Healthy homemade ice cream recipes kids will love

May 15, 2020

Few things delight a child more than a sticky, sweet ice cream cone dripping down their arm in the heat of the summer sun. As deliciously fun as it is for your kiddo, you know that yummy treat is often loaded with sugar, fats and empty calories. Indulging in ice cream occasionally won't negate a healthy diet, of course, but why not whip up homemade ice cream for the kids instead? You can make a better-for-you ice cream and experiment with flavors.

"I love to show busy families that healthy eating can be quick, easy, fun and delicious," says Stephanie Merchant, author of "Chocolate Indulgence" and founder of The Nutrition Mom. "Kids of all ages love ice cream, and we can feel good about serving simple recipes that are free of artificial flavors, colors, refined sugars and even dairy."

When it comes to making ice cream at home, don't be afraid to get creative. While vanilla is delicious, there are many more unique varieties you can make with ingredients you may already have on hand. For an added healthy kick, try topping off your ice cream with fresh fruit or almonds instead of sugar-laden syrups.

Homemade ice cream is never going to beat spinach in the nutrition department, but making smarter food choices adds up over time. "There are easy ways to get your kids the nutrients to fuel their bodies, and more importantly, their brains," says Jillian Lama, a life coach and former bakery owner. "It doesn't matter how 'healthy' a snack or dessert is if your kids won't eat it, so take small steps and your kids may not even notice the difference."

Your kids will love the added fun of making this summer treat, as well as eating it. Here are a few homemade ice cream recipes to get you started. 

If you have an ice cream maker, try these recipes:

Peach Ice Cream

This light and delicious, fat-free, low-calorie peach ice cream is still packed with flavor. What better use for those fresh summer peaches than this tasty treat? Or bring back a taste of summer all winter long by using frozen fruit for this snack.

Key Lime Ice

Do you have key lime pie lovers in the family? This tangy key lime ice will tingle your taste buds without adding a lot of calories to your diet, and it's oh so easy to make.

No ice cream maker on hand? Don't sweat it. Try these recipes instead:

Healthy Cherry Cheesecake Ice Cream

(Courtesy of Jillian Lama)

Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces 1/3-less-fat Neufchatel cheese (or cream cheese)
  • 3 ounces light Greek yogurt, cherry or preferred flavor
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened coconut cream
  • 1/3 cup milk of choice (coconut, almond, fat-free cow's milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon cherry or raspberry extract (or use fresh or frozen fruit puree, to taste)
  • 1 scoop whey isolate vanilla protein powder (aim for 20-30 grams of protein per scoop)

Mix-in suggestions:

  • Ground chia seeds
  • Mini chocolate chips
  • Graham crackers or vanilla cookie wafers
  • Fresh or frozen fruit

Directions:

  1. Allow Neufchatel cheese, Greek yogurt, coconut cream and milk to come to room temperature. Mix with an electric mixer until a creamy consistency is reached.
  2. Add extracts, followed by protein powder. Mix after each addition.
  3. Fold in berries, graham crackers or other mix-ins of choice.
  4. Freeze in a glass or plastic air-tight container at least 2 hours.
  5. The ice cream will be frozen hard, so allow it to thaw for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature or microwave for 20 to 30 seconds to allow it to soften. Scoop and enjoy!

Variations:

  • Add 1 cup fat-free whipped cream before freezing.
  • Substitute milk with fruit juice to create a sorbet.
  • Substitute pureed cottage cheese for yogurt or cream cheese.
  • Add coconut nectar, liquid stevia or other sweetener, if desired.

Chocolate Soft Serve Ice Cream

(Courtesy of Stephanie Merchant)

Ingredients:

  • 3 to 5 peeled, frozen bananas
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons cocoa powder

Directions:

  1. Thaw bananas slightly and blend until creamy in a food processor.
  2. Add cocoa, and adjust to taste. Serve immediately.

Variations:

  • Add frozen or fresh raspberries for a chocolate raspberry flavor.
  • Add peanut butter for a chocolate peanut butter flavor.
  • Add fresh mint or mint extract for a chocolate mint flavor.

Love having cake and ice cream together? Check out these healthy cake recipes to go with these ice cream ideas.

Tips and stories from parents and caregivers who’ve been there.

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