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5 ways to make cool treats healthier

In the dog days of summer, ice cream may be a tempting treat, but does the indulgence outweigh the high-calorie, sugary cost? Jennifer Teems, MS, RD, LD, a clinical dietitian at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, offers tips for enjoying summer treats without expanding your waistline.

1. Indulge sensibly

The good news first: It’s absolutely fine to indulge in real ice cream a few times a week – but only if you can keep your portion size to half a cup and don’t eat it every day, says Teems. However, if you have trouble controlling your portion sizes, you’ll want to reach for a healthier option.

2. Sip smarter

Frozen drinks like iced lattes and smoothies can be break the calorie bank with a lot of added sugar and fat. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 100 calories a day of added sweeteners for women and 150 calories per day for men.

Many frozen drinks at your local coffee or smoothie shop are more than double or even triple these recommendations, warns Teems. Make your own smoothie instead with her go-to recipe for a healthy breakfast, snack or dessert. “This vitamin-rich recipe makes four, 8-ounce servings with 107 calories and 0 grams of fat if made with milk; 1 gram of fat if made with soy milk,” says Teems.


  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries 

  • 1/2 cup of frozen blueberries 

  • 1/2 cup of frozen raspberries 

  • 1 banana 

  • 1 cup of orange juice 

  • 1.5 cups of nonfat milk or 1.5 cups of soy milk 

Place fruit in a blender and cover with juice and milk. Blend, divide among four glasses or cups, and serve.

3. Go low-fat

Frozen yogurt can be a refreshing option for a sweet cold treat without the all fat found in ice cream. Most frozen yogurts have less than four grams of fat per serving and many are fat-free. Frozen Greek yogurt has a similar fat content, along with healthy active cultures and about 6 grams of protein.

By comparison, vanilla ice cream has 7 grams of fat and 2 grams of protein in one half cup serving. Just be sure to read nutrition labels and don’t exceed 200 calories per serving. When topping your fro-yo, stick to fresh fruit and/or granola, and limit toppings like brownie chunks, cookie dough or candy.

4. Cut calories

For an automatically portion-controlled treat, try a frozen pop made with 100 percent fruit juice, and stick to one serving. Fresh or frozen fruit is another good option. A half cup of sliced strawberries only contains 25 calories and is packed with 150 percent of the daily recommended value of vitamin C.

Watermelon has slightly fewer calories than strawberries, while a half cup of grapes has 30 calories per half cup. Vanilla ice cream has 140 calories per half-cup serving. To make this snack more appealing to your kids, put berries, red grapes and other cut up fruit for an hour in the freezer.

5. Watch your sugar intake

When looking for treats with lower sugar content, sugar-free ice cream can seem like a healthy choice. However, sugar-free sweets often contain added fat and calories to make up for flavor. Again, check labels to make sure you’re not getting more calories and fat than you bargained for. Avoid items that contain cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, adds Teems.

For a kid-friendly twist on a lower-sugar frozen snack, dip a bite-sized chuck of frozen banana into melted dark chocolate and freeze until the chocolate hardens. Vanilla ice cream has about 14 grams of sugar, while third of a banana and a square of dark chocolate only has 8 grams.

Small changes to save calories

If you find yourself at an ice cream shop this summer, don’t sweat it. “If you’re going to treat yourself to real ice cream, savor it and make sure you’re satisfied,” says Teems. “Just get the smallest available portion size – most scoops are half a cup – and skip the cone.”

Check out additional healthy lifestyle ideas and recipes.

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