Rising temperatures this summer have people turning to ice cold treats to keep cool, but a Baylor College of Medicine dietitian warns that many of them are laden with calories and fat.
"Summer is definitely a time when we want to enjoy cool, refreshing snacks and drinks when it gets so hot outside," said Kristi King, a registered dietitian with BCM and Texas Children's Hospital. "But those tasty treats can go from your lips straight to your hips."
It's still possible to enjoy summertime sweets by making smart choices and making your own versions at home, King said.
Iced coffee is popular in the summer and while the coffee itself is not high in calories, the additives are. Save calories by opting for low-fat milk, skipping the whip cream and choosing the smallest size, King said. Even better, make your own at home by brewing coffee then adding ice plus sugar free chocolate syrup or vanilla extract.
Smoothies are another refreshing summer treat but they can be very high in calories – ranging from 180 to 500-plus for a 20 ounce smoothie, King said.
What's important at a smoothie shop is to make sure they are using only fruit and ice or non-fat yogurt, King said. Some places use ice cream or full-fat yogurt or add whole milk and high-sugar fruit juice.
"People think they are having something healthy when in reality it is very high in fat and natural and added sugar," King said. "They're getting walloped with high-fat and calorie base mixtures."
At-home smoothies are another healthy alternative and are especially convenient for breakfast, she said. In a blender, mix ice and fresh or frozen fruit, add a splash of skim milk, put it in a cup and walk out the door. It's not only lower in calories but saves money too.
Don't forget that the ever-popular sweet tea, as well as lemonade, can be high in sugar, King said. Go for an unsweetened tea and add your own zero-calorie sweetener and opt for low-calorie lemonades or other sweetened drinks, she said.
Adult beverages, especially margaritas, can also be high in calories, but most restaurants offer a lower-calorie version, King said. If you don't see it on the menu, ask if the bartender can still make it. Again, making your own at home can help control calories.
Trendy yogurt shops are another source of potentially high calorie goodies, King said, especially because it's hard to control portion size. Most of these shops have one size of cup that's easy to overfill. Topping it with the sweet candy options makes it even higher in calories. Yogurt can still be a good option by choosing a low-fat or sugar-free variety and sticking with toppings like fruit and nuts.
Make frozen yogurt at home by blending your favorite fruit with your favorite variety of yogurt. This is something that kids can help with as well, which may make them more likely to eat it, King said.
Sorbets and sherbets also tend to be lower calorie than traditional ice cream and some yogurts, she said.
"One option that I really like that is available in grocery stores are the frozen fruit bars. They are about 70 calories and are not high in added sugar," she said. "They're already portioned so they're convenient as well as refreshing – great for when you've been outside working in the yard."
King also recommends freezing fruit to eat as a snack.
"Frozen grapes are a great snack and so are frozen banana bites dipped in melted chocolate," she said.
The bottom line, according to King, is that it's still possible to enjoy refreshing cold summer treats but be sure to make smart choices.