10 Unhealthiest Popsicles You Can Buy

colorful frozen popsicles
colorful frozen popsicles - james benjamin/Shutterstock

Summer feels incomplete without a box of popsicles in the freezer at all times. It's like ice candy waiting to cool you off and cheer up your taste buds in a single sensational treat. When the thermometer soars and AC is too expensive to crank down, a popsicle or two can take the edge off the sweltering heat with sweet, juicy ease. If you've made these frosty sweets at home, you know simple is better; fresh fruit, a little juice, or even a homemade cocktail stashed in the ice box become popsicles in a flash. It's not rocket science, even if Bomb Pops are part of your preferred popsicle party.

So, why do store bought popsicles offer such a vast and confusing selection of cool confections, some of which put a frostbitten thumb on the unhealthier side of the nutritional scale? And which options are the least favorable among the treasures found in the grocery store frozen treat section? We slipped on our swim trunks, tossed on a parka, and trudged into the winter hinterlands of the popsicle world to work out the unhealthiest popsicles on the scene, hunting down boxes that list a slew of sweeteners, feature troublesome dyes, or work weird ingredients into their formulas to make pops that are less-than-favorable additions to your ice chest.

Read more: 13 Store-Bought Ice Cream Bars Ranked From Worst To Best

1. Budget Saver Monster Pops

Monster Pops Lemon Lime
Monster Pops Lemon Lime - Walmart

It's tough to pass up any snack with the word "monster" in the title; from monster cookies to Monster energy drinks, there's always something fun waiting under the wrapper or beneath the tab. The same can be said for Monster Pops, a low-priced popsicle that gives families a 12-count multipack to add chill to the summer sizzle. You can find them in Lemon Lime, Cherry Pineapple, and Cherry Mango flavors, bright and sugary and tempting as all get-out, especially for little ones who need something sweet and cold to snack on.

The trouble with these tubular treats is the inclusion of two kinds of corn syrup, regular and high fructose, both considered a less-healthy source of sweetness. More than half of the formula for high fructose corn syrup is sucrose, a form of sugar that's a challenge for your body to consume efficiently. Consuming too much can lead to health issues such as obesity, liver disease, and diabetes. Xanthan gum is an ingredient as well, one known as a possible cause of digestive issues. There are also synthetic dyes like Yellow 5 and Red 40 used to give these treats their visual pop, bringing potential health risks such as hyperactivity and even certain cancers. It turns out these monsters are kind of scary, even if they look supremely tempting in the freezer case.

2. Skittles Freezer Pops

Skittles Freezer Pops
Skittles Freezer Pops - Skittles

Who wouldn't love digging into a box of Skittles Freezer Pops, the glacial goodie that replicates the experience of downing a bag of crunchy-chewy gems? You taste the rainbow and lower your temperature in one fell swoop with these clever confections. They'd be the perfect pop to toss in a cooler and take poolside or even to a parade to celebrate Pride in June with a guarantee of record heat blanketing almost every region of the U.S. If only the recipe didn't include so many less-than-desirable ingredients.

So, which ingredients slide Skittles Freezer Pops over to the unhealthy side of the spectrum? In addition to troublesome synthetic dyes that recreate the vivid candy colors, the recipe also includes high fructose corn syrup, as well as acesulfame potassium and sucralose. Though considered safe for humans by the Food and Drug Administration, animal studies have shown both chemicals to cause health issues. Even if they were deemed entirely side effect free, why include three types of sweeteners when other pops get by with just one or two? And what does the mix of corn syrup and artificial sweetener do to the flavor that a more favorable form of sugar couldn't? Anyone hoping to avoid either high fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners will do well to choose a more naturally sweetened popsicle instead. And those rainbow colors? They're courtesy of synthetic dyes like Red #40 and Blue #1, which should never be the part of tasting the rainbow.

3. Push Pops Freezer Pops

Push Pop Freezer Pops
Push Pop Freezer Pops - Push Pops

Not only can you get juicy, fruity Push Pops in an assortment of vibrant hues and super-sweet flavors, you can get them in a 48-count box to make sure you have plenty on hand from May through August. The flat-ish, fluid-filled tubes are easy to toss into the freezer without requiring the whole box to be frozen at once, a helpful feature for anyone with limited freezer space. And they're highly affordable, which makes them both a delightful prospect and a popsicle to be suspicious of. How does a company get away with making cheaper frozen treats that keep up with the pricier selections?

