I’ve never been a juice fan. My liquids of choice exclusively include water, lattes and almost-black coffee. In fact, thinking of one of my most recent memories of juice, I’m almost positive it was mixed with a will-not-be-named second liquid (starts with ‘v’ and ends with ‘odka’) in a less than classy container. Normally a taboo item for the heath-conscious because of its high sugar content and low real-fruit content, juice has now become a sensible addition to a diet thanks to juice bars and bottled natural juices. I’ve been experimenting with Naked for a few weeks in order to get my daily dose veggies, but a recent visit to Peeled (check out the video here) made me ask the question, “Is fresh juice actually healthier than bottled juice?”

Naked Juice. Photo by Hannah Lin

To make a fair comparison, it is important to remember that no two natural juices are equal: some have a higher veggie content, some are purely fruit and others are purely veggie. My two favorites are the Life Support juice from Peeled and Berry Veggie juice from the Naked bottled juice brand. The two have similar ingredients and health benefits, making them perfect for my comparison.

Green Day Live juice smoothie from Peeled in Evanston. Photo by Hannah Lin

A visit to Peeled is an experience that can be intimidating at first, particularly if, like me, you aren’t well versed in juice culture. Once your brain catches up with your eyes, though, decisions become easier. I chose the Life Support after my morning workout to reset my blood sugar and line my stomach with fiber for the morning. The vitamin-rich concoction includes kale, beets, carrots, green apples, lemon and ginger, creating a taste that is undeniably veggie yet still sweet and tangy. The beets give it a gorgeous burgundy color and blending all the fresh produce into one juice results in less separation and thickness than Naked, which uses already-blended purees. The sweetness is much more natural and I could feel my body saying, “Ahhh…” as I took each sip. The calorie count is a mystery, but because the ingredients are visible and the juice contains no added sugar, they are clean calories that you can feel good about.

Photo by Hannah Lin

Considering taste and ingredients alone, Peeled and other juice bars seem like the best option for adding juice to my diet, but the price stops me in my fresh-seeking tracks. The Life Support was $7.09 (before my $1.00 coupon!) for 12 ounces of juice, and their other juices and smoothies can range from $5.00 to $8.00. Until Seth Meyers proposes and we create a joint bank account, it looks like Peeled will have to merely be a monthly indulgence for me.

Fresh lemon juice makes it way into most of the juices at Peeled. Photo by Hannah Lin

In light of my college-student financial situation, Naked Juice is great option. With no added sugar, one bottle makes a healthy and tasty 3 p.m. pick-me-up. Berry Veggie has been my favorite flavor. It includes 6 ½ strawberries, 15 cherries, 1/4 plum, 1/3 apple, 1 ½ purple carrots, 1/3 red beet, 1/8 sweet potato, 91 kernels of sweet corn, 18 chick peas, and a “dash” of lemon, adding up to two full servings of vegetables. The spectrum of ingredients make the juice a versatile option: your body will use each type of fruit and vegetable in different ways because they all contain different benefits, like boosting immunity or promoting healthy skin. At 230 calories a bottle, Berry Veggie is a filling breakfast when paired with a light granola bar or a handful of almonds. It has a decidedly thicker consistency than Peeled products and shaking well is essential to get the purees to blend, but you’ll find that your body soaks up the nutrients just as eagerly as fresh juice.

Naked Juice. Photo by Hannah Lin

The jury is still out on just how healthy Naked really is. It is important to be constantly curious, if not suspicious, of bottled products. Hidden chemicals and ingredients could make the product less healthy than we think, so attention to nutrition labels, health news and, most importantly, how your body responds to juice products is vital.

You’ll never find me doing a juice cleanse. I value chewing far too much, which is incredibly appropriate for a food writer. However, I like treating my body to things that make it feel good and teaching my palate to crave healthy, fresh foods. Until I land that creative director position at Vogue/win the lottery/marry a famous comedy writer, however, Peeled may be out of the question for regular juice boosts. I’ll stick to my Naked for now, but… Seth Meyers, call me maybe?