Summer wouldn’t be complete without a dripping popsicle in the backyard or a bowl of ice cream after dinner. But before you rush to the store to stock up on frozen treats, try these homemade alternatives that are both tasty and healthy.
“Store bought treats often have added sugar and fat and don’t provide you with any beneficial nutrients,” said Lisa Robinson, a dietitian at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center. “Homemade treats made with foods that are naturally sweet, like fruit, can give you the sweet kick you are looking for without the added fat and sugar. Plus you get the added bonus of healthy nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber."
Robinson’s recommendations for healthy homemade treats this summer:
Banana “Ice Cream”
Freeze peeled, fully ripe bananas in a heavy-duty plastic bag. Once the bananas are frozen, process in a blender with a little milk until the mixture is smooth like soft serve ice cream. You can eat just like this or add in extra flavors. Try peanut butter, mint extract, berries, cocoa powder and vanilla or even pistachio butter to create a healthy substitute for ice cream.
Frozen fruit is cool and sweet with a little crunch. Dip it in vanilla Greek yogurt or chocolate and you have a dynamite dessert. Try frozen grapes, blueberries and banana or peach slices. To make a large batch, prep your chosen fruit and dip each piece into melted chocolate or yogurt (make sure fruit is completely dry if you’ve just washed it). Lay dipped fruit on a baking sheet that has been covered in parchment paper and place in the freezer for several hours or overnight. If you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle crushed nuts or coconut shavings on the dipped fruit before you freeze it. When solidly frozen, transfer all the fruit to a heavy-duty plastic bag and keep in the freezer for easy snacking all week. According to Robinson, fruit dipped in Greek yogurt is often a surprise favorite even over chocolate in her cooking demonstrations.
Homemade fruit popsicles are easy and free of refined sugar or other additives. Combine fruit, a little fruit juice and add some plain yogurt or coconut milk for creaminess. Flavor from fresh herbs can make your creation more grown up although kids will probably love the taste, too. Blend your ingredients until the mixture is smooth. You can throw in a handful of spinach, but beware it will turn your popsicles green. If you want to make it pretty, cut thin slices of fruit to mix in before you add it to the popsicle mold and freeze overnight. If you find your popsicles are too hard, try adding a little citrus juice (orange, lemon or lime) and increasing your fruit to juice ratio.
You don’t need a special plastic mold to make your own popsicles. Small paper cups are just the right size for a cool treat. Insert a popsicle stick into the center of the cup as your ingredients begin to freeze. When you’re ready to serve, allow a few minutes of defrost time, tear away the paper cup and enjoy. With no clean up afterwards or parts to keep track of – sometimes simple is better!
Combinations to Try:
Blackberries + plain Greek yogurt + fresh lemon juice and lemon zest
Watermelon + raspberry + mint leaves + fresh lime juice
Pineapple + banana + coconut milk + spinach + fresh lime juice
Water is the best way to stay hydrated, but sometimes it just feels so … bland. Try a gourmet blend of fruit and herbs to make your water extra delicious. How about peach + orange + cardamom? Or blueberry + lavender + vanilla? Grapefruit + rosemary? Strawberry + jalapeno? It won’t have a concentrated taste like juice or soda, but it will be a light and refreshing alternative to plain water.
To make your beverage, lightly crush the flavorings in a pitcher, add water and let sit several hours or overnight. You can top off your pitcher with more water during the day, although the flavor will slowly dilute. The infused water will last a while in the fridge, but strain and throw away your flavorings after two days as they will start to make the water taste bitter.
Pick two or three items from the list below and make your own gourmet concoction.
Fruit — Melon, berries, grapefruit, orange, lemon, lime, pear, peach, pomegranate, kiwi, mango, pineapple
Vegetables — Cucumber, celery, fennel, jalapeno
Fresh Herbs — Rosemary, thyme, mint, basil
Spices — Star anise, cardamom, fresh ginger, cinnamon, clove, vanilla bean
Edible Flowers — Lavender, hibiscus, rose, pansy, violet, nasturtium (unsprayed only, please!)
“If you have healthy treats on hand you’ll be less likely to succumb when a craving hits,” said Robinson. “These options are a great way to eat something tasty while also making a health-conscious choice."
July is a heavenly month in Oregon for enjoying fresh berries! Learn more about the nutritional goodness of berries and where you can find them locally.