Using thickeners is one technique. While you don't run into the words "sodium carboxymethyl cellulose" every day, it's probably for the best. This form of cellulose gum is a common food thickener that helps give Push Pops their lush texture. But overconsumption can cause a litany of health problems ranging from allergic reactions to cardiovascular disease, which is reason enough to avoid it whenever possible. Of course, there's high fructose corn syrup here, too, in addition to Stevia, which has made headlines for its side effects. The jazzy hues are due to artificial dyes, too. Since you have a frozen wonderland of popsicle possibilities to choose from, it's entirely possible to slide Push Pops to the back of the igloo and choose something that makes you happy without challenging your health.

4. Great Value Freedom Pops

Great Value Freedom Pops
Great Value Freedom Pops - Walmart

If you're gearing up for a patriotic July 4th, you may be eyeing up boxes of Great Value Freedom Pops at your local Walmart. These red, white, and blue beauties are a classic popsicle that offer three different flavors of sweet refreshment in a flag-coded slushie on a stick that's more than a little bomb. How could you resist laying back on the lawn with a few of these pops in hand to watch fireworks light up the night sky?

Maybe if you knew what was in the formula, you'd be a little more reluctant to add them to your summer shopping list. The only two identifiably food-based ingredients are water and sugar; at least there's no corn syrup in any form to contend with. But the rest of the recipe is a chemical concoction that uses three types of thickener — xanthan gum, guar gum, and cellulose gum — as well as unidentified artificial flavor and those familiar chemical colorants like Red #40 and Blue #1 that make the heart-swelling striped hues practically jump off the stick. The box even calls out the artificial colors ... not a great sign. Great Value Freedom Pops may offer explosive charm, but you owe it to yourself to find a better way to celebrate.

5. Popsicle Jolly Rancher Pops

Popsicle Jolly Rancher Pops
Popsicle Jolly Rancher Pops - Popsicle

Now we're talking juicy flavor in frozen form! Jolly Rancher finding a way to bring its nostalgic candy into the world of capital-P Popsicles is a dream come true for fans of classic sweets. Interestingly, the Jolly Rancher company began as an ice cream manufacturer in Golden, Colorado before shifting into the confection sphere. Coming full circle means recreating the familiar flavors consumers know and love to draw their taste buds away from the candy aisle toward the freezer section instead.

Popsicle company presents its Jolly Rancher treats as multi-dimensional dazzlers with four horizontal layers on the outside that give way to four vertical layers on the inside. It's a clever, Gobstopper-like presentation that's sure to capture the imagination of shoppers looking for easy ways to beat the heat. The freezer pop giant even uses vegetable juice and spirulina instead of chemical dyes to capture the cool colors. But the inclusion of high fructose corn syrup with sugar for a whopping 21 grams per three-pop serving is sure to disappoint the health-minded popsicle fan, as is the inclusion of xanthan gum and guar gum. This arctic attraction comes so close to being a mindful choice, but misses the mark in the end.

6. Original Bomb Pop

Original Bomb Pop
Original Bomb Pop - Bomb Pop

If you're ready for a blast of summer-slaying coolness, keeping a stock of Bomb Pops at the ready may be one of your top priorities. Being able to find them in both Original and a line of groovy flavor-twisting versions like Fire Cherry and Watermelon gives fans of both the old school and new school popsicles something sweet to chew on. These are the true-blue template for knock-off versions, complete with ridges you can sink your teeth into for the iconic blueberry-cherry-lemon-lime blend that's inspired everything from seltzer to vodka to mixed drinks.

Reading the list of ingredients for Original flavor is like perusing a treasure map that leads to the Land of Disappointment, though. Sugar, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup? Wow. Blue #1 and Red #40 for coloring? Oof. Seven — yes, seven — types of thickeners to achieve that soft-ice texture, including xanthan gum, guar gum, and the ever-questionable carrageenan, determined to cause inflammation and maybe even colon cancer. Gadzooks! It's an explosion of bad decisions that just keep firing off one after another. All nostalgia aside, this isn't the treat you should queue up on the popsicle playlist if nutrition is a guiding tenet of your food life, no matter how it may quench your need for cool confections.

7. Popsicle Minions Frozen Confection Bars

Popsicle Minion Frozen Confection Bars
Popsicle Minion Frozen Confection Bars - Popsicle

Oh look — those adorable-yet-irritating Minions have found their way into the freezer section in the form of Popsicle Minions Pops. Now your kids can cheer for their favorite cartoon goofballs while downing icy sweets to make the summer just a little more bearable. With these yellow Tic-Tac-shaped mischief makers becoming ubiquitous representatives of the "Despicable Me" animated empire, it's not surprising in the least to find them lurking in the cold storage department of your neighborhood grocery, is it?

