April 24, 2023
Spring has arrived – and as the weather gets warmer and the days get longer, your favorite ice cream stand is opening up for the season. If you’re trying to maintain a healthy diet while distracted by thoughts of a double-dipped chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream cone, you might be tempted to switch to frozen yogurt, sherbet, or low-fat versions. But does it really matter?
“This becomes a common topic this time of year. Similar to coffee, changing the order of ice cream is a touchy subject,” says Jamie Allers, MS, a registered dietitian with Digestive Health Institute of Hartford HealthCare. Here’s the latest on ice cream, “healthy” alternatives, and tips for managing your love of frozen treats.
Ice cream versus its alternatives
The bottom line when it comes to ice cream, frozen yogurt, gelato, or sherbet is: fat, sugar, lactose, and calories. And if you can’t fight the urge, at least you can make an informed choice, says Allers.
- Ice-cream, by definition, is made with cream and is high in fat. Many ice creams actually boast about their high fat content, because it makes for a creamier and more delicious treat.
- Frozen yogurt it’s made mostly with pasteurized milk and live yogurt cultures, which make it lower in fat. Be warned though: it may actually contain more sugar.
- Ice-cream it is made with milk, but is churned more slowly than ice cream, giving it a thicker texture. It’s also less fat than ice cream.
- Sorbet it’s the only non-dairy choice, as it’s made with simple sugar syrup, infused with fruit puree or other flavorings. It is naturally low or fat free.
- Low-fat or fat-free ice cream options are usually made with skim milk. Allers cautions that there are often additives in these products designed to compensate for the lack of creamy texture.
Oh and here’s a fun fact: When you lick an ice cream cone, the taste receptors on your tongue absorb the flavor at a higher level than normal. This means that ice cream tastes better in a cone.
> Related: Nutrition Smack Down: Which chocolate is the healthiest?
Less fat doesn’t always mean healthier
All of these options contain sugar, Allers says, which can be as bad for your health as too much fat. And they all contain calories, which means that even if they’re low in fat or sugar, they could still mean you could put on a few pounds. “Perhaps even more misleading,” he says, “is the big marketing ploy that you can eat a large portion of these low-fat or fat-free products for a small amount of calories. So serving size becomes very important. Read the label to see what the serving size is.Anything in your plate that is more than this multiplies the calories.
It’s all about moderation
Allers advises his ice cream-loving patients to enjoy their favorite flavor, in moderation. “My recommendation is to go to your favorite ice cream shop and enjoy what you like rather than taking it home to your freezer where you may indulge more often. Go and get it, just less frequently.