Is Low Calorie Ice Cream Healthier Than the Real Thing?
By Kelsey Sorenson, ClubSport Oregon Nutritionist
Few things are as cooling – and tasty! – as a scoop of your favorite ice cream on a warm day. If you tend to purchase ice cream at your local grocery store, you may have noticed that pints have changed over the last few years, trending towards “healthier” alternatives that make us feel less guilty about enjoying this frozen treat. But how do traditional ice creams really compare to these “high protein, low sugar” frozen desserts from a nutritional standpoint?
The three main factors most people consider when indulging in a scoop of ice cream are calorie count, fat content, and sugar content.
Let’s break down one pint of vanilla ice cream from a few different brands:
|Ben and Jerry's
|Calories per serving (1/2 cup)||250||250||70||70|
|Calories per pint||1000||1000||280||280|
|Protein (per serving)||4g||4g||5g||2g|
|Sugar Source||Liquid sugar and sugar||Cane sugar||Erythritol, organic cane sugar, organic stevia leaf extract||Cane Sugar|
The first takeaway is that the entire pint of both Arctic Zero and Halo Top (fad ice cream brands) are the calorie equivalent of one serving of Ben and Jerry’s or Haagen Dazs (traditional ice cream brands). What’s not to love? Sugar and fat content are drastically different as well, mainly because Halo Top and Arctic Zero focus on milk/whey concentrates and skim milk to achieve the same texture and appearance of traditional ice cream without the added calories and fat content. Both brands make dairy free/vegan options as well.
Can you have your ice cream and hit your protein goals too? You bet!
With an average of 15-20g of protein per pint, Halo Top sources eggs and milk protein concentrate (pea protein for its vegan options) to give their ice creams a more balanced macronutrient profile. Traditional pints of ice cream come close to this protein content as well, but are drastically outweighed by fat and sugar content when the entire pint is consumed.
Don’t be tempted to overeat just because fad ice creams have less calories per pint than traditional ice cream brands. Most people may be perfectly content with one small scoop of regular ice cream but find themselves pounding an entire pint of Halo Top instead. While the calorie counts may be similar, an entire pint of Halo Top will have far more sugar than what you would have gotten with a small serving of traditional ice cream.
Whether you opt for the low-calorie fad ice creams or the full fat, traditional ice creams, be mindful about serving sizes. Reading food labels and ingredient lists is the best place to start when comparing new food items to traditional ones.
So which should I buy?
Do you tend to only eat the suggested serving size of ice cream (half a cup)? If so, you are still better off with lower-calorie ice creams — but don't be too hard on yourself if you want to indulge in the traditional stuff. When paired with a balanced diet and active lifestyle, little ice cream is fine every once in a while.
If there's a chance you'll indulge in the whole pint, stock up on flavors of Halo Top or Arctic Zero. Pints of these fad ice creams contain far less fat, calories, and sugar than the traditional brands.
If you want to avoid packaged ice creams altogether, opt for an at-home “nice cream” made by blending frozen bananas with vanilla extract, almond milk, and a splash of maple syrup.