Worst Food of the Week – Ice Pops
Summer’s here and if you have kids that means ice pops for every special occasion. And in the summer, special occasions abound: Memorial Day weekend, end of school parties, July fourth, every weekend with friends, family vacation, and “What the hell, it’s really hot out.”
Here’s my run down of conventional ice pops, from Worst to Don’t Fool Yourself to Marginally Better. But I’m not a complete killjoy: I finish up with The Best Ice Pop Ever.
Any conventional ice pop from Popsicles to Fla-Vor-Ice fall into this category. They are all just water, sugar (or HFCS), artificial flavors, and dyes. The only thing these pops have going for them is honesty: they certainly don’t pretend to be anything they aren’t.
Don’t Fool Yourself – Part 1
Ever find yourself thinking “Oh look, it’s made with real fruit”as you put the pops in your cart? Time for a reality check. Edy’s, 365 Brand, and Breyer’s Pure Fruit all fall into this category. Yeah, yeah, they’re made with real fruit. But the fruit is so highly processed that flavors and colors have to be added back in to make the pops palatable. Vitamins and nutrients are long gone — processed out. The ingredients list is shorter than The Worst, but still includes the ubiquitous “gums” found in most processed foods. While you might feel better about your kids eating these because of the fruit and lack of dyes, don’t fool yourself into thinking they are remotely healthy.
Water, Strawberries, Sugar, Carob Bean Gum, Natural Flavors, Guar Gum, Citric Acid, Color (Beet Juice Extract, Turmeric Color), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C).
I shiver to think what these “all fruit” pops looked like before they added the color back, but now I know that beet juice mixed with turmeric makes a nice strawberry color, which will come in handy when I make this cake.
Don’t Fool Yourself – Part 2
I fell for this once and I bet I’m not alone. Sugar-free doesn’t mean sweetened with fruit juice; it’s just food industry code for artificial sweetener. Every brand now seems to have a sugar-free version and unless there’s have a dietary need, kids (or adults) shouldn’t be eating artificial sweeteners. Here’s a little food math: crappy thing about ice pop brand + crappy things about artificial sweeteners = a whole lotta crappy.
Strawberry: Water, Strawberries, Sorbitol (Sensitive Individuals May Experience a Laxative Effect from Excess Consumption of This Ingredient), White Grape Juice from Concentrate (Water, White Grape Juice Concentrate), Maltodextrin, Glycerin, Polydextrose, Natural Flavors, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Beet Juice Concentrate (Color), Citric Acid, Sucralose (Splenda Brand), Acesulfame Potassium, Guar Gum, Turmeric Color, Carob Bean Gum.
Oh boy! It’s an ice pop AND a laxative!
When it comes to store-bought ice pops, I like Smooze Pops
. They have a short ingredients list that includes fruit juice, cane sugar, and coconut milk with minimal additives (and no gums). My kids love these – I only wish they offered a variety pack of flavors so I could hear my kids argue over who gets the last mango pop. I would love to find some other options in this category. If you know of anything, please share in the comments.
Ingredients: mango fruit juice 48%, coconut milk 40%, natural cane sugar, pectin, citric acid, natural fruit flavors, ascorbic acid.
Yes, it still has added flavors, which is why this is called “marginally better”and not “the best thing ever”.
The Best Ice Pops Ever
No surprise here: make your own.
Before you get your panties in a bunch over not having time to make ice pops, take a breath. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or complicated. I detest pulling out my food processor and I don’t even own a blender. My kids love yogurt pops and orange juice pops. I bought ice pop molds
, but you can make pops in paper cups or any freezable container. If you do enjoy a blender experience, you can make pops from blended fruit with honey. Or Google to find one of the thousands of ice pop recipes
The Bottom Line
Summer brings lots of ice pop opportunities, and most store bought ice pops are less than healthy. Having some homemade pops on hand for more frequent consumption means your kids will eat less crap and more good stuff like fruit. Then that (truly) occasional conventional pop won’t seem so bad.