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.
Kid-Pleasing Juice Recipes
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.
- Prep: 10 minutes
- Ingredients: 1 small apple, cored; 4 carrots; 1/2 of a 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
- Ingredients: 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.
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
- Ingredients: 2 medium parsnips; 2 medium pears, cored; 1-inch-thick slice of fresh ginger; 16 ounces carbonated water, chilled
- Juice the parsnips, pears, and ginger. Divide among four serving glasses. Add carbonated water. Stir right before serving. Makes 4 servings.
Veggie Smoothie: A vegetable smoothie? It's true. This is a fun way to get growing bodies the nutrition they need.
- Prep: 15 minutes
- Ingredients: 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 tablespoon 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.
Juice Recipes for Grown-Up Tastes
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
- Ingredients: 2 medium carrots; 4 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, quartered; 1 large red or yellow sweet pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut up; 1/2 of a medium cucumber, peeled (about 6 ounces); 1/4 teaspoon salt; few dashes bottled hot pepper sauce; Kalamata olives, lime wedges, and 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. If desired, skewer olives and lime wedges on long wooden toothpicks; top juice with skewers and cracked pepper. Makes 4 servings.
Good Morning Juice: Drink this juice first thing in the morning. It will give you the energy to start your day right.
- Prep: 15 Minutes
- Ingredients: 5 carrots (about 13 ounces); 1 large cucumber (about 12 ounces); 1/4 cup mint leaves or ginger mint leaves; 1-inch slice of fresh ginger; dash 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.
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.
- Prep: 10 minutes
- Ingredients: 4 carrots (10 ounces); 1 medium sweet potato (12 ounces); 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.
High-Quality Juice Extractors
A good juice extractor can make your juicing adventures a pleasure. Give one of these a look.
- Waring Pro Juice Extractor, model JEX328. Attractive, powerful, easy to clean. Costs about $80. Visit waringproducts.com for more information and a list of retailers.
- Omega 4000. Omega is one of the granddaddies of the juicing industry, and its new 4000 model is among the best on the market. It comes with a 15-year warranty and costs about $250. Find a retailer by visiting omegajuicers.com or by calling (717) 561-1105.
- L'EQUIP Mini, model 110.5. This compact juicer takes up little counter space and performs admirably. At about $100, it's one of the lowest-price juice extractors on the market. Find a retailer at lequip.com or (800) 816-6811.
- Juiceman II Elite. Solid and durable, with easy-to-follow instructions, this Juiceman extractor comes with a cutting board and cleaning brush. Costs about $150. Order at esalton.com or call (866) 372-5866.