Eat Well, Spend Less: Summertime Popsicles with Zero Sugar (Kids Help in the Kitchen)

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Things that come out when the weather gets warm include:

  • flip flops
  • mosquitoes
  • gardening gloves
  • sandbox toys
  • popsicles shared around the neighborhoodeatwellspendless_150

It’s that last one that concerns me, and I’ve made it my goal to figure out how to avoid being the “uncool” house with no treats.

This means I need to figure out homemade, whole foods, tasty summertime goodies that aren’t too expensive to share generously.

You know…Eat Well, Spend Less.

My kids were more than happy to taste test the first step toward my goal:

easy homemade popsicle recipes

Kids Creating Treats for Kids

It’s important to me that my kids help in the kitchen, and although I’m certainly not as organized or patient as Jami of Eat Nourishing, who shared her awesome high expectations for kids’ responsibilities in a real food kitchen, I try to keep them involved and engaged when I can pin them down.


Some of their favorite tools? The loud ones. (i.e. the food processor and blender)

We had a great time whizzing up different juices and fruits to test popsicle flavors (and perhaps an even better time having popsicles for a snack – so that I could figure out which ones were good!).

easy homemade popsicles
After testing ice cube sized flavors, we made a few batches of our favorites for Paul’s “kid” birthday party, which was a simple soccer game and treat affair.

I was so glad I got both of them, ages 7 and 3-and-a-half, to participate in the “making” process.

When the kids help, they really get invested in the work.

They’re proud of the food they help create.

They’re excited to eat and to share with others.

Their enthusiasm is contagious.

And they learn about food, cooking terms, and life skills like following directions, taking turns, compromising (everyone can’t do everything), and teamwork.

I even let the 3-year-old take some photos of the work:

dairy-free ingredients for homemade popsicles

Recipe: Homemade Whole Food Popsicles

I love having these popsicles around, because they’re a dessert I can feel good about offering my kids after dinner. We had a bout of antibiotics recently, (blech) and along with taking probiotics, we had a day or two where the child wasn’t allowed to have any refined sugars, so it was nice to still have something fun for dessert. (I wish I had the children’s probiotics from Jack be Natural instead of guessing at how much of our adult form to give…)

The only thing I would have done differently with this project was allow each child to make up their own popsicle, from the ingredients to the proportions. Next time I will, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with! Here are a few of the “winners” we discovered:

Supplies needed:

1. Either purchased popsicle molds or one of the following options to hold the popsicles:

  • Bathroom sized Dixie cups and wooden popsicle sticks (available at most craft stores)
  • Snack sized (or smaller if you can find them) plastic zippered baggies
  • Silicone muffin cups and wooden popsicle sticks
  • Ice cube trays and sticks

2. Food processor, blender, or stick blender

3. Freezer with flat space available

kids love dairy-free homemade popsicles


1. Whiz together all the ingredients. A food processor works for coconut milk or pineapple, but stick with a blender for most of the recipes – even bananas if your machine can handle it. My food processor did a bit too much sloshing and splashing, and besides, blenders are much easier for pouring.

2. Pour into chosen containers.

  • Baggies will hold about 1/2 cup. You can freeze them entirely flat for a very thin popsicle or roll in half, squeezing the liquid out of one half and making more of a “tube” shape on the other half. Cut off the short end of the baggie to serve, like the popsicles that come in tubes and you squeeze them up to eat.
  • Ice cube trays are good for family taste tests.
  • Insert sticks either right away if a thick popsicle mixture, or set a timer for an hour and then put sticks in the partially frozen treats so they stay straight.

3. Put in a flat space in the freezer. I like to place any of these options onto a cookie sheet in case of spills and to keep them flat.


dairy-free ingredients for homemade popsicle recipes)

Try making small batches in ice cube trays to taste test, or just jump in and choose one that sounds yummy!

  • Tropical: 1 c. orange juice + 1/2 c. canned coconut milk
  • Tropical Grape: 1 c. grape juice + 2/3 c. coconut milk + 1/2 c. orange juice
  • Add 1 banana, frozen or fresh, to Tropical Grape
  • Grape-pineapple: 1/2 cup each canned pineapple with juice, grape juice and coconut milk
  • Add half a banana to Grape-pineapple
  • Citrus-Strawberry: juice and pulp of one lemon (use a fork to twist the pulp out), 2 Tbs. honey, 2/3 c. water, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1/2 c. orange juice

Cook’s Notes:

We also tested a few things that didn’t really work great, such as adding a raw apple with some combinations (too chunky) and a lemonade version that is basically the last option there without the strawberries and orange juice (too hard, like gnawing on an ice cube).

In my opinion, the canned coconut milk makes the consistency really like a popsicle. If you don’t think you like coconut milk, it’s still worth a try, or at least use fruit to make softer popsicles.

Buy orange juice with pulp to at least retain some of the fiber naturally found in fruit. Or, just use an orange.

What Next?

homemade popsicles dairy-free

These frozen goodies were definitely made with other kids in mind. We don’t buy or drink grape juice or orange juice (although my kids appreciated the change of pace with our water kefir as we used up the grape juice in a couple batches). I know that fruit juice is not really good for you, but at least there isn’t any white sugar in these recipes. They’re a huge step up from purchased popsicles.

