If you're on the lookout for easy, yummy ways to squeeze more produce into your busy lifestyle, consider a juice extractor, which can juice vegetables as well as fruits.
"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 Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "If you cook vegetables, those enzymes are destroyed."
Plus, 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 (Avery Trade, 2008). "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 1-1/2 cups 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 essential nutrients such as beta carotene. "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.
Easy Grape Juice: Classic Concord grape juice is a cinch to prepare at home and has just 150 calories per cup. For a sweeter take on grape juice, add 1/2 cup sugar.
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.
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.
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.
Veggie Smoothie: A vegetable smoothie? It's true. This is a fun way to get growing bodies the nutrition they need.
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.
Good Morning Juice: Drink this juice first thing in the morning. It will give you the energy to start your day right.
Garden Veggie Juice: Packed with tomatoes, onion, and sweet peppers, this juice is a great use for an abundance of garden veggies. The vegetable juice is a source of vitamins, antioxidants, and lycopene, and it's fairly low in calories.
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.
A good juice extractor can make your juicing adventures a pleasure. Give one of these a look.