As the most classic of all classic desserts, ice cream is a treat we enjoy everywhere, from casual barbecues to Michelin-starred dinners. But too much of it can sometimes be bad for you. The nutritionist on staff at Everyday Health, Kelly Kennedy, RD, says that ice cream is usually high in calories, unhealthy saturated fat, and sugar, which makes it a bad choice for a healthy diet. Kennedy also says, “When they eat ice cream, most people eat much more than a single serving, which is usually half a cup.”
Is it possible to enjoy your favorite treat sans guilt? Don’t worry: Kennedy says that some brands of ice cream that are better for you cut back on fat and sugar, which lowers the calories. Some use only natural ingredients, while others leave out dairy to appeal to a larger audience. Mascha Davis, MPH, is a registered dietitian in Los Angeles and the author of Eat Your Vitamins. She says that this way, people who don’t like dairy or can’t have it can still enjoy the treat. The icing on the cake? Frozen treats that don’t make you feel bad and are just as good as regular ice cream.
Here, health experts talk about the ice cream brands they choose when they want to treat themselves in a healthy way.
Everyday Health’s Kelly Kennedy, RDN, talks about healthier ice cream toppings, and our panel of taste testers tries them out while wearing blindfolds. Find out what each topping does for your health and how it tastes.
1.The Halo Top Creamery
Davis’s favorite ice cream brand is Halo Top Creamery. She says, “They use good ingredients and have a lot of different flavors, so there’s pretty much something for everyone.” Also, one pint of any flavor has a lot of protein and fiber in it, and it tastes devilishly good. Kennedy likes Halo Top because it is low in sugar and fat. She says, “Halo Top is much better for you than regular ice cream in a lot of ways.” For example, a 1/2-cup serving of Birthday Cake has only 70 calories, 3 grams (g) of fat, and 5 g of added sugar. That’s almost five times less than most popular brands of ice cream (about 370 calories per 2/3 cup).
2.So Delectable Dairy Free
So Delicious makes dairy-free coffee creamers and yogurt substitutes, but its frozen desserts are what people know it for. So Delicious has a lot of choices, like cashew milk, coconut milk, almond milk, oat milk, and soy milk. Even though this ice cream is low in calories, Kennedy points out that a 2/3 cup serving has 12 g of fat (11 g of which is unhealthy saturated fat) and 18 g of added sugar. “[So Delicious Dairy Free] is not the lightest ice cream on the market by any means,” says Kennedy. “It is, however, a little lower in calories, fat, and sugar than traditional ice cream and is a good choice for people who don’t eat dairy.”
One thing is certain: Enlightened has some of the prettiest packaging of any dessert on grocery store shelves, healthy or not. But does it really serve some of the “lightest” ice cream on the market, as its name suggests? Kennedy says that it might be the whole truth. She says that Enlightened markets itself as “The Good for You Ice Cream” because it has “more protein and fiber and less sugar.” None of their 27 pint flavors have more than 400 calories, and each half-cup serving has between 60 and 100 calories. Plus, each pint has at least 6 g of protein, which Kennedy says is “almost an entire serving of protein.” She says that this protein can slow down how quickly your body breaks down carbohydrates, making it a little bit healthier for you.
Another popular brand is Arctic Zero, which makes low-calorie (or “light”) frozen desserts as well as dairy-free and lactose-free ice creams for people with special diets. Kennedy says, “The lactose-free option is great for people who can’t handle lactose and are also trying to watch their weight.” She says that “light” frozen desserts come in many flavors and are great for people who want a quick treat because most of them have only 50 calories, 0 g of fat, and 8 g of added sugar per 2/3 cup serving.
5.Yasso Frozen Greek Yogurt
If you live and breathe Greek yogurt, you might want to try Yasso’s Greek yogurt ice cream bars. Made with nonfat milk, each dessert bar has only 100 calories, 2 grams of fat, and 14 grams of sugar, but all the flavor. Davis says that these are a great way to sneak at least 5 g of protein into your dessert. “Plus, the bars are a natural way to control how much you eat,” says Kennedy.
Vegans who care about their health love NadaMoo! because it is both non-dairy and organic. Kennedy says, “The Organic Vanilla Bean flavor of NadaMoo is sweetened with agave, so you don’t have to worry about sugar alcohols.” According to the Cleveland Clinic, sugar alcohols are a different kind of sweetener that can give some people GI (gastrointestinal) problems. The flavor also means that each 2/3 cup serving has 110 calories, 9 grams of fat, no added sugar, and 4 grams of sugar alcohols. One great thing about NadaMoo is that the company keeps putting out new flavors, so you never have to worry about getting bored.
7.Moo-phoria from Ben & Jerry’s
What’s that? Your old friends Ben & Jerry now make Moo-phoria, a line of light ice cream that still has all of the chunks, swirls, and flavors that the brand is known for. There are many rich flavors to choose from, like P.B. Dough, Mocha Fudge Brownie, and Chocolate Milk and Cookies. The regular pints have twice as many calories as these babies, which have between 190 and 220 calories per 2/3 cup. And Kennedy says it’s as close to “real” ice cream as you can get without using sugar alcohols or sugar substitutes. “Real” ice cream is made mostly of dairy and sugar. Moo-phoria does have sugar and corn syrup solids, though, “so moderation is still key,” she says.
8.Daiya Nondairy Frozen Desserts
Daiya is a huge business in the world of people who don’t eat dairy. Daiya makes delicious “ice cream” bars and a wide range of plant-based products, including ice cream and cheese. These treats come in delicious flavors like Salted Caramel Swirl and have fewer calories, less fat, and less sugar than traditional ice cream made with dairy. Kennedy also points out that these bars are “dairy-, soy-, and gluten-free,” which makes them a nice treat for people who avoid some or all of these things.”
9.Snow Monkey Superfood Icy Treat
“This is something I’d like to try!” Kennedy says. Get ready for the holy grail of ice cream alternatives: Snow Monkey is free of dairy, nuts, and gluten. It is also good for vegan and paleo diets. Their Matcha Green Tea ice cream has 120 calories per half-cup serving, 3.5 g of fat, only 3 g of added sugar from maple syrup (the rest comes from fruit), and 5 g of protein. Kennedy says, “This dessert sounds like a miracle for your health.” With ingredients like hempseed protein powder and banana puree, which you can actually say, you can be sure you’re eating only healthy, organic foods. This is why their slogan is “#eatnoevil.”
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