Orange creamsicle or minty watermelon? Homemade popsicles are healthier than in the freezer aisle

One sweltering summer in Southern California, Jessica Gavin was looking for a healthy, cooling treat for her then 2-year-old son.

Gavin, a food science expert who wrote “Easy Culinary Science for Better Cooking,” knew that even brands of healthy-looking popsicles often come filled with artificial colors and flavors, stabilizers and preservatives.

So she made her own. Seven years and one daughter later, it’s become a family tradition.

“It’s fun because you can make it with your kids,” said Gavin. “It’s something that you could kind of just throw together and enjoy within a few hours.”

Her popsicle flavors sound as if they could have come out of a gourmet grocery store: minty watermelon, peach-strawberry yogurt, blackberry lemon and orange-mango coconut. The difference is that each has five or fewer ingredients — and no high-fructose corn syrup.

Most of her recipes mix pureed fruit with either Greek yogurt or coconut milk, plus a little honey depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Gavin suggested tasting the mixture for sweetness before adding honey.

For her homemade popsicles, Kacie Barnes, a dietitian nutritionist in Dallas, rarely adds sweetener. That’s in part because most fruit is already sweet, but also because kids rarely eat only one, she said.

Her simplest pops combine 100% juice with a little unflavored collagen protein powder for a nutritional boost. Some juice blends that include vegetables — look at the label to make sure there is no added sugar— also help expose kids to flavors they might not eat otherwise, she said.

“It’s a great way to add another ingredient that they might not be eating a ton of,” said Barnes, whose website is Mama Knows Nutrition. “You can usually find something with carrot or beet mixed in.”

Several types of popsicle molds are available online, but Barnes and Gavin both said you can get away without buying anything. Small paper cups or even ice cube trays work, and instead of traditional sticks, you could use small spoons.

Gavin cautioned not to expect the exact texture and flavor of supermarket pops. Homemade ones tend to be icier because they freeze more slowly than in industrial flash freezers and lack ingredients that make the texture smoother.

But she said your kids won’t care.

“I love that I can make something my family can enjoy that is healthy, and they wouldn’t even know it,” she said.


Jessica Gavin’s Minty Watermelon Popsicles


3 cups watermelon slices, divided

1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves

1 1/2 cups coconut water

2 tablespoons lime juice

1 tablespoon honey


In a blender, puree 2 1/2 cups diced watermelon pieces, mint leaves, coconut water, lime juice and honey. Cut the remaining 1/2 cup watermelon slices into ¼-inch cubes.

Evenly divide the diced watermelon into the molds, tapping them down to the bottom.

Stir the popsicle mixture, then evenly divide it among the molds. Insert the popsicle sticks. If they do not stay in place, use a piece of tape to hold them upright.

Freeze for at least six hours.


Kacie Barnes’ Orange Creamsicles


1 banana

1 cup plain whole milk Greek yogurt or full-fat coconut milk

1/2 cup orange juice

1 tsp orange zest

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1/2 tsp vanilla extract


Combine all ingredients in a blender. Divide into popsicle molds and insert sticks. Freeze for at least six hours.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Albert Stumm writes about food, travel and wellness. Find his work at