Healthy Frozen Treats for Summer

Tips from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy for keeping cool with naturally sweet, fruity, and refreshing treats

 

There’s nothing like an icy drink or frozen treat to help tame summer swelter, keep you hydrated, quench thirst, and satisfy a sweet tooth. Unfortunately, cool treats are often over-processed and packed with added sugars. Keep your cool with less processed, fruit-forward icy drinks and treats that are as healthy as they are refreshing and delicious. 

Natural vs. Added Sugars. A dietary pattern high in added sugars from beverages is linked with health risks like weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. A dietary pattern that includes a variety of naturally sweet foods, like fruits, is not linked to negative health effects. Naturally sweet foods have less sugar than the typical processed sweet treat, and the intact cell structure and fiber in less processed foods slows digestion and absorption of sugars.  So, fruits will generally raise blood sugar levels less than processed foods with added sugar, including soda, energy drinks, presweetened iced teas and coffees, and popsicles. Naturally sweet foods are also filled with prebiotic fibers, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are beneficial to health.

Smart Sips. Although soda consumption has declined substantially, sugar-sweetened beverages remain a leading source of added sugars in the American diet. When the heat has you reaching for cool and quick hydration this season, skip the soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy and sports drinks, sweetened coffees and teas, lemonade, and sweetened waters. These beverages are not only high in added sugars, but they are also low in nutrients. And they lack the health benefits that fruits provide. Check the Nutrition Facts label for “Added Sugars” on beverages you are contemplating purchasing. Better yet, create your own liquid elixir:

Chilled Choices: Refrigerate unsweetened beverages, like plain water, sparkling water, tea, and coffee. Flavor waters with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, fresh or frozen berries or sliced fruit, cucumber, and/or fresh herbs like mint or rosemary. Or freeze fruit juice in ice cube trays and use them or frozen berries to chill (and flavor) beverages.

Blended Beverages: Blend frozen fruit with water, milk, or oat or plant-based milk to make a natural fruit smoothie. For more nutrients and a heartier taste, add nut butter or nut butter powder.

Freeze Fruit. Bananas, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and mangos all freeze well or can be purchased frozen (check labels to make sure there are no added sugars). For an added bonus, freezing those aging berries or extra bananas going brown on the counter can reduce food waste. 

Sucking “Candy”: Pop a frozen grape or blueberry in your mouth for a cool, refreshing burst of sweetness.

Frozen Yogurt: Make your own easy frozen yogurt by using a food processor or blender to mix any combination of frozen fruit into chilled, plain regular or Greek yogurt. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and/or some zest for zing.  Enjoy right away or pour into molds to make pops or individual servings.

Simple Sorbet: Add bite-sized frozen fruit to a food processor or blender and pulse into small pieces, adding milk, water or 100 percent fruit juice by the tablespoon until the mixture comes together into a sorbet-like paste. Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice or zest, if desired, and pulse to blend. Serve immediately or freeze.

Top it Off. Toppings can add taste and fun, and they don’t have to be full of sugar. For a special dessert, top the homemade treats mentioned above with nuts, dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa), fresh herbs, homemade granola, or fresh berries or sliced fruits.

Try this: Make a fruit sauce by gently simmering a combination of fresh or frozen berries or other sliced fruit with a small amount of water and a squeeze of lemon juice in a saucepan over low heat until they become syrupy, about 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Process in a blender until smooth. Pour sauce into a sieve or through cheese cloth to strain seeds, if desired. Chill and serve over or mixed into banana “Nice-Cream,” yogurt-fruit pops, and fruit-puree sorbets. (This is also a great over oatmeal or plain regular or Greek yogurt.)

Or this: Toss rolled oats with chopped nuts and/or seeds, beaten egg whites, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and chopped dried fruit. Toast in a 250°F oven for an hour, tossing every fifteen minutes or so, until golden. This homemade granola, which has high fiber and nutrients and no added sugar, is a great way to add crunch to cool treats.

This article originally appeared in the Tufts Health & Nutrition Letter, published each month by the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy. For more expert guidance on healthy cooking, eating, and living, subscribe here.

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