Monday, April 4, 2011

I'm All Juiced Up

When I first started Weight Watchers, juice was one of the first things to go. Juice is high in calories and oftentimes sugar, and low in fiber and actual nutrition. This counts double for bottled juices. There are plenty of folks who believe whole heartedly in juicing at home, and for the sake of argument (and because I haven’t done enough research about the whole juicing thing) let’s agree that in this post, I am not disparaging juicing done at home from high quality veggies and fruits. I am however squarely addressing the millions and millions of ounces of juice (both sweetened and non-sweetened) that are purchased bottled in the US every year.

I stopped buying juice. It pissed me off. Apple juice, even when watered down fills up my kids’ tummies and that pissed me off. And then my kids would scream and throw tantrums for juice, and that would piss me off. And then I would hear parents talk about how juice was so healthful because it was like a serving of fruit and that would piss me off. And then that stupid Mott’s commercial with Marcia Cross and her ridiculously cute toddler twins would come on and that too would piss me off. I had really had it with juice. So I just stopped buying it.

Then I started brewing Kombucha and after my first batch was done I needed to bottle it for a second fermentation. I have tried a couple different versions. So far I have tried cherry, lemon, lemon with whole slices of ginger, concord grape, pomegranate and unpasteurized apple cider. My favorites have been lemon, pomegranate and the apple cider one. The others, well, they were okay, drinkable, but maybe not passion inducing. I have been buying juice again for about the last 5 weeks. And my biggest problem is that I have to buy 32 ounces bottles of juice, because I can’t find a juice that is up to my standards in the smaller containers. Then I only use 2-3 ounces in each bottle of kombucha when I bottle a batch of booch and the kids drink the rest. They whine for juice when they know it’s in the house, but when it isn’t there it isn’t a problem. I HATE the whining. But what do I do? The single serve bottles are all from concentrate, and many are sweetened. I just want whole organic juice, not watered down, not from concentrate and preferably no ascorbic acid. Is that too much to ask? Apparently so.

When I first started looking for juices for bottling my kombucha I looked at all the organic juices. They were pricey. One was pricier than all the rest, Lakewood Juices. But, when I looked at the bottles and compared them I realized why. Lakewood was the only juice company that I saw that offered organic juices that were whole and not mixed with something cheaper like apple or white grape juice AND were not rehydrated from concentrated juice. Ever since I learned this tidbit I have been happily buying their products.

Why does it matter if a juice comes from concentration do you ask? I never much cared about reconstitution myself. But that was because I assumed that companies would reconstitute juices to taste like, well, juice. I have always known that juice was high in sugar, but it is natural or fruit sugar. That should be no cause for concern, right? Wrong. Fructose can be very damaging to one’s liver in high does as fructose is not broken down anywhere in the body BUT the liver. Too much fructose can be a bad thing. But you would really have to eat a lot of fruit to cause yourself trouble. Drinking juice does set you up for consuming too much fructose because juice is less filling. One might find it hard to eat 10 apples, eventually you would get full or sick. But how many people could sit and suck back apple juice on ice through a straw? Do you know anyone who could even drink 24-32 ounces of apple juice in a sitting? How quickly? Yeah, I thought so.

Then recently I read this post from Marion Nestle’s Food Politics. Nestle talks about sugar in a new Tropicana product, a product that is advertised enthusiastically by its parent company Pepsi for not having any added sugars. Well then, how come the product tastes like it has added sugars? Because it is reconstituted. Sometimes to make a juice taste better and sweeter, manufacturers will not fully reconstitute juice. Then it is more concentrated and has more sugar than a pure fresh juice. This made perfect sense to me. You know what a can of frozen condensed orange juice tastes like, right? It tastes syrupy sweet. If the recipe calls to mix equal parts of water and concentrate, but you add less, than the mix will be sweeter on the tongue than if you diluted it according to the package instructions. And of course the mix will be higher in sugar and calories per ounce. A company needn’t add ANY extra sugar if all they do is add fruit concentrate. Then they could create a product with the same levels of total sugar as soda and slap an ‘all natural’ stamp on the front of the package, and captivate their customers.

I am not implying that all manufacturers do this. But is trust enough? But what if every company is doing it by 5%, or 10%, just enough to make their product taste better. I don’t want that. I just want stuff that has been left alone. So when I spied Lakewood’s products I felt really good about them. I like that all their products are organic. I like that they listed that their juice was not from concentrate in bold letters on the back of the package. The company does make other juice blends and some sweetened beverages like lemonade, but you know me, I just stick to the naked products like lemon and cherry and pomegranate juices.

Lakewood Juice’s stuff is pricey, between $5 and $10 per 32 ounce bottle here in NYC. And that may be enough to make you balk. But it is probably the best stuff on the market, for what I am looking for. I am willing to pay the price since I am not buying a lot of it. My problem now is how to keep it in the house for the kombucha (which I will let the kids drink) and not have my kids guzzling it? I guess I am going to have to work on that one…


  1. Could you freeze the unused portions in ice cube trays to reuse later? That way the kids can't ask for it but you don't have to throw it out. My understanding is that freezing is less damaging than other means of preservation but I don't know if that's something you would feel ok about.

  2. I hope you'll tell us how to make Kombucha in a future post.