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It’s officially summer! The MS-1s are out enjoying our last “summer of freedom” (doesn’t that sound ominous?), so I’ve been grateful for some down time. (To follow along with my medical school journey and get a glimpse of life in rural North Carolina, head on over to my instagram!).
Here in North Carolina, the fruit bins are overflowing with seasonal produce. To celebrate the colorful array and the start of summer, I made cool, creamy, drip-down-your-arm frozen fruit bars. These cheerful treats have no added sugar, made from real whole fruits and a splash of coconut milk for creaminess.
After working with patients this year on mission trips and at the free clinic, I’ve been more inspired to talk about healthy food than ever before. Many of them have diabetes or are pre-diabetic. The ones I’ve spoken with have been open to making dietary changes, but aren’t sure where to start. Through such conversations, I’ve learned that small tweaks and substitutions are the most manageable for people trying to change their way of life. In my next chapter of blogging, I hope to share more simple recipes with common ingredients that can nudge people towards healthier habits. I’d also like to solicit your feedback, dear readers. What’s one change you made to your diet that kick started your healthy eating? Leave it in the comments, and maybe it’ll inspire others to take a step in the right direction.
Packaged frozen fruit bars, with their soft, pleasing texture, unfortunately bring sugar and other additives to the party. In addition to exciting your tastebuds, sugar is what keeps the bars from freezing too hard. This popular brand of fruit bars contains as much sugar as a Snickers bar. What’s the point in eating a fruit dessert if you could do the same damage with chewy chocolate and caramel enrobed confection? Not worth it. (Confession: In college, when my sugar addiction was at its peak, there was a semester in which I ate a Snickers from the vending machine every day. That’s 5 months of straight Snickers bars. There you have it, folks: True confessions from a reformed sugar-junkie.)
Most homemade fruit bars are made with juice, which freezes so hard you could crack a tooth on it. To get the same fluffy, bite-able texture as packaged fruit bars, I froze the fruit before blending it to make a popsicle “slush” that I scooped into the molds.
The air bubbles created by pulsing frozen fruit into a slush mix is what keeps the bars from freezing rock solid, kind of like how an ice cream maker aerates the ice cream to make it scoopable. A small amount of vegetable glycerin also helps keep the bars soft since it lowers the freezing point. What’s glycerin, you ask? It’s a long chain carbohydrate that is processed as a complex carb. The tiny amount used in this recipe contributes a negligible amount of carbs, so I’d recommend using it. You can leave glycerin out, but the texture of homemade frozen treats is dramatically improved with it. Learn more about glycerin and to where to buy it here. If you don’t want to use glycerin, just use honey in its place. The bars will not be quite as soft with the honey, but the flavor will be sweet enough.
Because these pops are made of whole fruit, they’re much lower in sugar than packaged bars. They’re not, however, completely sugar-free. The great thing about sugar in whole fruit is that the body processes it differently since it’s bound up with fiber, antioxidants and other beneficial compounds. While the sugar in fruit will cause your insulin to rise just as much as any other type of sugar, it’s more difficult to overeat whole fruit than it is to consume sugar in other forms. You’d have to eat 3 apples to rival the amount of sugar in a coke. Fruits—especially the red and blue ones—contain anthocyanins. These powerful antioxidants are linked to increased heart health and improved memory. Who couldn’t use more of that? (A year spent in medical school will teach you the value of retaining every brain cell if nothing else will.).
If you’re looking for a lower carb, more diabetic-friendly popsicle recipe (contains dairy), you find it in my first E-cookbook listed under “Creamy Fruit Pops.”
I picked up the mold seen below at a kitchen outlet store for $2. Check your local outlet stores, or even the dollar store, to find reasonably priced molds.
Get creative with layering! In light of recent events, we could all use a bit more color and brightness in our lives. These technicolor rainbow pops look too pretty to eat, but I assure you it it’s much more fun to eat them than it is to stare at them.
There may have been a few curse words muttered as I attempted to neatly fill the molds without intermixing the various colors. To maximize ease and minimize frustration, I recommend making just 2 or 3 layers. You could even dip these bars in 70% chocolate, because why wouldn’t you?
- 1 cup (4.4-4.6 oz) fruit (e.g. 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup chopped frozen strawberries, etc)
- ¼ cup full fat coconut milk OR whole milk yogurt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice (the bottled kind works well)
- ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1-2 Tablespoons honey OR sugar-free sweetener (I like Truvia, but xylitol, erythritol, etc works well)
- 1 teaspoon glycerin (to make popsicles soft when frozen)
- Cut fruit chunks into small pieces (1/2”) and freeze on a parchment-lined cookie sheet overnight, or until solid. Measure out fruit chunks using a scale. Working quickly, add fruit chunks to food processor. Add the rest of the ingredients. Pulse fruit in food processor until it forms slushie-like texture. Using a small spatula, scrape slushie mix out of processor into a ziptop baggie. Cut the corner off and pipe mix into popsicle molds. These popsicle molds are my current favorite, but you can pick up molds for a better price from Wal-Mart, or even the dollar store.
- To make multi-layered fruit bars, freeze various types of cut up fruit on one cookie sheet. Create each fruit layer individually, sticking the popsicle mold back into the freezer as you prep the next layer. Don’t stress if the layers don’t look perfect. They’ll still taste divine!
- 103 calories, 14.5g net carbs (16g carbs, 1.5g fiber), 0.8g protein
- 71 calories, 5.8g net carbs (7.2g carbohydrates + 1.4g fiber), 0.8g protein