Sneak More Fruits and Vegetables into your Day!
Do you think you could use more vegetables in your daily diet?
How often do we all tell ourselves that we really need to start getting a few more fruits and vegetables into our diet? We may even smugly put fresh vegetables into our shopping cart (next to the corn chips) with good intentions, only to see them wilting in the back of the veggie drawer a week later. I know this has been the case for me over the years! And as a mom, I've been involved in the age-old struggle of trying to get my kids to eat all the vegetables on their dinner plate. Not always easy!
Perhaps you even still harbor your own memories of having to sit at the table alone after dinner until you "ate every last brussel sprout on your plate!"
Although, like most people, I really tried to eat vegetables on a regular basis and make sure my family did, too. But I recently realized that most of us don't get nearly enough of these little nutritional gems into our diets. I was doing a little reading up on the subject and found that most polls show that less than 30% of Americans don't meet their daily requirements of vegetables. Fruit intake, while just slightly more, doesn't fare that much better. I quickly realized this was the case with our family. No, we weren't eating at McDonald's every night, but I had actually felt I had done my duty if I made sure we all had a carrot stick on a given day. Hmmm....
When I began doing research on just how much fruits and vegetables benefited us, I became more keenly aware that my family needed to "up the anty" when it came to our intake. But how? What can I do to ensure that my whole family gets more of those incredible nutrients into our systems that can help prevent countless diseases and health problems, while going about our sometimes very busy days?
One day, I dusted off the old juicer that I had used off and on over the years (mostly off) and then...I used it again. And again. About a week later, I watched the documentary, "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" which totally confirmed my rediscovered interest, and I was off and running!
Right now, we are using a juicer we purchased ten years ago, because of age and wear and tear, is a bit more challenging to work. It also is a centrifugal, which means it sends out mulch to the back container. Personally, I prefer the masticating juicer, which using a single gear (or sometimes twin gears) breaks up the cells of the produce at a slower rate, thereby producing a higher quality juice. Most also leave a pulp, but it is usually much drier due to the large amount of juice they are able to extract.
We are going to be purchasing one of these as soon as finances allow. In the meantime, it is definitely better than not juicing at all. I try to juice- at the very least- several times a week. If I'm really on the ball- every day!
What about the kids? Well, mine definitely have an infamous sweet tooth, so making juice with a lot more fruit than veggies - at least at first- has worked best. I've been trying to slowly wean them towards more veggies by adding a little more over time. One of our favorite kid-friendly juice recipe is simply three carrots, (or two carrots and one celery stem) two apples and an orange. (Making two small servings.)
Note: If you have children 12 and under, go easy on the amount. If you have very young children, consider diluting with water.
This summer, we have had an over-abundance of kale. I had only recently learned about its incredible health benefits so I usually throw some into the juicer for all of us, as well. But beware- if you have a centrifugal juicer as I do, a lot of the leaves of this (as well as with spinach) gets thrown into the back and never used. To remedy this, I also try to sneak green leafy vegetables another way....in smoothies!
I've found that smoothies are a delicious way to get those fruits and vegetables in (especially when it comes to my children!) There are so many recipes out there but I usually make mine up as I go. One of the most common smoothies I make consists of a little yogurt (perhaps about 6 oz) a little milk (sometimes almond milk or coconut milk) frozen blueberries, small banana and kale. This is SO healthy and scrumptious!
Just as with juicing and kids, I try to go easier on the kale and increase it as time goes on. But kale is a powerhouse of antioxidants and nutrition, and putting it in a smoothie is one great way to help improve our kids' health AND put a smile on their faces at the same time! And by putting kale (or other leafy greens) into a blender, they're actually getting the entire vegetable, not just part.
Sometimes I have heard the suspicious question from one of my kids, "Why is this smoothie GREEN?" But after they are convinced to take a sip, it's usually met with a "Mmmm!"
What is the difference between juicing and blending, you ask? Well, partly that depends on the kind of juicer vs. the kind of blender.
Basically, though, with a blender, you can add dairy products or other ingredients that you might not be able to juice properly. However, many blenders simply don't have the power to juice heavy-duty fruits and vegetables. I know mine doesn't. However, they can usually take on those leafy greens.
Juicers come in many forms, but as I mentioned before, come in two basic types of machines- centrifugal or masticating. Although I definitely would prefer a masticating style, centrifugal juicers are still extremely beneficial, somewhat less expensive and sometimes a bit quicker. Both are usually very adept at juicing most fruits and vegetables, but the masticating juicer is better with leafy greens.
Why not just simply try to eat more fruit and vegetables? Actually, eating more is certainly a good thing. But let's face it, even we mature adults who actually like the taste of most vegetables aren't going to consume as much as we would by juicing. Plus, many juicers break down the cells in such a way that they bring out the very best in the produce for optimum health. When we eat fruits and vegetables, much of the important nutrients are lost in the fiber that get expelled from our system. However, juicing can extract those nutrients into the juice with quick access to our bloodstreams. (I have personally felt the effects of this since I usually feel instantly energized after drinking healthy juice.)
I know my husband and I have each noticed a difference in our energy levels and I think it may even help us to look a bit younger, too!
So, if you're like me and have an old juicer still in working order in the back of your cupboard, my suggestion would be to dust it off and start juicing again. Or, go comparison shopping for a new one! But even using the blender can be a good start toward better nutrition for your family.
And who knows? It may even put an end to watching your kids slipping the dog those brussel sprouts under the table.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, natural plant chemicals that may help prevent and even cure certain diseases.
- Raw vegetables and fruits are rich in important enzymes, which may decrease or even be eliminated during the process of cooking.
- Many fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins such as C, E, A and B vitamins as well as essential minerals.
- Juicing helps to extract important nutrients from the fiber that may otherwise be expelled from our bodies