of celery, or something else very mild and great tasting. Then work up to adding more things. Try a small handful of parsley or a half-inch chunk of ginger."
Step up to bolder flavors, adding in small handfuls of additional vegetables at first, until your family's palate adjusts. "A beet is a wonderful thing to add," Calbom says. "It makes the juice a beautiful color, it's rich in iron, and the leaves are extremely rich in minerals."
As with the apple/carrot blend, don't hesitate to toss in fruit if you need to sweeten any of your juices. "You'll still have a cup of juice packed with veggies," Vasconcellos says.
"There's nothing wrong with adding an apple."
Here are some more recipe ideas to get you and your family juiced.