No doubt about it, it has been a long cold winter here in Metro Detroit.

Each day the sun decides to peak its rays out, the hope of this long winter finally turning to spring returns. Unfortunately, those happy thoughts of spring can be accompanied by worry about what the months cooped up in the house may have done to the waistline.

 Lately, it seems it’s all the rage to turn to a juice cleanse to jump start weight loss and get rid of those pesky pounds. However, following this plan may be doing your body and weight loss efforts a disservice.

Sure, the ingredients in juice can provide many healthful benefits, but there are also some unhealthy drawbacks of replacing a meal with juice. While fruits and vegetables do contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are great for the body, it is important to remember that they also contain natural sugars. All of this sugar means that juice is full of carbohydrate.

Most of the time, juicing extracts the juice and leaves the fiber behind in the pulp.

This high amount of carbohydrate without fiber to slow down the absorption of sugar can make blood sugars rise rapidly causing you to feel unwell.

Not only does juice contain a high amount of carbohydrate, but it also contains little protein. Protein is particularly important during weight loss because it maintains your lean muscle. 

Looking at the label of a commercially made juice will show you just how much sugar can be in these seemingly healthy options. That juice you grabbed for breakfast may contain the same amount of sugar as a soda and the lack of protein and fiber may make you feel like you had a soda for breakfast. Just because juice shouldn’t be used as a meal replacement, doesn’t mean there isn’t room in a healthy meal plan for juice.

Juice can be a great way to supplement whole fruit and vegetable intake and also to try foods you might not normally eat. Making your juice at home is a great alternative to commercially available options.*

When you prepare your own juice, you have the ability to control what is going in it. When picking your ingredients for your juice, choose dark green vegetables that are going to be lower in sugar like spinach and kale. Add a small amount of fruit to give it a sweet taste without raising the sugar too high.

Fiber can be missing from commercially available juices and is especially important to keep you full and ward off those dizzy or tired feelings of low blood sugar.

To receive all the benefits of the fruits and veggies put into your juice, try adding the pulp back into your juice or even an emulsifying blender that can grind up the whole fruit. This way, the fiber won’t be lost in the juice.  If having fresh juice, try to limit it to one time per day and a smaller portion. This way you get the benefits of fruits and vegetables without all the sugar. You also don't want this to be the only way you are getting your fruits and vegetables.

The last and most important tip for making juice a healthy option is to not have it alone. Pair your freshly made juice with protein like eggs, yogurt, nuts, and whole grains like oatmeal. 

This will slow the absorption of the juice and also ensure you have a balanced meal. If you are feeling even more adventurous, you can add some of these protein and whole grain foods right into the juice. These added ingredients will change the consistency of the juice to a thicker-smoothie like one. Adding protein to the juice makes it a balanced option and one that could be used as a meal on occasion.  You will stay full from the protein and still get all the benefits of those fruits and veggies.

Meijer Healthy Living, by Samantha Habowski, Dietetic Intern Central Michigan University

*For food safety concerns, drink the fresh juice right after you have prepared it

Juice Recipes

Green Juice

Green Juice

The following juice recipe does not have very much protein in it and would be an example of juice you would want to pair with protein foods like Greek yogurt or scrambled egg whites.

http://assets.eatingwell.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/standard/recipes/BV8479_Westphalen.JPGMakes: 2 servings, about 8 ounces each

Ingredients:

1/2 cup fresh parsley

3 cups spinach

1/2 lemon, peeled