Juicing gets more vegetables into your family's diet -- the delicious way. You'll love how easy it is to whip up a batch of Mother Nature's finest.
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.
Carrot-Apple-Beet Juice A straightforward favorite, this juice is sweet and tasty. The beet turns the juice a cool purple color that kids love.
Prep: 10 minutes 1 small apple, cored 4 carrots 1/2 medium young beet, cut into wedges (1 cup) Scrub the produce well. Juice the apple first, then alternate juicing the carrots and the beet. Serve chilled or over ice. Makes 1 serving.
Super Green Juice It's hard to get kids to eat spinach and celery, but they won't even notice in this vivid green drink.
Prep: 15 minutes Chill: 30 minutes 1 small handful fresh parsley (about 1/4 cup) 1 cup pineapple chunks 6 cups spinach leaves 1 stalk celery 1 medium orange or tangerine, peeled and seeded Wash veggies. Bunch up the parsley, and push it through the feed tube with the pineapple, spinach, celery, and orange. Cover and chill 30 to 60 minutes or until well chilled. Stir and pour into an ice-filled serving glass. Makes 1 serving.
Veggie Smoothie A vegetable smoothie? It's true. This is a fun way to get growing bodies the nutrition they need.
Prep: 15 minutes 2 cups lightly packed spinach 1 large green apple, cored 1 large banana, peeled, cut into chunks, placed in a food-safe bag, and frozen 1/2 cup milk 1 Tbsp. peanut butter Wash spinach and apple well. Juice the spinach and apple. Pour into a blender. Add frozen banana chunks, milk, and peanut butter. Cover and blend. Serve immediately. Makes 2 servings.
Ginger Ale Adventurous kids will crave this alternative to soda. And so will adults. The combination of parsnips and pears gives it an intriguing and zingy taste.
Prep: 15 minutes 2 medium parsnips 2 medium pears, cored 1-inch thick slice of fresh ginger 16 oz. carbonated water, chilled Juice the parsnips, pears, and ginger. Divide among 4 serving glasses. Add carbonated water. Stir right before serving. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Good Morning Juice Drink this juice first thing in the morning. It'll give you the energy to start your day right.
Prep: 15 Minutes 5 carrots (about 13 oz.) 1 large cucumber (about 12 oz.) 1/4 cup mint leaves or ginger mint leaves 1-inch slice of ginger Dash of salt Scrub produce, slice into pieces, and feed into juicer. Season with salt. Cover and chill if desired. Stir before serving. Serve over ice. Makes 2 servings.
Super Tomato Juice This doesn't have the high sodium of the canned drink and it's as flavorful as anything you can get at the store.
Prep: 15 Minutes 2 medium carrots 4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered 1 large red or yellow sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut up 1/2 medium cucumber, peeled (about 6 oz.) 1/4 tsp. salt Few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce Kalamata olives, lime wedges, cracked pepper (all optional) Juice carrots, tomatoes, sweet pepper, and cucumber. Stir in salt and hot pepper sauce. Chill or serve over ice. Stir well before serving. Skewer kalamata olives and lime wedges on long wooden toothpicks. Top juice with skewers and cracked pepper. Makes 4 servings.
Sunshine in a Glass Because it's rich in antioxidants, this juice boosts your skin's ability to protect itself from the damaging effects of the sun.
Prep: 10 Minutes 4 carrots (10 oz.) 1 medium sweet potato (12 oz.) 1/2 cup packed parsley sprigs Dash salt Dash pepper Scrub produce well and cut into small chunks. Feed into juicer. Add salt and pepper. Serve over ice. Makes 1 serving.
A good extractor can make your juicing adventures a pleasure. Give one of these a look.
Originally published in Better Homes and Gardens magazine, April 2005.