Break it Down: Juice

Orange Juice Photo courtesy of the Agricultural Research Service

An amazingly large part of our monthly food budget goes toward juice. We drink a lot of it – a lot being three to four bottles per week. Considering our massive juice intake, I instituted a few standards about the types of juice I will and will not buy.

Foremost, I get juice, not colored sugar water. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. I always look at the ingredients. If the first ingredients are sugar and food coloring, it’s not juice. Just saying... Food coloring masquerades under names like FD&C Red No. 40, Red 40, artificial coloring or caramel coloring.

Juices are also occasionally colored with the juices of fruits and veggies, such as beet juice. If a juice is labeled as a “fruit drink,” it’s likely to be more sugar and food coloring than juice.

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I also look for 100% juice. High standards? No, not at all. Why would I pay $3.00-ish for a bottle of flavored water? I may as well buy a bottle of 100% juice and dump half of it down the drain.

I also try to avoid preservatives. Some common preservatives are potassium sorbate, calcium propionate, sorbic acid, benzoic acid, sulphur dioxide (sodium metabisulphite), sodium nitrate, sodium nitrite and sulfites. Keep an eye out for these as you’re perusing the juice isle.

Powdered drink mixes are packed with preservatives, food colorings and sugar. Avoid them like the plague. Thankfully, many shelf-stable juices are pasteurized, and don’t need preservatives.

Do you remember how important it is to incorporate colors into your diet? Juice is an awesome way to do that. Stock your pantry with orange, acai, grape, pomegranate, blueberry, grapefruit and vegetable juices.

If you just gagged at the thought of veggie juice, listen to this: last week I juiced some carrots and celery. My ever inquisitive son, drawn by the noise of the juicer, wanted to try it. He took one sip, wrinkled his nose, said “eww,” took another sip, said “eww” again, and then downed the rest of the cup. Best Mom Ever Award goes to me! He didn’t ask for a refill, but that’s ok. With that one cup of juice, he tripled his veggie intake for the day. Had I added some apple juice as a sweetener, I’m sure he would have requested more. Makes me smile.

Were there more hours in the day, I would make all our juice. Fresh squeezed orange juice is amazing. Mixing juices is fun. You need a juicer or powerful blender to do this. They are a little bit expensive, but very worth it. Try mixing home-juiced pear, carrot and apple juices together. It is delicious.

Or try this Carrot Apricot Nectarine Juice I adapted from a recipe by Jane Lawson:

Wash 8 carrots, 6 apricots and 5 nectarines. Remove the pits from the apricots and nectarines. Juice all of them. Mix well, chill and serve. Yield: Approx. 16 oz.

If buying a juicer is out of the question, a common blender will work for soft fruits and small batches. Try this Tropical Smoothie also adapted from Jane Lawson and her cookbook, “Squeezed: 250 Juices, Smoothies, and Spritzers.”

Peel, seed and chop 1/3 pineapple, 1/2 papaya and 2 bananas. Blend the pineapple, papaya and bananas with 1/4 cup coconut milk. Add 1 cup orange juice and blend until smooth. Chill. Mix before serving. Yield: 16 oz.

Juicing is fun and incredibly healthy for you. But if you can’t make your own, simply being vigilant when buying juice is a huge step. Insuring that you and your family get the best food and nutrition possible is important. And even something as small as juice can leave an impact. Remember that next time you are tempted to buy colored sugar water.