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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
LoriJune 26, 2016 at 6:16 am (7 years ago)
The first change I made that ended up leading me down this path, was cutting out Coke and other soda pop. (full sugar, that diet stuff was nasty.) I’d made it through 18 weeks of chemo, and it tasted metallic due to the treatments. Ginger ale tasted better, so that helped during the rough times.
Afterward when I was feeling better, I decided that I should cut out all that corn syrup, and went cold turkey! (Thank you, McDonalds, for having iced tea!!!) Then I noticed I had lost about 12 pounds in a year from just doing that. So I looked into low-carb/low-glycemic diets, read Good Calories, Bad Calories, found your blog, and the rest is history.
And I always read the labels on food. 🙂 or more appropriately, 0.o
Lauren B.June 30, 2016 at 11:03 am (7 years ago)
Lori, thanks for your comment. Sounds like you’ve had quite the health journey, and I appreciate you sharing a bit of it here. Soda is such a beast! So many around here drink it. Good to know that tea can be a suitable stand-in. Did you sweeten it with a sugar-free sweetener, or just drink it unsweetened? Reading food labels can be so eye-opening. We’re going to hold a class in the community about label reading, so it’s great you hear you found it to be a helpful exercise!
LoriJuly 11, 2016 at 10:58 am (7 years ago)
I use liquid Splenda to sweeten my hot & iced tea, Sucra Drops and EZ Sweetz.
I still cringe at seeing friends drinking sodas, but they’re adults, after all. I desperately want to ask, “Have you read what’s _in_ that Mt. Dew, for Pete’s sake?”
I jokingly warn my friends about label reading, that it’s a slippery slope, once they start they’ll be shopping only the outer grocery store aisles, because it’s the only place to find foods with less than 5 ingredients, that are soy-/HFCS-/sugar-/preservative-free and low-carb. 😀
ChristineApril 30, 2017 at 9:09 am (6 years ago)
I feel like Kombucha is a great soda substitute. It still has the bubbly-ness to it and it’s really healthy for us.
Charlotte McNicholsJune 26, 2018 at 2:38 am (5 years ago)
I was part of a group several years ago that visited a new diabetes learning center in our area. The doctor brought out this very large test tube (I had never seen one that big) filled to the top with sugar and told us that that was how much sugar was in 1 can of soda. I gave up sodas after seeing that.
Maya | Wholesome YumJuly 10, 2016 at 7:47 pm (7 years ago)
These look delicious! I love the natural ingredients and no added sugar.
KimberlyJuly 7, 2017 at 9:02 am (6 years ago)
Wouldn’t it be great to come up with a Bragg’s Apple Cider popsicle recipe that tasted good?
That stuff is very healthy and I drink it everyday before going to bed, it’s great for lots of things including weight loss!!
JessicaJune 2, 2019 at 8:47 pm (4 years ago)
I wanted to throw this out there if your an animal lover and give your fur babies treats. I give my dogs people food and they would love these as a little treat. If you’re like me and give your pets little snacks of people food. Do NOT GIVE THEM LICKS OR ANYTHING WITH
Truvia,xylitol, erythritol, IT WILL KILL THEM. AND xylitol, erythritol, IS BAD FOR EVEN US. BUT PLEASE DO NOT GIVE ANYTHING WITH THESE INGREDIENTS TO YOUR ANIMALS. XoXo
SherrylJune 6, 2019 at 4:13 pm (4 years ago)
Love your recipe so thanks 4 sharing.
But was looking 4 the one that used
oranges. How would I make that one?
How many oranges or juice would be
used? Any of the other ingredients
still be used in this recipe?
Michelle RodeJune 30, 2019 at 8:32 am (4 years ago)
Love these homemade fruit bars….please send me the recipes by via email….thank you!
ElJuly 5, 2019 at 1:54 pm (4 years ago)
“In light of recent events…” What recent events are those?
RbstoreJanuary 26, 2020 at 8:17 pm (3 years ago)
Looks soo much delicious..
JenMay 19, 2020 at 11:38 am (3 years ago)
Hello! I was looking for a recipe for lower sugar soft popsicles (exactly because the outshine ones have too many carbs and too much sugar). I’m excited to try your recipe out!
I also wanted to mention that glycerin, also known as glycerol, is not a long carbohydrate. Actually it’s about half the size of glucose. It tastes sweet but it’s not imported to the bloodstream from the intestine. That’s why eating too much glycerol has a laxative effect.
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suba subaJune 11, 2020 at 12:49 am (3 years ago)
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suba subaJune 11, 2020 at 1:33 am (3 years ago)
Thanks-a-mundo for the blog article.Much thanks again. Much obliged.
SharJuly 29, 2020 at 6:30 am (3 years ago)
Will definitely be trying these (except for the kiwi and coconut milk, as neither agrees with me).
To one of the above posters — erythritol is NOT bad for us — it is a sugar alcohol and, of all the sugar alcohols, has the LEAST gastric effect on digestion, does not raise blood glucose and actually prevents tooth decay. Of course, you must keep it away from your four footed friends, as with chocolate.