Summer treats are a cherished pastime for many. When temperatures rise, nothing beats cooling off with an ice-cold popsicle or a good, old-fashioned ice cream cone. But these treats tend to get a bad rap for their high sugar and fat content, levels of preservatives, and artificial colors and flavorings. This is enough to leave health-conscious individuals seeking out healthier alternatives for summer sweets. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to still enjoy summer’s novelties without sabotaging your healthy eating efforts.
Summer Treats You Can Enjoy Without Guilt:
Ice Cream/Frozen Yogurt: Some store brands have come a long way by drawing in health-minded consumers. When choosing ice cream or frozen yogurt, look for options that are lower in fat (i.e. Edy’s Slow-Churned) or choose a quality ice-cream in vanilla and add your own ingredients such as a low-sugar granola or fresh fruit. Frozen yogurt is another great option, but check nutrition labels carefully. Many times frozen yogurt has more sugar to compensate for its lower fat content. DIY bonus: Try making your own ice cream or frozen yogurt. You don’t need an ice-cream machine, just an airtight container and a freezer. Or, make a refreshing sorbet with just frozen fruit and water or juice. Check out Live Better America for healthy recipes.
Popsicles: Sometimes the only thing that seems remotely refreshing on a hot summer day is eating a handful of ice, and popsicles allow us to do that in a much more user-friendly and flavorful way. At the store, look for brands that use 100% fruit juice or actual fruit in the recipe (i.e. Edy’s fruit bars). Avoid sugar-free items, as they contain controversial sweeteners and will leave you unsatisfied, as well as brands that use artificial colors and flavors. DIY bonus: Create your own unique versions of popsicles by using fresh fruit, fruit juice, yogurt, and/or tea. Check out Eating Well for plenty of homemade popsicle recipes.
Smoothies: These thick, fruity drinks are more popular than ever. But just because they’re made with fruit doesn’t mean they are healthy. Those local smoothie joints can use ingredients such as full-fat ice cream, added sugar, and even fruit syrup rather than real fruit. When you need a quick fix, ask the attendant which smoothies are made only with fruit and low-fat yogurt or milk. DIY bonus: Freeze your own fruit or buy unsweetened frozen fruit at the store and make your own smoothies. There are plenty of recipes online, but with a little imagination you can create amazing recipes on your own. Just choose a liquid base, add frozen fruit/vegetables, and ice or a frozen banana to thicken. Puree and enjoy!
Fresh Fruit: Sometimes plain fruit can be just as refreshing as frozen novelties, and can leave you feeling great from the added vitamins, minerals, fiber, and water content. When shopping in the produce section, look for items that are most in-season. Seasonal produce is fresher, lasts longer, and is more likely to be on sale. A juicy peach or a handful of cold grapes might be just what you need to beat the heat. DIY bonus: Make fruit kabobs with a variety of fresh fruit mixed with cheese cubes, a fruit parfait with fresh berries, fat-free yogurt, granola, and a drizzle of honey, or fruit dipped in melted dark chocolate. You can also try freezing small fruit such as grapes or blueberries and having them as a snack. Not only will it cool you off, the extra time it takes for you to eat frozen fruit could help you avoid the urge to eat something unhealthy along with it. Search “fresh fruit snacks” on Pinterest for more delicious ideas.