Dietitians Dish: Healthy summer treats from around the world

By Iustina Iznaola
May 13, 2014 at 12:13 a.m.

Summer is around the corner with long, hot days, and a cup of ice cream or a frosty Frappuccino sounds like a great choice to refresh ourselves. These treats are typically high in calories and fat and low in essential nutrients needed for a healthy body. They are not recommended to be consumed on a daily basis because they can contribute to unwanted weight gain.

Instead, I would like to share some of my favorite summer snacks from around the world that I have discovered in my travels or when meeting new people from different cultures. The snacks below are packed with flavor, texture and color. They are not just healthy but delicious and satisfying, too. I invite you to let your palate explore new tastes and take a trip around the world with these summer treats.

USA: Berry snow cone

Snow cones are a popular treat in the U.S. The typical snow cone served at carnivals is made of shaved ice and flavored with brightly colored, sugary syrup. However, using fruit juices and purees instead of artificially flavored syrup can make this summer favorite a tasty and healthy snack that no one will feel guilty about when having one, two or 10. They are very easy to make. Crush some ice in the blender, put it into cups and add the freshly squeezed juice of your favorite fruits.

Mexico: Paletas

"Paleta" comes from the Spanish word "palo," which means stick. It refers to a flat stick frozen in pureed fresh fruit molded into a rectangular, conical or cylindrical shape. The paletas can be milk-based, which is creamy in texture or ice-based and made only with fruit purees and bits of fresh fruit. Popular flavors include vanilla, coconut, strawberry, lime, cantaloupe, mango and papaya. These goodies can be made at home or found in local grocery stores.

Greece: Tzatziki

Tzatziki is a Greek sauce usually served with meats or as a dip for veggies. It is made of plain, unsweetened yogurt; shredded cucumber; fresh garlic; salt and olive oil. Some prefer adding dill, mint or parsley. I suggest slicing the cucumber in larger pieces, making it very suitable as a refreshing snack. Some may think that mixing yogurt and cucumber is an odd combination, but it actually tastes delicious.

India: Mango lassi

Mango lassi is a traditional drink from India and Pakistan. It is a blend of sweetened yogurt, water and mango pulp. It is similar to a smoothie. It has a creamy texture, and it tastes divine. Mango lassi is a refreshing drink that can cool down the torrid heat of any summer afternoon. If you wish to cut back on the calories, choose unsweetened low-fat yogurt instead of the full-fat version.

Turkey: Ayran

Ayran is a popular drink in Turkey and other Middle Eastern countries. It is made from plain yogurt and mixed with water and salt. It may sound strange, but it is actually more refreshing than a soda. It is high in protein, and therefore, it's a good choice to have in between meals to boost your energy level. This drink can be easily prepared at home. Using a blender: Mix 1 cup of yogurt, 1 cup of water and a pinch of salt. If desired, a leaf of mint may be added for flavor.

Spain: Tapas

Tapas are small portions of savory snacks served in any bar or eatery in Spain. They include a wide variety of foods such as seafood, thinly sliced ham known as "jamon aerrano" or "jamon iberico," cheeses, olives and grilled vegetables served on a piece of bread. A tapa can be anything as long as it is served in a small quantity. It is a good choice to calm your hunger until the next meal. However, if more than one or two tapas are consumed, then they should be considered part of a meal.

France: Olive tapenade

The olive tapenade is a favorite appetizer in southern France. It's made of pureed olives, capers, herbs and olive oil. It is consumed as a spread on piece of rustic white bread. However, it can be served with crackers or fresh vegetables as well.

Therefore, when you crave for something sweet, salty or savory this summer, I suggest searching the Internet for additional information on how to prepare these nutrient-dense foods. They are healthy and taste delicious. They are loaded with protein, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals.

If consumed in small quantities as a snack, they will not cause weight gain, but they will refresh your body and control your hunger sensations in between meals. I hope you will feel inspired to try at least one of these treats. I am sure you will be delightfully surprised.

Iustina Iznaola is a registered dietitian at DeTar Hospital. Send questions or comments to



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