For my own family, I’d like to work on some more “whole foods” versions. I’ll be including:

And of course, whatever the kids come up with…

homemade sugar free popsicle recipe

Other ways my kids help in the kitchen:

  • slicing potatoes in food processor – Leah practically does this herself once I’ve scrubbed the potatoes
  • making coconut muffins (from Healthy Snacks to Go) – I was teaching Paul to do this recipe completely himself after reading about Shaina’s kids making their own muffins and Jessica being inspired by it…but then we never found the time to get back to it between homework and baseball and playing with the friends in the neighborhood.
  • cutting pineapple all together –  I core it, Paul slices, and Leah dices!
  • making homemade dressings
  • stirring, measuring
  • Paul has been making scrambled eggs at the stovetop for a year or two now, and he’s so good at it he thinks eggs are subpar if anyone else prepares them.
  • potato salad – by about age two, they both have learned basic knife skills on soft things. Now they could pretty much make potato salad by themselves, too (although we always teamwork it).
  • setting the table (we have a dedicated low cupboard for kids’ stuff)
  • unloading the dishwasher

What do you love to make with your kids?

Check in with the other ladies of the Eat Well, Spend Less series for much more on kids in the kitchen:

Disclosure: Jack be Natural is a sponsor of KS this month. See my full disclosure statement here.

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29 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. Emily says

    My little guy is young enough he doesn’t really know what a popsicle “should” taste like but anytime I make a smoothie for breakfast I dump the extra into popsicle molds. They usually freeze very well and it leaves a great treat that he loves, I feel good about giving him and that I don’t mind sharing with him (although my husband is a little turned off by “green popsicles”). Its great too because I don’t have to get the blender dirty again!

  2. Heidi says

    My 4 year old loves helping in the kitchen. We started with the easy stuff, pouring and mixing. Every Sunday before church we make pancakes or waffles. At this point he knows the list of ingredients we need and can sort them between the wet and dry. Now I’m working on the measurements with him.

    For dinners he’ll help anyway he can. I have a lettuce knife that he uses to cut up veggies. He even does potatoes with that knife, it takes him awhile, but gives me the time to get the rest of the dinner going.

    We did the same thing last night with popsicles, though I wish I would have thought of the ice cubes for taste testing. We did a yogurt, peach, strawberry one which was good. Then he wanted to try a yogurt,chocolate, peanut butter one and he didn’t like it too much. I’ll end up eating that as DH didn’t like it either. I think it tastes pretty good, but they really weren’t for me.

  3. says

    Homemade popsicles are always best! Thanks for sharing your recipes and what didn’t work too.
    I just recently made homemade chicken nuggets with my kids. They had fun dipping the chicken in the butter and breading.

  4. says

    I love these! Thanks for sharing! I think we’ll try some and add some flavored water kefir. Probiotics and popcicles in one!

    We love snow cones this time of year, so I’m trying to figure out a real food version of flavoring syrup.


    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      Oooo, that’s a good one. I wonder if 100% fruit juice would reduce over a long time on the stove?
      Good luck! :) Katie

  5. Christina says

    My oldest is only 2, but she demands to “help” every time I’m making something (which basically means standing on a chair next to me and trying to chop vegetables with a butter knife). She knows the names of lots of veggies, and pretends to make soup and feed it to everyone (her dolls, her baby sister, myself, Dada even when he isn’t home). She’s also started to pretend to make salads. You know you’re on GAPS when your 2 year old spends hours playing “soup”!

  6. Carrie says

    Homemade sugar-free Fudgcicles
    5 bananas (I used only 4 because that is all I had)
    1 cup coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen brand because they don’t use preservatives in their canned milk)
    ½ cup of cocoa powder
    1 teaspoons vanilla
    Add the ingredients to a food processor. Blend until quite smooth, scraping down the sides as needed. Pour into individual freezer pops and freeze until well set (at least 4 hours).

    • Bethina Craigen says

      I make dairy-free ice cream with this recipe. The only difference is that I start out with frozen bananas. I blend them with cocoa powder, raw honey and enough coconut milk to end up with a soft serve ice cream texture. My kids love it as “ice cream” or Popsicles. I think my kids purposely try to let the last few bananas get overripe in hopes of chocolate Popsicles.

  7. Abi Craig says

    One of my favorite snack memories as a kid is popsicles my mom made with yogurt, banana, OJ concentrate and honey. We love homemade kefir and drink it a couple times a week with banana and frozen berries whizzed in–a little raw honey added only if strawberries are unusually tart. However, with 5 kids drinking it, mom tries to lick the pitcher to get any to herself, so none leftover for popsicles! My plan for tomorrow with friends coming over is to thaw a mix of frozen berries and maybe some pineapple enough to blend slightly and then pour into popsicle molds and refreeze. Would have added a bit of yogurt too, but the kids (and I) just finished up all that except what I need to make more! The coconut milk is a good idea.

  8. says

    Yum! (yogurt works great FYI) :)
    So much fun and such good reminders of ways to get/keep the kids involved. I needed that reminder!

