Nothing beats ice cream on a hot day. Of course, the high fat and sugar content of most frozen desserts makes them hard to fit into a healthy diet. Sadly, lower calorie and higher protein alternatives are generally expensive and loaded with artificial ingredients. Creating your own healthy ice cream, ice cream alternatives, and other frozen treats is actually a lot easier than you’d think. Beyond banana ice cream and Nice Cream, here’s what you need to get started on this family friendly, easy summer treat.

Tools to Make Healthy Ice Cream Alternatives:

You don’t need a lot of equipment to create delicious ice cream alternatives. While a high-end ice cream maker is a powerful addition if you find yourself dedicated to crafting sorbets and gelatos, you probably have what you need in your kitchen right now.
  • Food processor or powerful blender: This is your single-most powerful tool in creating your own healthy ice cream recipes. With a few changes and a little extra time in the freezer, you can modify your favorite smoothies into a sweet summer indulgence. The trick is giving them plenty of time to process and, possibly, returning them to the freezer when you’re done.
  • A bread pan: Once you finish creating your healthy ice cream, throw it in a bread pan and keep it in the freezer for a few hours so that you can easily scoop and serve when it’s dessert time.
  • Freezer Pop Molds: If you’d like to add fruit bars and other transportable treats to your ice cream stash, keep these on hand. Using craft sticks rather than the included bases are nice, since it’s hard to get all those parts back to the kitchen when you’re done. You can also use decorative ice cube trays for fun (and messy) treats for the younger crowd.
  • Freezer Space: You’ll want a level space in your freezer to let your treats set, so take the time before you mix to set that up. It’s way easier than juggling a tray in your hand while shuffling bags of broccoli and prepped meals.

The Easiest Ingredients for Healthy Ice Cream Recipes:

Traditional ice cream relies on a heavy amount of butterfat and sugar to create “mouthfeel”. That’s the creamy sensation that makes ice cream taste extra good and leaves you wanting more. A great healthy ice cream recipe replicates this through alternative ingredients that create a similar texture. Here are some of the best options.
  • Frozen Bananas: Bananas get their own recognition when it comes to healthy ice cream. Banana ice cream is easy to make using frozen bananas and your food processor. Better yet, doctor it up with some cocoa powder and peanut butter to create this Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl (I want all of these in my freezer this summer!) The high glycemic index of bananas makes them easily absorbable after a workout. Fuel your recovery and your cravings at the same time!
  • Coconut Milk: Whether you’re vegan, limiting your dairy intake, or just love coconut, you can’t go wrong with this delicious ice cream base. You can freeze your coconut milk before adding it to your mix, or just freeze the mixture afterwards in a bread pan. Pineapple and coconut are a natural pair. Throw in a little ginger to mix up this inspired sorbet.
  • Greek Yogurt: This tangy protein source combines well with fruit or protein powder. You can use it to add creaminess (and probiotics) to your final product. Choose from skim, low fat, or full fat options depending on how healthy you need your healthy ice cream to be.
  • Frozen fruits: This mainstay healthy ice cream base provides a desirable consistency, color, and sweetness. You can blend fruits with other bases or showcase them in sorbets and fruit pops. Try this raspberry mint ice pop for a perfect hot afternoon pick me up.
  • Canned Fruits: Don’t overlook canned fruits and pie fillings as you create your favorite recipes. The trick to using canned fruits is to freeze them first. Thaw them only as much as needed to dice into 1-2 inch cubes before adding to your base. Canned pumpkin or previously baked pumpkin or sweet potato can be frozen in smaller containers. Thaw slightly before slicing and adding to other bases for a creamy pumpkin pie ice cream. Mandarin oranges and sliced pears work well on their own. Put the whole can in the freezer, thaw under running water for a few minutes until you can easily remove from the can and slice into smaller pieces. Blend until you have a sorbet consistency. You can enjoy as is, or add a few drops of your favorite essence (vanilla or rum are nice).
Get Creative. Your options are limitless. Add your favorite essence. Anything from mint to mocha is easily available at your local grocery. You can up the protein content and thicken your ice cream by throwing in a scoop of protein powder. For inspiration, check out protein packed frozen treats. Finally, don’t overlook healthy ice cream alternatives and frozen desserts at your next picnic or barbecue. From Frozen Pineapple Upside Down Cake to a cooler full of ice pops, you’re guaranteed a summer crowd pleaser!

About the writer: Joli Guenther is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and clinical social worker practicing in and around Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about Joli.