Who can resist ice cream? It’s a dessert that reminds us of childhood and is perfect on a hot summer day. But if you’re trying to lose weight (or make healthier decisions in general), you might be searching for an ice cream alternative that will satisfy your craving, but won’t leave you feeling guilty.
Enter ice cream brands like Halo Top®, Arctic Zero®, and Breyer’s Delights®. These products are advertised as “healthy ice cream” and claim to be low in calories and sugar, but high in protein.
Sounds too good to be true, right?
Registered dietitian, Anna Taylor, RD discusses if ice cream can actually be healthy for you.
Is low calorie ice cream healthy?
“Healthy foods — like fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains — actually improve your health,” says Taylor. “But because these low calorie ice cream products don’t actually better your health, I wouldn’t call them healthy by any means.”
That said, if you regularly eat ice cream, then replacing it with a product that is lower in calories, lower in saturated fat and lower in sugar would likely improve your diet, but it’s not a magic wand.
Taylor suggest keeping two major things in mind when indulging in these ice cream alternatives:
- GI distress. These products often contain ingredients such as sugar alcohols, chicory root or inulin, which can cause bloating, gas and even diarrhea in some people.
- Portions matter. The recommended portion for these lower calorie ice cream products is typically 2/3 cup, not one pint (2 cups). If you eat a pint a day, which contains 150 to 360 calories, you could gain as much as 15 to 36 pounds in one year! Also, one pint contains up to 20 to 40 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugars to 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men. Stick to 2/3 cup as a serving size for these products.
Also, before you top your ice cream with caramel sauce, fudge, whipped cream or candy bits, remember that sundae toppings also pile on loads of extra calories on top of the actual ice cream itself. Skip the toppings altogether, but if you absolutely must, consider topping your treat with fiber-rich fresh fruit slices, berries or protein-packed nuts instead.
The bottom line
If eating a lower calorie ice cream product helps you decrease the excess calories, saturated fat and added sugar in your diet, then it’s fine to enjoy in moderation — meaning occasionally! (And hey, we get it. Many of us have eaten an entire pint of ice cream before, but moderation is key when it comes to these products.)
Another option for fighting off your sweet tooth is to control the portion of another sweet treat that you already enjoy, says Taylor. Maybe you decide that you’ll have a piece of dark chocolate or a small slice of cake at your friend’s birthday party. Allowing yourself a small treat can motivate you to continue on your weight-loss journey or inspire you to keep making small, healthier decisions.
As always, reading the nutrition label on each product before you buy it will guide you in making healthier choices – and help you understand how much you can consume in moderation.