‘Tis The Season…For Green Juice!

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I got a call from ZiZi this morning, asking if she could come home from school.

I’m in the nurse’s office and I feel awful, Mom. My nose is running, it’s hard to breathe, my tummy aches, and my throat hurts. 

My kids have not been home sick from school in ages–and definitely not since we committed fully to this crazy healthy life–so I wasn’t exactly sure what to do with her after I picked her up. When I was a kid, sick equalled Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup, Saltine Crackers and 7-Up. None of that flies in this crazy healthy life, so I needed a Plan B.

I thought about it on the drive to school. She needs to get better quickly. Her big performance in “Honk! The Musical” is only five days away, and she just can’t be sick. She needs an injection of crazy healthy.

Poor girl was looking pretty puny when I picked her up.

You need a great big green juice and a lot of water, sweet girl. Let’s go get you better.

We bundled her up, and off to the grocery we went. On the list? The makings of an immunity-boosting green juice: parsley, swiss chard, celery, lemon, ginger, carrots, apples and pineapple juice.

I ran it all through the juicer, and what came out was as green as the grass in our yard. Most of the juice was greens, but the apples, carrots and pineapple added enough sweetness to cut the bitter and balance the sour.  Of course, the sweeter foods did up the sugar content of the juice, but it’s a trade off I am willing to make, to make sure my kids are getting the phytonutrients they need, when they are sick.

When I set it before her, the look on her face was priceless…the juices I normally make for her are less green and more berry colored, so this was a big change. I told her that, when my kid’s sick, I don’t mess around. Leafy greens, citrus and ginger are the best ammunition we have to fight disease.

ZiZi didn’t exactly love the juice…it was “just ok”, but she drank it all, after I explained why it would help.

The greens will reduce the inflammation that makes it hard to breathe, the lemon gives you vitamin C to for energy and immunity, ginger will settle your tummy, and the vitamins and minerals in the apples, celery, carrots will help your body eliminate the virus. 

Coincidentally, Erika Miller, a reporter/friend/supermom in NYC who follows us on the Facebook page for My Crazy Healthy Life, asked a similar question about green juices earlier this week. She wrote:

“I bought a 20z “Hail to Kale” juice drink (120 calories) — only to discover it has 20 grams of sugar! Can you talk about how to make the decision trade off between calorie count and sugar count?”

The thing that struck me about this question was the focus on calorie count and portion size. Although I was a die-hard calorie counter in college and my early twenties, I honestly have not considered calories at all, in the past ten years.

Here’s why: practicing yoga has made me aware that A) my body tells me how much is enough, if I am mindful and intentional about food, and B) the way we treat food today is not the way God intended.

This is true for both calorie counting, and portion size. I try to eat as if we live in a time before food labeling, frozen dinners, and fast food. How did people eat 100 years ago? Most people didn’t know what a calorie was, there was no such thing as Super Size, and food was less convenient…it was harder to come by, and it took longer to prepare. People actually planned their meals, and ate on a schedule.

The cultural norms were radically different before processed foods, sodas and drive thrus became mainstream. A hundred years ago, people ate what was served, when it was served. They were more aware of what they were eating, and where it came from, and they were appreciative of the preparation and presentation of the food. Perhaps most importantly, they stopped eating when they were full, and waited until the next meal to eat.

I think this is the way we are supposed think about food. Intentionally, and with awareness and gratitude. The more we pay attention to how foods affect us, the easier it is to make healthy choices.

The other thing that struck me about Erika’s request was the question about sugar count, in relation to the portion size. Twenty ounces is, in my opinion, two servings, not one. Which means the sugar count is only 10g per serving, and I think that’s pretty reasonable for a green smoothie, especially if the sugar comes from fruit. Remember, fruit sugars are the good kind of sugars…the kind our bodies know how to process. It’s the refined sugars that cause the biggest problems, and should always be avoided.

That being said, it’s still important to eat more veggies than fruit. Too much of any kind of sugar can cause inflammation and put stress on our liver and kidneys.

In our family, we talk a lot about the idea that vegetables, beans and grains should be the foundation of our diet, and fruit, nuts and proteins are complements (we don’t need as much protein as Dr. Atkins and The Paleo Diet have led us to believe, in my experience). Serving fruit for desert helps my kids understand that fruit should be used in moderation, and when they have a pure fruit smoothie for breakfast or snack, they are not allowed other fruits for the rest of the day.

And when we get sick, we fill our bodies with veggies, and eliminate sugars and processed foods as much as possible, until we feel better. This easier for me than it is for my kids, but I think we do a better job now than ever before. As I have said before, crazy healthy is a journey, and it gets better ever year.

ZiZi seems to have perked up a little in the hour since she drank her green juice. I’d like to think it’s working already! We’re going do a little yoga and pranayama in the studio now, and that should make a difference, too.

Say a little prayer for her as she heals…so she can back on her feet, and on the stage by Sunday. And stock up on leafy greens, the next time you hit the market. That way, you can be armed and ready, if the next call from the nurse’s office is made to you.

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