Why bother making healthy popsicles? Because nobody wants to turn on the oven to bake healthy pumpkin muffins in the summer!
Our neighborhood is packed with kids, and they love hanging out together. When the weather is hot, popsicles tend to come out and get shared with friends.
What’s a household to do when we try to avoid artificial colors in food, think artificial sweeteners are dangerous for kids, and really don’t want to consume a ton of white sugar either? Not to mention those households who work around food allergies (dairy-free popsicles, anyone?).
The choices aren’t great:
- Say no all the time. Boring!
- Stay home and don’t let the kids play with other kids. Anti-social!
- Say yes to the junk. Slippery slope!
- Buy “better” popsicles. Expensive!
Or finally…make homemade, whole foods, tasty summertime goodies that aren’t too expensive to share generously.
We’ve been messing around with quick-and-easy popsicle recipes for a couple years now. My kids enjoy them so much, my son even made a few batches to take to his sixth-grade class as his birthday treat this year!
Kids Creating Treats for Kids
It’s important to me that my kids help in the kitchen, and projects like this over the years eventually led to us working together to teach kids to cook online. We love encouraging other kids to experiment in the kitchen, create their own flavors, make dinner for the family, and embrace healthy eating!
And what tools do kids love to use the most? The loud ones.
That’s why this was a particularly fun project – 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!).
Here’s my little doll way back when she was 3, excited to see how they turn out:
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Our Healthy Popsicle Process:
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:
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.
Here’s how to keep it frugal and share-able:
1. Either purchase popsicle molds (we like tubes like these from Amazon) or find one of the following options to hold the popsicles:
- Bathroom sized Dixie cups and wooden popsicle sticks (available at most craft stores and some dollar stores)
- Snack sized (or smaller if you can find them) plastic zippered baggies
- Silicone muffin cups and wooden popsicle sticks (from Amazon)
- Ice cube trays and sticks
3. Freezer with flat space available
Try making small batches in ice cube trays to taste test, or just jump in and choose one that sounds yummy!
- 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
- optional: Add 1 banana, frozen or fresh, to Tropical Grape
- 1/2 c. canned pineapple with juice
- 1/2 c. grape juice
- 1/2 c. coconut milk
- optional: Add half a banana to Grape-pineapple
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
* 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.
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Kids Love These Popsicles
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, especially in the inclusion of healthy fat, not just carbs.
And of course, the kids are big fans:
Other ways my kids help in the kitchen:
- slicing potatoes in food processor
- making coconut muffins (from Healthy Snacks to Go)
- cutting pineapple all together – I core it, Paul slices, and Leah dices!
- making homemade dressings
- stirring, measuring
- scrambled and fried eggs
- pancakes – our favorites are these pumpkin pancakes
- potato salad – by about age two, all my kids learn basic knife skills on soft things. We teamwork potato salad and everyone has a job!
- setting the table (we have a dedicated low cupboard for kids’ stuff)
- unloading the dishwasher
- even chopping vegetables with a chef’s knife and making entire meals by themselves!
- I think you’ll be impressed if you visit the Curriculum Map for our Kids Cook Real Food course – it’s very comprehensive!
My 3 boys will make great husbands someday!
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