Sure, fruit salad can be a nice summer dessert, but let's face it – melon balls and grapes get pretty boring after a while, and they hardly sate a sweet tooth.
We called in a nutrition expert, Lauri Watson, RD, with Summerville Medical Center in South Carolina, to share the scoop on this season's low-calorie treats, from smoothies to sorbet and more. So, before reaching for yet another bowl of cantaloupe, try one of these healthy and homemade summer-inspired recipes.
This frozen dessert is about as simple and versatile as it gets.
- First, select your favorite seasonal fruit, like strawberries, blackberries or watermelon, and blend with lemon or lime juice – about 1 tablespoon per cup of fruit – and a bit of water.
- Once your liquid is smooth, pour into a wide, shallow baking dish and freeze for an hour.
- When the wait is over, grab a fork and scrape the frozen mixture until you're left with a tray of icy flakes.
- Then, place it back in the freezer for another 60 minutes. Repeat this step once more, scoop some into a bowl and enjoy.
Cool, refreshing and sweetened with natural flavors, a watermelon or strawberry granita contains about 50 calories per cup, so you needn't feel guilty about enjoying a daily serving.
These pre-portioned frozen treats are as simple to make as they are to eat.
- To prepare them, bust out your blender, your trusty Popsicle mold and some fresh ingredients, like plain, nonfat Greek yogurt, unsweetened cocoa powder, honey, milk and fresh fruit – Watson recommends strawberries or bananas. Blend them together until your mixture is thin enough to pour.
- The next step is simple: pour equal amounts of liquid into your ice pop molds.
- Once your pops are frozen, they're ready to be shared with the family or to save in the freezer for later.
Your Popsicle’s calorie counts will vary based on ingredients, but a pop containing 3 ounces of yogurt, half of a large banana, 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder and a 1/2 cup of almond milk has 130 calories.
Berry smoothie bowls
Social media is flooded with picturesque bowls of blended fruits and veggies topped with granola, strawberries and chia seeds. These tasty creations, known as smoothie bowls, will run you about $10, and despite their health halo, can contain way more calories than you might think.
Blending your own bowl saves cash and allows you to control what you're putting in your body.
- Watson recommends filling your blender with your favorite smoothie ingredients, like "Greek yogurt, frozen berries, a handful of spinach and almond milk or coconut milk." She also suggests adding a bit of unsweetened cocoa powder and mixing until smooth.
- Transfer your thick mixture into a bowl and add your toppings of choice.
The calories in your bowl will vary based on ingredients, but your average creation should clock in around 250 to 325 calories. Keep track of what you put in your blender and consider enjoying one of these bowls as a morning or afternoon meal.
Chocolate and avocado mousse
There's almost no dessert more decadent than chocolate mousse, but traditional recipes can have 350 calories or more per cup. The creamy treat is also usually packed with unhealthy fat and added sugar – but not our recipe.
- "Hollow out the avocados, mash them with some unsweetened cocoa powder, milk and vanilla extract, and whip or blend until smooth," Watson recommends. For best results, she says, chill your mixture in the refrigerator.
- Avocado contains healthy fat, but it's also high in calories, so stick to about half of one ripe fruit. Blend with 1 tablespoon of unsweetened almond milk, a substitute for dairy milk.
- The other ingredients are relatively low in calories, so add to your heart's content.
The final product will contain roughly 185 calories and about 13 grams of healthy unsaturated fats. For a bit of extra sweetness – without more calories – sprinkle in some stevia, Watson suggests.
Fruit and yogurt parfaits are sweet, creamy, topped with a bit of crunch and relatively guilt-free. Best of all, they can be modified to suit your taste buds and made a day or two ahead of time.
- For starters, grab a 5-ounce serving of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt and a cup of sliced seasonal fruit, like strawberries, mangos, peaches – or a combination of all three. You'll also need 1 tablespoon of chopped nuts, like walnuts.
- In a jar or bowl, layer your ingredients.
- Before you’re ready to eat, top your creation with a teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.
The calorie count may vary depending on your chosen fruit, but expect this snack to ring up right around 220 calories.
Banana "ice cream"
Ice cream is a quintessential summer dessert, but the traditional variety can be unkind to your waistline, and the "healthy" store-bought options often come loaded with additives your body doesn't need.
Making healthy "ice cream" in your own kitchen is possible, and requires just one ingredient – bananas.
- Peel, dice and freeze a banana, Watson says, before tossing it in your blender or food processor and mixing until smooth (giving your fruit a minute or two to soften outside the freezer may make blending a bit easier).
- Top it off. Watson tops her ice cream with a bit of all-natural peanut butter or fresh berries, but a dusting of cocoa powder, cinnamon or chopped nuts would also make a wholesome addition.
One large frozen banana contains just 120 calories and cinnamon and unsweetened cocoa are virtually calorie-free. For chopped nuts and nut butters, stick to a tablespoon at 43 and 94 calories, respectively. If you're adding berries, tally up 40 calories per 1/2 cup.
Chocolate-drizzled fruit skewers
They're like fruit, but better.
- Pick up a few cups of your favorite berries – strawberries, blueberries, raspberries or blackberries – and give them a good wash.
- After patting them dry, thread your berries onto small wooden sticks and place on a lined baking sheet before drizzling with melted dark chocolate.
Be choosy about your chocolate. Dark chocolate contains 170 calories per ounce, as well as some iron and manganese, which plays a role in metabolism function and bone development. Chocolate also contains flavanols, compounds that may help protect your heart from disease. The darker the chocolate, the stronger the benefits.
Per skewer, with a 1/2 cup of berries and a 1/2 ounce of chocolate, they come in around 115 calories.
Traditional banana pudding, adorned with vanilla wafers, is laden with fat, sugar and about 400 calories per cup. But you needn't blow your diet to enjoy the sweet and creamy flavor of this dessert – just ditch some of the high-calorie ingredients.
- For a lighter banana pudding, mash one ripe banana with a 5-ounce container of plain, nonfat Greek yogurt until smooth.
- Then drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of honey.
One serving, made with a medium banana, contains about 200 calories.
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