Consider the troublesome crew a non-starter when it comes to shopping for frozen goodies to ply your overheated toddlers with. The front of the box describes them as "frozen confection bars," which is just vague enough to invite confusion. The ingredient credits on the back of the box list four types of sweeteners, four different thickeners, and two wheat-based ingredients, which give these pops a gluten presence, something we haven't found in our other listed popsicles. There's also a milk warning on the label, though no milk ingredients are shown. It appears Minions are capable of causing chaos even when kept on ice. Thumbs-up for Popsicle using natural coloring agents, though. But seriously, you can find much healthier popsicles than this.

8. Budget Saver Twin Pops

Ziegenfelder Budget Saver Twin Pops
Ziegenfelder Budget Saver Twin Pops - Budget Saver

Budget Saver Twin Pops sounds like a wonder treat you'd find in some old-timey ice cream shop that only appears at the end of a mystical boardwalk every 100 years or so. Actually, they're a Walmart find that offers 18 nuclear-colored pops in a $3.00 bag, making them a highly coveted choice if you need a bounty of popsicles for hosting backyard water balloon fights or pool parties. They're pre-broken twin pops, too, which means popsicle fans of all ages can enjoy their own without having to share.

The vintage fun ends when you glimpse the host of unlovable ingredients shoved into each pop. Sugar, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup put a damper on the heat-beating fun, making room for guar gum and xanthan gum to toss a wet blanket on whatever summer spark remains. By the time you get around to the artificial dyes, you've hopefully put this package back where it was and pushed your cart onward to a more positive place in Popsicle Land — preferably one where the ingredients are less likely to break up the party.

9. Daily's Poptails

Daily's Poptails freezer pops
Daily's Poptails freezer pops - Daily's

The adults-only popsicle gets its day in the sun, thanks to grown-up party-friendly Daily's Poptails. Cocktail lovers will surely be drawn to these icy cocktail pops that recreate popular concoctions to be yanked from the freezer and enjoyed wherever sunshine and good times commingle. They're the easier version of making homemade boozy pops, available by the box and ready to freeze and imbibe.

But the easy-going nature also means mass-production, which means a nutritional profile that gives health short shrift in favor of joyful indulgence. Naturally, there's the alcohol content, a nutritional albatross that's proving to be more and more troubling all the time, especially when consumed in high quantities. There's also high fructose corn syrup and juice concentrates, leading to a high calorie count at 85 calories for a single popsicle, as well as sucralose, which makes you wonder how many forms of sweetness a liquored-up popsicle requires. The recipe also calls for Red #40, Yellow #5, and Blue #1 dyes, because how can anyone enjoy a frozen beverage-like popsicle without being hypnotized by psychedelic colors? It may be more challenging to make your own alcohol pops at home, but with a nutritional run-down like Daily's Poptails has, it's bound to be worth the effort.

10. Kroger Mighty Ice Pops

Kroger Mighty Ice Pops
Kroger Mighty Ice Pops - Kroger

Anyone who remembers grabbing their quarters and chasing the ice cream truck down the block to grab a bullet pop as a kid will find Kroger Mighty Ice Pops a time machine that brings back the sheer joy of being in control of their own cooling summertime purchases. Cherry Mango, Pineapple Cherry, and Strawberry Banana flavors expand the original blend to give a modern audience more options. Even if the mixed-flavor presentation is a bit different than the original two-layered design, the power of these popsicles to pull you into an exuberant past is practically magical.

As adults, though, the experience of learning what's in these pops may bring you right back into the present, where ice cream trucks are a rarity and nutrition matters. The blend is a shake up of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, with a dose of propylene glycol, an additive that makes the pop less firm and is considered harmless in small amounts found in food, but can be hazardous when inhaled in higher quantities. The trio of Red #40, Yellow #5, and Yellow #6 dyes makes an appearance, too; how else would you get that lava lamp red-and-orange cloudlike effect? Time to hit the freeze button and find another pop for your warm weather pleasure.

How We Chose Our Popsicles

bowl of popsicles
bowl of popsicles - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

We set out on a search for popsicles that use a preponderance of sweeteners other than the most obvious sugar (or glucose), as well as questionable additives like thickeners that may have a negative impact on the health of some consumers. We also found chemical ingredients that foster chewability and prevent some pops from freezing solid, substances which are approved for consumption but that can be avoided by making more informed choices about the popsicles you purchase. With everything written on the back of the package, it's easy to steer clear of troubling ingredients while finding popsicles that emphasize a cleaner eating experience while maintaining enjoyability.

Chipping away at the cold, hard facts about unhealthy popsicles revealed a dependence on synthetic dyes for churning out colorful products that engage customers on a visual level — not terribly surprising, considering that the target audience for popsicles skews toward a younger crowd. But it was enlightening to discover Popsicle brand has been incorporating natural fruit- and vegetable-based colorants to veer away from these troublesome dyes, all without losing an ounce of whimsy in its creations.

Read the original article on Mashed