When the sun comes out and parties and barbecues abound, we often indulge in cold, sweet treats like ice cream, ice pops and sodas in an effort to keep cool. While certainly tasty, these desserts can pack major calories and may do little in the way of hydration.
It's OK to let the kids have an occasional calorie splurge, but for everyday purposes, here are a few options for all-natural, cooling summertime treats.
Make your own ice pops
The Popsicles and other frozen treats you see at the grocery store often contain high-fructose corn syrup, artificial flavorings and preservatives—not to mention that they can be pretty pricey.
To make homemade ice pops, all you need are juice, fruit and a mold. If you don't have a store-bought mold, just use those nifty wooden sticks from a craft store (a plastic spoon will do in a pinch) and some small paper cups or plastic yogurt cups that you've emptied and cleaned. If you're wondering how to make the craft stick stand upright in the cup, here are a couple of options: Partially freeze the ice pop and then add the stick or put a sheet of aluminum foil or plastic wrap over the top of the cup and punch the stick through.
You can make this a special project for the kids by setting up a table with all of the needed supplies and letting them make their own. They'll have a blast crafting their own flavor combinations, and you can take comfort in knowing that they're consuming high-quality ingredients.
Rather than making plain old pops, try layering flavors by freezing about an inch of one flavor, then adding another on top, and so on. Also, dropping cherries, strawberries, pineapple chunks, coconut flakes or even chocolate chips into your pops will make them extra special.
If your kids prefer ice cream, try making yogurt pops to satisfy their cravings for creamy treats. Just blend together plain yogurt and a sugar-free juice, pour into cups, drop in a stick and pop them in the freezer.
The best soda you'll ever taste
Public health researchers and experts have named soda as one of the main products threatening the health of Americans, because it's often consumed in excess and contains a large amount of sugar and calories, which people tend not to factor into their daily intake. Individuals who drink a lot of soda have been shown to have higher rates of obesity and cardiovascular problems, according to one study by researchers at the Cleveland Clinic and Harvard University.
But you can have your fizzy beverages and drink them, too! That is, if they're homemade.
All you need to make your own healthy soda is juice—you can use a regular variety, a concentrate or even fruit nectar for this purpose—and carbonated water. Mix them together according to your personal taste, and you have a drink you can happily serve the whole family.
Dressing up ice water
Many kids claim that they don't enjoy water, especially if they're used to drinking soda, milk or juice. But, as we all know, water is essential to healthy living. It keeps us hydrated and cleanses the body like no other substance can.
So, now may be a good time to get the kids used to guzzling water, even if it takes a little extra effort. In the long run, a preference for water over sugary drinks can result in significantly better health.
A water filter may help make the stuff from the tap taste better to sensitive palates, and always having ice on hand could also encourage youngsters to drink more water.
Some kids like a squirt of lemon or lime, but don't stop there. Sliced fruit—like strawberries, oranges and watermelon—also will add a hint of flavor while packing very few calories, or drop in a few blueberries or raspberries for fun and flavor. Sliced cucumbers or a sprig of mint are other options. Additionally, try using fun cups and silly straws to make water seem special.