Ice Cream is a favorite summertime snack for many of us. What’s not to love? It’s delicious! But unfortunately it also has very high added sugar and fat content (no wonder it tastes so good!). The large amount of added sugar and high saturated fat content in your ice cream (and so many other processed foods) negatively impacts your health. People love their “Premium” ice cream because it sounds gourmet and better than labels of just “ice cream.” It’s important to note that premium ice cream has even more added sugar and fat content than regular ice cream. So eat with caution! Or find a healthier alternative.
Sorbets are becoming more popular because of the non-dairy trend as well as the misconception that sorbet is healthier than ice cream because there is less or no fat. However, oftentimes sorbets have even more added sugar than ice cream. For example, Haagen Dazs’s raspberry sorbet has 24.7 grams of added sugar per 1/2 cup serving compared to 17 grams of added sugar per 1/2 cup serving of Haagen Dazs’s vanilla bean ice cream. While sorbet has less fat, it still has a lot of sugar. If you don’t actually enjoy sorbets more than ice cream, then you should not reach for it as an alternative. It’s not healthier than ice cream and you may find yourself continuing to crave ice cream because sorbets are just not the same as the creamy, rich texture of ice cream!
Ice cream with lots of toppings should also be avoided. More toppings just means additional fat and added sugar. For example, Ben & Jerry’s Chubby Hubby flavor described as “Vanilla malt ice cream with peanutty fudge-covered pretzels with fudge & peanut buttery swirls,” has at least 5 toppings which adds 6 more grams of added sugar and 7 more grams of total fat compared to Ben & Jerry’s plain vanilla ice cream. More toppings doesn’t necessarily mean it will taste better. Sometimes toppings overshadow the ice cream itself. Thus, ask yourself whether you really need to have toppings in your ice cream. Will it taste that much better?
Lastly, pre-portioned ice cream such as popsicles are better to buy than a tub of ice cream, so you do not make the mistake of eating an entire tub of ice cream in one sitting. You will be less likely to reach for another popsicle of ice cream than give yourself an extra scoop of ice cream from the tub.
Making smart choices when you walk into the ice cream aisle of the supermarket is hard despite your new knowledge because there are so many choices. There are so many different brands and flavors of ice cream in addition to their individual claims as the “best” ice cream or “healthiest” ice cream. It can be very overwhelming, so below are some better ice cream options.
Yasso is a greek yogurt based ice cream brand. These pre-portioned ice cream bars are great for anyone looking to control their ice cream serving size. Since these bars are frozen greek yogurt, they have a lower saturated fat content and a higher protein content. Additionally, it contains less added sugar than regular ice cream.
2. Halo Top (non-dairy options available)
Halo Top is marketed as a low calorie dessert. Compared to regular ice cream it has less calories, saturated fat, and added sugar. Halo top uses the natural “zero” calorie sweeteners stevia leaf extract and erythritol (comes from yeast fermentation of corn starch). Halo top ice cream also has a higher fiber and protein content. The higher fiber content comes from the addition of prebiotic fiber— carob gum and guar gum—that come from legumes. These gums are used to replace fat, so this ice cream still has the smooth texture of traditional ice cream. The high protein content comes from the addition of protein concentrate either from skim milk and eggs or ice and peas (vegan option).
3. Arctic Zero (non-dairy)
Arctic Zero is a non-dairy “ice cream” made from faba bean protein. It has zero fat content and less added sugar. This product is sweetened with monk fruit, a natural “zero” calorie sweetener. Because there is no fat and way less added sugar than regular ice cream, this dessert is also low calorie. Like other non-dairy, this ice cream is higher in fiber due to the addition of prebiotic fiber (xanthan gum, guar gum, sugarcane fiber, and chicory root) to maintain a smooth texture.
This product is an avocado based “ice cream” dessert. The primary ingredient in this product is avocado puree. Because of the avocados, this ice cream has a higher fat content. However, most of the fat is a heart healthy fat—monounsaturated fat—from avocados. This product is also lower in added sugar than regular ice cream. Guar gum and gum acacia are also among its ingredients, but the fiber content of this product is low.
These products were deemed “healthier” ice cream options after looking at the ingredients, serving size, and nutrition facts label. Low-calorie and non-dairy ice creams options are often marketed as healthier ice cream choices, but don’t be fooled because they can be highly processed, contain more added sugar, and contain artificial additives. Another important point you should look at is the saturated fat content of the product. A lot of non-dairy ice cream uses coconut milk which is marketed as healthy because it’s plant-based. However, coconut milk has the highest saturated fat content of all plant-based milk. Coconut products like coconut milk and coconut oil are trendy ingredients as more people switch to plant-based diets and hear that coconut fat is healthy. Unfortunately, coconut is high in saturated fat which has the same chemical structure as the saturated fat coming from animal products. Scientific evidence supports that a diet high in saturated fat increases atherosclerosis, a process that will eventually lead to cardiovascular disease. The data is mixed about whether coconut saturated fat plays a different role.
Looking for an ice cream alternative that can satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your health?
Frozen fruit is one of the best alternatives to ice cream. Try frozen bananas, blueberries, watermelon, raspberries. Or mix some of your favorite frozen fruits together in a blender and make a delicious smoothie! When possible, always go for organic fruit (frozen or fresh).
Some of my favorite smoothie combinations?
Frozen Bananas + Frozen Blueberries or Strawberries (or any berry)
Cold watermelon blended with fresh mint
Frozen Banana + Peanut Butter (the natural kind with no added sugar) + Dark Chocolate
If you like your ice cream premium, here are some delicious “ice cream” recipes utilizing frozen fruit and other great ingredients. All the recipes below can be made vegan by replacing yogurt and/or milk ingredients with the non-dairy yogurt and/or milk. Just throw all the ingredients into a blender.
“Ice Cream” Tubs
Chocolate “Ice Cream”
4 frozen bananas
1/4 cup of cacao powder
2 tablespoons of greek yogurt
1/4 cup of milk
Vanilla Frozen Yogurt
2 cups of greek yogurt
1/4 cup of honey (or other natural sweetener of choice)
1 whole vanilla bean
Note: This is a universal base, so you can add anything you want like fruits or nuts. For example, if you love mango, you can add mangoes and have mango “ice cream.”
2 cups of strawberries
2 tablespoons of honey (any natural sweetener of choice)
1/4 cup of plain non dairy yogurt
1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice
1 lb of watermelon
2 tablespoons of honey or natural sweetener
2 tablespoons of lemon juice
Note: To make the popsicles, pour the blended mixture into popsicle molds or small paper cups and place a craft stick in the center. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
Make smarter, healthier choices for your refreshing summertime snack. The good news is that there are many healthy alternatives to ice cream. You don’t have to quit ice cream cold turkey, but be mindful of how much you are eating. Eat less of it and more sporadically. Your heart and your health will thank you.