Are you trying to find quick and easy ways to increase your fruit and vegetable intake? You’re not alone. Most Americans do not meet the minimum requirement of at least five servings daily. The health benefits of a diet high in fruits and vegetables, low in saturated fat, sodium and processed sugar has been shown to reduce the risk for certain chronic diseases and help maintain (or lose) weight. Fruits and vegetables provide variety of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals essential for good health. They also contain fiber, a component that can help keep you full longer. What’s a quick and easy way to obtain all of these nutrients for good health? This is where blending and juicing comes in, but what’s the difference?
In juicing, you discard the pulp and end up losing fiber and other vitamins and minerals from produce whereas blending retains the pulp, and in turn more of the fiber and nutrients; the extent retained depends on how much is blended. If you are dead set on blending or juicing your fruits and vegetables I’d say choose blending over juicing. However keep in mind if you are trying to watch your caloric intake, drinking your calories in general can lead to excess intake.
When trying to maintain or lose weight, caloric intake is very important. When drinking your calories, you are more likely to over consume. For example, a 20-ounce bottle of 100% orange juice contains around 275 calories. The good news with this juice has no added sugar; the bad news is this is one way to effortlessly over consume your intake. Reason being, you can easily drink these 275 calories within a short period of time, it will not fill you up and most likely you will eat the same amount you normally would -- without the juice -- throughout the day. The end result is excess calorie intake for the day. Even if you are consuming your calorie needs to maintain your weight and you add just 100 extra calories everyday for an entire year, you can gain 10 to 12 pounds in that year.
Also, unless you are making your smoothies at home and have control over what you are adding, you can end up taking in even more calories from fruit juices containing added sugar. Often popular chain smoothies are riddled with added sugar and in turn contain excess empty calories. For example a 20-ounce smoothie from a popular chain can top 400 to 500 calories. When it comes to blending, for those who are very active and not necessarily concerned with weight loss due to the extensive training, it may be included but make at home to have control over the ingredients added.
I personally do not agree with either method of juicing or blending when trying to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Juicing lacks fiber along with vitamins and minerals and can easily add excess calories, not ideal if you are trying to watch your weight. While blending can retain some of those nutrients and fiber, I still believe the best source of eating fruits and vegetables in their whole form. Nothing beats the taste of deep red juicy strawberries or crisp sugar snap peas so delicious you won’t want to share!
My go-to breakfast is plain greek yogurt mixed with a cup of sweet red cherries topped with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of bran cereal. My favorite snacks are a mix of fruits and vegetables to include juicy blood oranges, fresh strawberries, or cherry tomatoes so sweet they taste like candy. I walk to my corner market for fresh produce almost daily, this way I can incorporate vegetables easily into my meals… I’m not picky and usually choose produce in season for the best taste! If you are not close to a fresh market, keep frozen fruit and vegetables on hand to always have an option for incorporating into meals and snacks.
Tips to increase fruit and vegetable intake:
- Add to breakfast – egg white omelet with onions, bell peppers, arugula, and tomatoes; add bananas or fresh berries to a bran cereal; mix fresh fruit in yogurt or in a low fat or fat free cottage cheese.
- At mealtimes – add vegetables to sandwiches: lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts, cucumber, peppers, onion or olives; make half of your plate vegetables at mealtimes; choose a variety and incorporate many colors.
- Incorporate as snacks – bell peppers, carrots, cucumber, broccoli or cauliflower dipped in hummus; apple and peanut butter or cheese sticks; celery and peanut butter.
- During the summer, bring a refreshing fruit salad to a BBQ.
- Always keep frozen fruit and vegetables on hand in case you run out of fresh.