As the author of a healthy ice pop cookbook, I spent a fair amount of time experimenting with different ways to make vegan, refined-sugar-free ice pops—while still keeping all of the delicious flavor and achieving the perfect texture. After eating WAY too many ice pops, I realized there were two key secrets: fiber and fat.
Why fiber is the first key to healthy ice pops.
You’ll find that many pop recipes (typical the fruity ones) call for you to strain your mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to avoid any errant texture in the pops: persistent seeds or bits of pulp that don’t quite blend up. Generally speaking, though, for both health and texture reasons, I prefer not to strain Glow Pops. Straining removes quite a bit of the fruit or vegetables' fiber, which is one of the things that will prevent your pops from having an icy consistency. Leaving in the bulk from the fruit or vegetable membrane gives the batter a weight that prevents iciness. Fiber is also a wonderfully healthy ingredient, glow-worthy all on its own. It helps slow down the rate at which you digest your food, which ensures you’ll stay fuller longer and avoid the nasty blood-sugar roller coaster that comes from eating sugary, fiberless foods. It also acts like a gentle scrub brush on your intestinal tract, helping move along waste and ensuring you have productive bathroom visits (a vital part of getting that glow, as accumulated waste is bloating and inflammatory in the body).
Why fat is the second key to healthy ice pops.
Fat is also a great way to get that satisfying, creamy texture. While you might shy away from fat for fear of your health or an expanding waistline, I implore you to reconsider. Researchers are finding more and more that there are a number of fats that are not only not bad for you but actually have amazing health benefits.
Full-fat coconut milk is my go-to base. The type of fat found in coconut is mostly in the form of medium-chain fatty acids (MCFAs) and, in particular, one called lauric acid. Unlike saturated fats found in animal products, MCFAs are almost immediately converted into energy by the body and are unlikely to be stored as fat. Lauric acid is also considered one of nature’s most potent superfoods (outside of coconut milk, breast milk is one of the few places it’s found in nature, which proves its importance in human health and development) and is renowned for its antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties.
The majority of fat in both almonds and cashews is monounsaturated fat, similar to the type found in olive oil. Monounsaturated fat is known for its heart-healthy properties and is often recommended as a dietary inclusion for people with heart disease and diabetes. A recent study found that people who eat nuts at least twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who seldom eat nuts, so bring on the nut milks and nut butters!
The final fat I rely on is avocado, one of my favorite fruits (that’s right—it’s a fruit!). The majority of fat in avocados comes from oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that reduces inflammation (the root of many chronic diseases) in the body and has been linked with activating genes thought to be responsible for many cancers, making them essentially anticarcinogenic. They have a creamy, decadent texture and a mild flavor that works well as a subtle background note in many pops, although they do get their 15 minutes of fame in the Avocado Chili Lime Pops (recipe below).
The bottom line: Don’t be afraid of fat. When it comes to both optimal health and optimal texture for healthy ice pops, fat is not only ideal but necessary. Just pay attention to the type of fat you select, making sure the ones you choose are nourishing for your body.
Want to get on the healthy ice pop train? This Avocado Chili Lime Pop puts the über-popular fruit in a starring role.
Avocado Chili Lime Pops
Avocado is often treated as a background ingredient: a spread to add butteriness to toast, an add-in for creaminess in a smoothie. In this pop, though, the avocado’s subtly grassy, rich flavor truly shines, brought to life by a faintly acidic sweetness from the lime and a kick of umami spice from the chili powder.
Makes 5 or 6 (3-ounce) pops
- 1 medium avocado, pitted and peeled
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon chili powder, plus more for garnish
- Zest and juice of 1 lime
- 1 cup canned coconut milk or homemade milk of choice
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Blend together all the ingredients until very smooth.
- Pour the mixture into pop molds and freeze for 1 hour, then insert sticks and freeze for at least 4 hours more, or until solid. Just before serving, unmold the pops and sprinkle each with chili powder, if desired.
Want more healthy ice pops? This anti-inflammatory turmeric pop will be your new favorite dessert.