    Great ideas – will be trying the variations for sure. I literally was just talking about freezer treats on my post today. Perfect timing!

  9. Angie says

    Hi Katie!
    Is there a kids multi-vitamin you use or recommend? I’ve been trying to research some good quality ones, and am so overwhelmed! Thx!

      • Christine Robinett says

        I actually have a problem with FCLO as Cod are quickly becoming endangered due to over-fishing. We need to find more sustainable sources of nutrition. D3 is something you can make for yourself through sun expoure or full spectrum lighting every day. I don’t use sunscreen, moderate sun exposure and full spectrum lighting. Don’t get quite so hung up on synthetic supplements. The cheaper synthetic supplements do work if you’ve got a malabsorption issue and a tight budget. You’ll still make healthy progress without breaking the bank. And all the flap about canned, frozen, fresh is degrees of symantics. I’ve worked with folks on very low budgets, food stamps/food pantry food. Even a shift to plain canned veggies and fruit (NOT sugary fruit) has made significant health improvements over pre-packaged, highly processed ‘food analogs’.
        ~Dr. Christine

  10. foogoomomma says

    Super super simple popsicle. Take a watermelon and slice it thin approx 1/2″ in with the rind and stack one piece opposite the other side so you can easily pop them apart from the freezer and store in gallon size ziploc bags. You can also freeze them on sheets first but we do way to many to mess with that. The kids LOVE LOVE LOVE this! frozen grapes are awesome too. The sweeter the watermelon is the more they like it but they really don’t care either way they love it. I tried doing the other type of popsicles but I have 5 children and this works best for us. As soon as the watermelons go on sale for super cheap we buy tons and start freezing them. I do this with bananas too just split them in half lengthwise – I do freeze these on a cookie sheet before popping them into freezer bags – they are a pain to pull apart otherwise.

  11. Christine Robinett says

    definitely use yogurt, Kefir, even sour cream and cream cheese for a cheesecake-like flavor. Paletas are a frozen treat that incorporate chunks of fruits and vegetables and can be sweet or savory. Like avocado, mild guacamole, mango salsa, cashew “cheese”, tamarind, etc. I LOVE green tea ice “cream”. I’ve even had a garlic ice cream pop at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. It may not be totally ‘kid friendly’ fare but it depends on the child’s taste. I personally love the idea of more savory flavors when the goal is to live with less sugar.

  12. says

    We’ve always got a million kids at our house…after school and in the summer.

    Hands down, the favorite snack food of all of them is…fresh fruit! A big bowl of grapes or cut up watermelon or sliced apples is a huge hit! I do keep conventional freeze pops on hand for the occasional treat / emergency nothing-on-hand day.

    But fruit is everyone’s favorite.

  13. Jan J says

    I was JUST telling my kids today about some whole fruit popsicles in the plastic sleeves that I saw at the grocery store but they were $4 for just six of them. I said I wished I could think of a way to make our own. I LOVE the idea of the snack bags – I never would have thought of that! We have a tiny fridge and no room for popsicle makers but we could tuck these here and there. Thanks for the idea!

  14. Daphne says

    I’ve been making smoothie popsciles for my son for a few months. I sneak (well not really sneaking because he’s watching) lots into them. I use a banana, handful of frozen blueberries or strawberries, probiotic powder, almondmilk yougurt, cal/mag liquid (we’re dairy free) and flavored fish oil. Oh, and peanut butter if we have it. I blend it in a tall narrow glass with a stick blender and then pour into popsicle molds. The hardest part is finding a flat spot in the freezer!

  15. says

    Yogurt makes excellent popsicles. As a kid I was able to please my junk-food-acclimated friends with popsicles made by stirring various flavors of jam and various bits of fruit into yogurt; I bet you could substitute pureed fruit for jam. I look forward to trying these popsicle recipes and learning more because my son has started clamoring to make popsicles!

    Our current favorite thing to make together is veggie burgers–this includes your Chickpea Wraps recipe. My 7-year-old can cook them himself on a small George Foreman grill, and it doesn’t heat up the house nearly as much as cooking them in a skillet!

  16. Lola says

    The title of “whole food popsicles” is misleading because these weren’t made with whole foods (i.e. whole fruits). These were made with processed fruits and fruit juices. Sorry, I just thought it was important to point out that the majority of the nutrients and vitamins in fruits are completely lost when they undergo the processing of fruit concentration or from being canned….not to mention the added sugars and preservatives. Just because a product is marketed as healthy, does not make it healthy for you. This is the reason Americans are facing an obesity epidemic – we rely on food marketers (the people profitting off the product) to tell us what is healthy for us. You simply cannot substitute the nutrients and vitamins from real, fresh (or frozen) whole fruits with any type of processed fruit – I wouldn’t even consider these to be good for you or your kids. Use real fruit instead if you really want to give your children the vitamins and nutrients they desperately need.

  17. says

    These look wonderful! I’m doing a healthy frozen treats round up post for Stephanie at Keeper of the Home on June 14 and plan to include a link to these. Hope it brings some new friends your way! I always enjoy all the practical encouragement and inspiration you share! Blessings to you, Kelly

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