If you keep your home pantry well-stocked with organic ingredient essentials, you can whip up a batch of healthy eco-pops whenever the mood hits.
If you’re new to this whole popsicle adventure, below is a list of basic healthy eco-pop ingredients to get you started. All of the following are nice ingredients to have on hand.
Organic produce is almost always the first item you need to make eco-pops. You can make 100% pure fruit pops, veggies pops or mix and match produce for new taste sensations. Stock up on fresh, local, organic produce when you can, but frozen organic produce works just as well and helps extend your ice pop season into fall and winter.
I also keep leftover veggies and fruits on hand, as they can usually be used in popsicles.
Popsicle base ingredients are the main ingredients that make up the bulk of your popsicles. Below are the common, and not so common bases.
Organic produce is itself a base ingredient for many popsicles. Apples, oranges, berries, sweet potatoes, and pretty much every other produce item you can dream up can be used as a popsicle base.
Creamy base ingredients for eco-friendly popsicles include milk or milk alternatives. Of the alternative milks, I like organic almond milk best, as it has a cleaner taste in my opinion, but you can also use cow’s milk, soy milk, hemp milk and all the other milks in town.
Other creamy ice pop bases include dairy or vegan yogurt, tofu (use soft tofu) and creams like vegan or dairy cream cheese. I suggest you go organic whenever possible. Non-organic cow’s milk and cow’s milk yogurt contains pesticides and growth hormones. Most tofu and dairy alternatives are made with soy, one of the most pesticide-polluted crops in the world. Look for store-brand organics to help cut costs.
Fluids are another key popsicle base. Plain old water is likely the most essential fluid you’ll need for eco-pops. You can use filtered or purified water, but it’s not necessary. In the United States, most tap water is clean and safe. Tap water is also eco-friendly because it doesn’t require plastic bottles or non-recyclable filters. If you’re concerned you can check out your local annual water quality report at the EPA’s website.
Juices, coffee and tea are other fluid bases for eco-pops. Buy organic juice and organic and Fair Trade brands of coffee and tea whenever possible. Keep in mind that while many people use bottled juice for homemade ice pops, I don’t suggest you do this. Most bottled juices and even juice concentrates contain high fructose corn syrup and additives like food coloring and fake flavors. Also, juice pops made with just bottled juice don’t freeze that well (bottled juice results in harder popsicles).
Many organic grains may be used in your popsicle recipes. Oats, quinoa, rice, ground up graham crackers and other grains are all great in ice pops. Organic ground flax is a super excellent addition to eco-pops. Flax is packed with omega-3 essential fatty acids, antioxidants and fiber. You can use ground flax seed or the whole seed.
Nuts and seeds
Chopped, sliced or whole organic nuts work well in many eco-pop recipes, adding depth, taste and texture. You can mix nuts directly into an eco-pop mixture or add a layer of nuts at the bottom or top of your mold before freezing. As an eco-friendly shopper, when buying nuts, it’s best to look for bulk and Fair Trade varieties.
Herbs & spices
Fresh or dried organic herbs and spices add flavor and sometimes texture to eco-pops. I use cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg in my eco-pops often, though more adventurous souls may want to try spicy pops with cumin or chili pepper. Buy organic Fair Trade spices, which can be affordable, so long as you stick to basic, not exotic spices.
I always have pure organic vanilla, almond and mint extracts on hand for eco-pops, though there are endless extract flavors you can try. Aim to buy organic, Fair Trade pure extracts. When buying extract, it should say “Pure extract” on the bottle not “Flavor.”
Almost all homemade popsicles, with few exceptions, need at least one kind of sweetener. Sweeteners help bring out the flavor or tone down the flavor of many fruit and veggie eco-pop mixtures. Plus, in many cases an eco-pop needs sugar content or the texture will be too icy hard. Sweeteners that can be used in eco-pops include:
- Organic table sugar, white, brown or powdered.
- Organic coconut palm sugar – which doesn’t actually taste like coconut, it’s just sweet.
- Organic honey is a popular eco-pop sweetener and adds a nice, sweet, but not overly surgery taste to pops.
- Organic agave is a good sweetener alternative for vegans, acting much like honey in an eco-pop. You can even get flavored agave such as strawberry, maple or vanilla.
It’s important to note that all the sweeteners above are sugars and do contain fructose and calories. Though honey or agave may seem like a better, more natural choice, I’ve seen people abuse them just like regular sugar. Use all sweeteners in moderation.
Sweet and savory mix-ins
Sometimes you just have to have a sweet or decadent pop, and that’s fine, so long as you don’t overdo it. Organic and Fair Trade chocolate products such as chocolate chips, chopped or grated chocolate or cocoa powder, cookie crumbs, granola, whipped cream, ice cream and cream cheese are fun eco-pop mix-ins, in moderation.
All images ©Jennifer Chait