When it’s the dog days of summer, there are few simple pleasures that beat a quick dash to the freezer for an icy, sweet popsicle. Many of us are rightfully wary of the colorful pops though: conventional popsicles often contain massive amounts of refined sugar, artificial flavorings and colorings, and little-to-no nutrition. But there’s no need to sit out on the fun! Making popsicles at home – which wins the award of world’s easiest dessert recipe (just blend and freeze) – avoids all the “undesireables” in the ingredient department, and allows for massive nutritional upgrades. Here are some ways you can turn popsicles into the kind of treat you can really feel great about on every level:
Use real, preferably fresh, 100% juice | Even just using a simple base of juice is a great start to making a popsicle that’s fully natural, and offers vitamins and micronutrients to boot. While juices like orange, grape, and apple are classics, you can really use any juice here: such as more nutrient-dense superfood varieties like pomegranate juice or even a fresh-pressed sweet green juice! You’ll need to sweeten it up a little before freezing to make it dessert-worthy, but even just a few drops of liquid stevia mixed in will do the trick.
Blend in whole fruits, too | Pop a few of your seasonal favorites into the blender along with your juice/liquid of choice for a little bit of soft texture, plus extra fiber! Fresh or frozen fruits like strawberries, mango chunks, pitted cherries and so much more make wonderful additions. You can even use small amounts of dried fruit, like goji berries or dried goldenberries – just be sure to blend them into your mixture very well before pouring into popsicle molds.
Sweeten smartly | Our sense of sweetness is diminished when foods are ice-cold, which is why a juice will taste sweet when fresh, but seem not sweet enough once frozen (this is also why popsicle manufacturers often douse their products with sugar). To make a great popsicle, you’ll need to sweeten your pre-frozen blend to a level that tastes slightly “too sweet.” But instead of using cane sugar, try sweetening popsicles with better sweeteners like a little digestion-friendly yacon syrup, mineral-infused coconut sugar, or even low glycemic agave syrup occasionally. In many cases, you can also boost sweetness with no-calorie and sugar-free stevia, which brightens up sweet flavors, too. I will often use just a tablespoon or two of natural sugars for the entire recipe (6-8 servings), and amp up the remaining sweetness with stevia – a great calorie reducing trick.
Blend in superfood powders | Fruit powders, made from finely ground super-fruits, are a fantastic way to amp up the nutrition, color and sometimes even the flavor of your favorite homemade pops! For example, you can blend in a little bit of antioxidant-rich maqui powder, or some vitamin C-boosting camu powder effortlessly into some regular fruit juice to instantly make your popsicles bona fide superfood-pops. Colorful food lovers can even add in green powders, such a spirulina or wheatgrass powder, into strongly flavored fruit blends for an exceptionally healthy boost.
If all else fails, make it chocolate | Some might call them not a true popsicle; others may call them the “only” popsicle: Either way, fudge-like chocolate ice pops are pretty awesome. Instead of using juice as a base, use almond, cashew, or coconut milk, and add cacao powder plus a little sweetener of choice, to taste. The results? Utterly cool chocolate bliss, with a legitimate superfood edge.