Heat and sugary treats seem synonymous with the summer months, but the truth is that with obesity, cancers and Type 2 diabetes on the rise, it’s time for a healthy lifestyle for most of us. That being said, there’s no reason to fret when it comes to sweet treats to beat this year’s summer heat. Below are some simple and effortless ideas to indulge without packing on the pounds and adding to the mid-section before we bid summer adieu.
Not everyone has the time or talent to make healthy treats from his or her own kitchen. Therefore, I’ve included three homemade healthy treats as well as three store-bought desserts your family can indulge in this summer.
3 Store-Bought Treats
If your summers are packed juggling work, kids and a gym schedule, creating healthy treats at home may not be your forte. Store-bought food has its flaws but there is absolutely no reason to write it off completely. Consuming these treats in moderation can help beat the summer heat without compromising healthy goals for the family.
If you walk through the frozen aisles of your favorite grocery store, you will find an endless barrage of relatively “healthy” ice cream making its debut this year. From salted caramel to lemon meringue, the flavors are endless and so are the nutritional claims. I like these desserts because they come in portion-controlled packaging, thus eliminating the stress of having to count calories or adjust the portion sizes. Food companies boast they’re a rich source of protein and dairy-free, thus allowing those on various nutritional regimens to indulge in some summer ice cream. Not sure what to choose? Some of my favorite brands are Enlightened, Halo Top or Chilly Cow bars.
Pre-portioned snacks are my go-to for enjoying treats in moderation without deviating from health goals. Summer treats need not always be a frozen item; there are plenty of options today to choose from without having to pack on the bulge. If consuming nuts is not a health hazard around your household, consider stocking up on whole grain pretzel and nut butter containers. Products like Justin’s are packaged in snack portions making it easy to travel with and therefore avoiding sugary treats from the gas station when the summer road trip comes calling.
If sugary treats can damage one organ in the body immediately upon consumption, it would be our gut. Probiotics are hard to consume on a daily basis if you are not a fan of kimchi or miso paste. Kefir is one of the best forms of probiotics for all ages. If drinking kefir isn’t appealing, indulge in fruit-flavored frozen yogurt made from kefir this summer. Aside from being loaded with healthy gut-friendly bacteria, these treats are great for all ages and come in a variety of flavors such as mango and strawberry. They are low in calories and boast a good, varied bacterial count, one that will leave your gut feeling healthier this summer. Look for Lifeway in the health market or frozen foods section of most grocery stores.
3 Homemade Treats
Whether you’re a child or adult, these three summer treats will not only satisfy the sweet tooth, but they are also packed with antioxidants and nutritional goodness to handle heat-related health concerns. If getting the kids involved in the kitchen is one of your goals, look no further than enticing them to help you create these refreshing desserts.
Nothing spells summer better than watermelon. This rehydrating fruit can not only help replenish the body’s fluid content, it can also help soothe aches and pains and is a natural diuretic, meaning, it can help with summer bloating. To make this recipe, cut the watermelon into equal size triangles. Using a wooden lollipop stick (easily found at craft stores), anchor the slices on the craft sticks and put them aside. In a microwave safe bowl, melt a batch of dark chocolate chips with one tablespoon of coconut oil. Heat it on slow in increments of 30 seconds until all the chips are melted. Dip the watermelon slices halfway into the melted chocolate. Lay them on a plate with lined parchment paper, sprinkle some Himalayan or rock salt and refrigerate the slices for an hour before serving. The nutritional goodness of dark chocolate and the rehydration from watermelon is the best way to end a day at the pool with the family!
Summer is synonymous with ice cream, but the processed ingredients coupled with sugars make it less than ideal from a health standpoint. Blending any fruit of choice with frozen bananas and some honey can help you achieve a sweet treat that doesn’t add to the sugar conundrum. Get the kids to become creative and who knows, you may be able to come up with a unique flavor of two-ingredient ice cream from the comfort of your home. Experiment and add some fresh herbs like basil or mint to spice up the flavors.
Camping season or not, s’mores are every kid’s favorite treat all year round. This year, elevate the sugary s’mores by adding bananas. Did you know that bananas are one of the only fruits that can trigger the release of “happy” hormones in the body? Slice the banana peel open on the inside curve of the banana. Press the banana within the peel with the back of a spoon until it is slightly mashed. Next, fill the peel with some marshmallow, melted dark chocolate, coconut flakes, fresh raspberries, slivered almonds and a few teaspoons of crumbled graham crackers. This upgraded version of s’mores is full of antioxidant rich fruits and nuts, and still appeases summer sugar cravings.
Summer can be both fun and daunting, but a little creative planning can get you through these months without having to deviate from your healthy lifestyle or break the bank.
Dr. Suman Ahuja completed her education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York and at Texas Tech. She has a a doctorate in Clinical Nutrition with an emphasis on obesity treatment and prevention.